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Saturday, August 20th, 2016 05:49 pm
I continue to be horrible at updating things. This was posted on AO3 on 9 August, and updated on 15 August. And now it's finally here.

Summary:(Star Trek and Zootopia crossover) Nick knows the rules in Communications, including this unwritten one: never get attached to Away teams. But Ensign Judy Hopps from Security keeps making it back. Missing her check in with Nick just doesn't happen.

Until it does. Now it's up to Nick and the starship crew led by Captain Bogo to bring their Away team back.

Rating: T
Genre: Gen
Warnings for: The potty mouths of foxes, STAGGERING LEVELS OF COMPETENCY
Disclaimer: If I owned both Star Trek AND Zootopia, I would be paying other people to write this.

washing what you know out to sea

They had an unwritten rule in Comms - never get attached to Away teams. In all his time on the bridge of the USS Integrity, Nick ran through Away teams like used tissues with the exception of this team - the one with the annoying bunny.

She was on the line again. "Are you finally in position Carrots?"

"It's Judy."

"Whatever Fluff. We need to extract you before you blow away on the wind."

She grumbled out the confirmation that Nick relayed to the transporter room. Transporter technology was quick, maybe even quicker with Finnick's not quite legal tampering - sorry, enhancements. It's barely a few minutes before Nick was feeling Judy's glare in person. For a Starfleet captain, Captain Bogo was a traditionalist that believed in briefings in person.

Nick smirked back at the grey rabbit. "You're welcome Carrots."

She huffed and actually turned her nose in the air when she looked away from him.

Judy Hopps, newest addition to Security and determined to like everybody and everyone, fell out with Nick Wilde over coffee. Specifically the jumbo sized coffee only available at the start of Nick's shifts (coffee, stirrers, ice, sugar and other flavorings and utensils all available for a favour or two).

"What favour?" Judy demanded. Being a morning mammal didn't help when shifts were by hours, and the number of hours were adjusted depending on the orbital cycle of the next planet they were headed to. Plus it was the so-early-it-was-late Alpha shift. Judy looked ready to kill for some coffee, but Nick had stared down full grown polar bears before.

"Well that all depends. It's Rigel IV next isn't it? We're good on the recommendations, but Finnick could use some help in picking up a few more doodads."


"Doodads. Only he knows what they are. Definitely not carrots, Carrots."

"Can't you share the coffee like a civilised mammal?"

Well, that's what Judy thought. Nick thought he ought to be rewarded for saving his crew members the inevitable queue for the synthesiser; he'd just saved his own time by churning a coffee synthesised for elephants rather than waiting for the synthesiser to make multiple coffees.

He simply asked Judy in return, "So do you or do you not want the coffee?"

Judy looked at the already lengthy queue at the synthesiser, groaned and scrawled her name on Nick's growing list.

From then on, it seemed that anything dodgy - favors, the black market that Captain Bogo pretended did not exist, the moonshine still in engineering to name a few - was Nick's fault. That was blatantly untrue. The moonshine still was Finnick's.

Judy Hopps, paragon of all that was just and good in Starfleet, took personal offence. Once she figured out what Nick was doing she'd even taken to turning up 45 minutes before shift to get her coffee like a normal crew member, Slick!

Nick merely tipped a generous helping from his jumbo cup of coffee into his personal mug. "It's another 45 minutes that I spend sleeping, and you don't. Who's the winner here?"

She bristled, and kept bristling when Captain Bogo himself held out his mug for some communal coffee.

Sly fox 1, dumb bunny 0.

Clawhauser was late for his shift.

Nick usually took what counted for night shift on the starship, with Clawhauser on Comms during the more active hours. Nick helped himself to a donut from the dozen that he'd so kindly gotten for Claw, as advance payment for helping the cheetah cover the scheduled check in. "Integrity to Away Team, what's your status?"

Silence greeted Nick.

He checked the status of the communicators. All green. "Carrots?"

The communicator crackled with static, but that didn't hide Judy's breathlessness. "Away team - "

The line cut out. Nick's own breathing sounded too loud to his ears as the status lights of the communicators all flicked to red.

Nick stayed on duty because the Away Team had beamed down during his shift. He could help with things like last known coordinates, boosts to the ship's signal, comm logs just to be sure he hadn't missed any hint this might happen -

"Wilde," Captain Bogo had adopted his usual talking-to-Nick pose, arms crossed and hoof tapping. That and the sleep deprivation was why it took Nick a while to parse his next question. "Is there anything you're doing that Clawhauser can't?"

The right answer was no. Clawhauser had gone through the same Academy training Nick had all the way on Earth, even though Zootopia as a planet had enough Starfleet officers to man the Integrity and a few other largely Zootopian ships. Clawhauser had already paused in pouring Nick his nth cup of coffee, waiting for Nick's decision of whether he was going to push on.

But Clawhauser didn't have a friend in Engineering.

"Do I have a few more tricks than Clawhauser? Yes. Yes I do."

"Let me get this straight." Modern starship engines didn't have any grease involved, but somehow Finnick's uniform always managed to gain black smears over the course of his shift. He added a new one as he leaned against some whirling machinery. "You gave my prototype communicator with the boosted transmissions range to the rabbit you don't like."

"I don't have any other Away teams that would have brought it back!" Nick groaned.

"Well it looks like this team isn't coming back. Congrats Wilde, you jinxed them."

"Throw me a party after you answer this very simple question. Did you make the communicator compatible with the ship wide system?"

"Give me your half of the set."

Nick tossed Finnick his Starfleet communicator, which hadn't been ship standard for years, what was piggybacking another communicator on it going to hurt?

Finnick pried the back open. "You want it compatible with your Comms station? After this, it will be."

Finnick was an engineering savant, but even he couldn't make a handheld work better than an entire starship. Where Nick's communicator had previously failed to pick up even silence, patching it into the ship's system had the communicator lighting up like a bonfire.

The minute the communicator synced, Nick snatched up his headset. "Integrity to Away team, do you copy?"

Judy's other communicator glowed an obnoxious green at Nick, but there was no response.

"The wind finally blow you away Fluff?"

There was a thunk before Judy's voice came through, soft but clear. "Figures he'd have recorded his own voice on this."

Clawhauser let out a squeal, paws over his mouth. Nick kept himself to a more restrained smirk. "It's the real deal Carrots, not a recording."

"JUDY. You're alive!" Clawhauser had donned his own headset to share his delight. When Captain Bogo's attention swiveled in their direction, Clawhauser corrected himself. "I mean, Ensign Hopps, what's your status?"

There were some scrabbling sounds, before Judy's voice came through louder. "Clawhauser? Wilde? Is this really the Integrity?"

"This is the Integrity," Nick confirmed. "And what you're holding now is the extra communicator I slipped you that's about to save your life."

Nick had expected gushing thanks, or tears of joy, or Judy to finally explain what happened. Instead she snapped, "You gave me a carrot shaped communicator?"

"Carrot communicator for Carrots." Nick pretended to mull it over. "Sounds about right."

"Do you know how incredibly insulting that is to a rabbit? I almost ditched it!"

"Thank your lucky stars you didn't. Or we'd have to put it down in the logs - Ensign Hopps, death by extreme pettiness."

The snarling sound Judy made sounded like it should have come from a wolf instead of a rabbit. Clawhauser waved Nick into silence and took over. "Judy, we need your status. What you're holding right now is an experimental communicator that we're not sure will last. Where are you?"

Where was below the planet surface - Judy's team had been supervising the natives' set up of their first transporter. Something in the transporter hadn't agreed with the planet's magnetic fields. They'd leapt clear of the first explosion, but the second had activated the transporter without a pick up range or ultimate location specified. Despite keeping to the prescribed safety distance, Judy had been transported into a cave - alone as far as she could tell, and with no idea where the cave was.

Finding out where set off a flurry of activity. Nick hadn't meant to, but he'd fallen asleep some time during Science rambling on about geological maps. He only woke when Clawhauser shook his shoulder.

"Nick, I've got to brief Captain Bogo, and you're closest. Stay on the line with Judy ok?"

Nick made a sound of acknowledgement as he tried to rub away the sensation that the Comms station had imprinted itself on his face in his sleep. He'd picked up the headset that he'd thankfully set aside before nodding off.

"... 'sup," he finally mumbled.

Judy snorted. "Someone's awake."

"No idea how you're doing it Carrots. Without coffee."

"I'm pretty tired too." That Judy was admitting this, to Nick of all Zootopians, was a sign of how exhausted she was.

Nick faked a gasp. "Fluff! Admitting a weakness! Am I still dreaming?"

"If I were next to you, that would be a yes. Right after I knocked you out myself."

"Bunnies, so emotional. I take that back. Hopps remains hopping mad, all is right in the universe."

"In your delusional corner of it. Is Clawhauser still briefing the Captain?"

"Mmm hmm. You're stuck with me rabbit." Nick cracked another yawn.

"... wait, you saw us off last evening when we beamed down for the ambassadorial dinner. Have you even slept?"

"I did too sleep Fluff." He said nothing about what he had been using for a pillow. Instead he said, "Your voice wasn't the wake up call I was looking for."

"How about that. You took the words right out of my mouth."

"Ha! You totally lucked out with my voice Carrots. You ever read the ads for Communications Officer? First thing under requirements, dulcet tones a must, sexy voices preferred. My recruiter told me I exceeded expectations."

"I'm sure you did - by having the most annoying voice in the history of Communications Officers. Clawhauser's the one who meets the requirements."

Nick whistled, pitched for maximum obnoxiousness. "There really is no accounting for taste." Nick ignored Judy's indignant splutter in favour of Clawhauser's ping. "Hang on Hopps, my esteemed colleague might be returning with his dulcet tones."

But it wasn't an AV channel - Clawhauser must be still be stuck in his meeting, if he was relying messages by text. It let Nick read straight off the screen to Judy anyway. "Latest updates straight from the House of Claw - they need more time to figure out an escape plan for you. You're to stay in your secure location, and check back in four hours from now. Your location is secure isn't it?"

He was greeted by silence "Carrots?"

"Yeah. I guess." Her sentences had gone short and clipped. He waited for her to spit out what was bothering her. "Have - have they found anything on the rest of the Away team?"

Nick's a Comms officer; it wasn't his place to speculate. He fired off Judy's query to Clawhauser and resolved not to judge the response, whatever it was.

"They're working out a possible search area based on the starship's readings from the transporter." Nick relayed from Clawhauser. "That's why they need more time. They think the transporter may have completed the other transfers in addition to yours, and they want you to cover some of the search. You're to rest until then. Maybe get some sleep, we don't know how active you need to be later."

The breath that Judy let out was almost a sigh of relief. "Searching. I can do that." Her next words came out muffled, as if she had her paws over her face. "I almost thought I was the only lucky one."

"Aren't you such a lucky rabbit."

"NICHOLAS WILDE." Her words were at maximum volume and definitely not muffled by paws.

Nick tutted at her. "You know what they say, don't go to bed angry." He got a growl in response. "What, no kiss goodnight?"

"One day I will sue you for harassment."

"Whatever lets you sleep at night Fluff."

He almost thought she did just that when her side of the line went quiet. He was skimming Clawhauser's updates from the emergency meeting on the Away team's situation when Judy spoke again, "I - I can't get to sleep."

"Sorry Hopps, transporter transfers are banned until we're sure what set yours off. I'm sure you'll do just fine with bedrock."

"Har har. It's not the setting, though the ground could be a lot softer." He was pretty sure that Judy hadn't meant for Nick to hear her sigh. Damn Finnick and his enhanced equipment. "I keep thinking what I could have done different."

"You'll do something different. But only if you get to sleep." Nick rocked back in his chair. All Communications Officers had been trained in counseling, one of those "recruit, I hope you never have to use this" modules. Nick never had an Away team last long enough that he ever needed to consider the techniques, up until now. "How about this - I'll sleep if you sleep."

"So you haven't slept." Nick let the comment slide for the restored tone of victory in Judy's voice. He never thought he'd miss the voice of a smug rabbit. "- I don't think I could go to sleep straight off."

"Awww is the widdle rabbit asking for a lullaby?"

"I'll pass on whatever you call singing. Tell me something really boring."

Nick didn't do boring. He read the ship's logs of petty misdemeanours until Judy's chuckles gave way to even breathing. He closed the file on Yax's habitual nudity and hunted for other Comms officers that could cover for himself and Clawhauser.

If his personal headset was still tuned to Judy's channel, that was his business that no one else needed to butt into.

Nick was jolted out of his sleep by the combined obnoxious cheer that happened whenever Judy and Clawhauser were on the same channel.

Definitely not something he wanted to wake up to. He tossed the headset onto his side table and went back to sleep.

By the time Nick was back on shift, a little less bushy tailed than he'd like, Clawhauser updated him that his monitoring included a search team sent planetside by shuttle. Beaming of inanimate objects were cleared as safe, so Judy had been given a little more gear than whatever she had on her person.

Feeling sufficiently updated, Nick kicked off the check in. "Integrity to Ensign Hopps, what's your status?"

"Ensign Hopps, position 2502, I've just covered area 16. No sign of survivors."

"We've had a little more luck in the other search areas. The shuttle team has picked up Delgato, and the natives are sending out search parties too."

"That's - that's really good. Thanks Wilde."

"What's this Carrots? I get thanks over a simple update but not for the extra special communicator that made this whole search possible?"

Judy mumbled something that was unintelligible even to Finnick's enhanced sensors. All Nick was picking up on was embarrassment.

"Speak up darling, I think only bats can hear you."

"I said, let me know what favour I owe you for the communicator when I get back."

Any cheer Nick was feeling evaporated entirely. That was how she saw him all along - a no good fox that she didn't want to owe any favors to. How could he have forgotten? Why had he expected anything different? It wasn't as if he was going to tell her what he'd done to get Finnick's communicator set up.

He stretched a fake smile he wasn't feeling over his face. "We'll see when you get back, Ensign Hopps."

He let the other status updates wash over him. He had another search team to monitor, and the usual ship channels to keep track of.

"Ensign Hopps, position 2510, still in area 17. No change."

"Ensign Hopps, position 2536, it's getting hard to see even by torch light. I think I found a secure place to stop for the night. Good thing I have my gear now. I have a bed roll instead of bed rock."

"Ensign Hopps, position 2536. Can you believe what they packed in these bags? Remember what you told me earlier today on what Francine got called up for putting in her bag?"

"Ensign Hopps, position - well there's no change. You're awfully quiet Wilde."

Nick tore his attention away from the other team's more interesting status reports. "Just your imagination Ensign Hopps. Weren't you doing inventory? Your teammates won't find themselves."

At the end of shift, Nick left his personal headset at the Comms station.

Nick's shift schedule had been reshuffled because there was a new mission: disabling the partially set up transporter that seemed to be interfering with rescue work. He tossed himself into the seat next to Finnick at the briefing. "Thanks for upsetting my sleep cycle buddy."

Finnick jerked a thumb at himself. "I'm here because of my expertise with transporters." He jabbed a claw tip against Nick's chest. "You're here because the rabbit asked for you."

Nick froze. "Hopps?"

"How many rabbits do you know of planetside? Seems like you made an impression Nicky."

"What does she have to do with anything?"

"She met up with the shuttle team and Delgato to work on the transporter. Hopps and Delgato saw what the transporter looked like before it went bonkers. If it goes bonkers again, they'll be able to give us enough advance warning."

Nick gripped his PADD tight enough to leave claw marks. "She survived it once. What's the odds she'll be that lucky again?"

"Like it doesn't happen to Away teams all the time Wilde. You've lost teams before. What's so different about this one?"

Nick almost missed Captain Bogo calling on Ensign Sharla Corriedale to address the room, and he definitely glossed plenty of the briefing. The moment Bogo was done Nick was out of the room on a direct course to the bridge. He didn't even greet Clawhauser when he snatched up his personal headset. "Claw, give me a direct line to Hopps."

Clawhauser took one look at Nick's expression and cupped a paw around his mic to better whisper into it. "Uh Judy. Nick really wants to talk to you. I'll put him on."

Clawhauser barely got to patch Nick through before Nick was already speaking. "What's this about Hopps?"

"Oh finally." Judy let out a nervous laugh. "With how formal you were being I almost thought I had to start calling you Lieutenant Junior Gra-"

"If you want to play big damn heroes, you already have a full audience, including the Captain. What do you need me there for?"

"I'm not playing the hero, I'm just doing what's right!" This was the annoying rabbit Nick was familiar with; yesterday was just an aberration.

"Then be right somewhere out of my face. It isn't even my shift rabbit."

"What's wrong with you? You've been off since yesterday."

"You took the words right out of my mouth. You said so yourself - I trade in favours, Fluff. You're going to owe me for the rest of your life if you insist I have to be on Comms."

"I already do." There was no mumbling this time, no embarrassment, only determination. "It's not just the prototype communicator. All this time, all my Away missions, you've made it possible for me to call the entire ship down if I have to. Nick, I have to fix this. But I can't do it without you."

In all his time as a Comms officer, this was the first time words had failed Nick. He was glad that Finnick had opted against a screen for the prototype communicator. He already disliked the expression he saw reflected in the Comms station.

"And afterwards, if the debt is too large, if you decide to collect and you never want to see me again, that's your right. You won't be bothered by this dumb bunny."

Nick had been manning Comms throughout his Starfleet career, but it still took him time to find the right button. "You just said all that on record. I'll let you delete it, if you make it back in 48 hours." Nick jabbed the button to kill the direct connection and whatever response Judy might have had.

Clawhauser laid a gentle paw on Nick's arm. "She has no idea what the rules are in Comms, Nick. If you want to follow the rules, I'll let the Captain know I'm taking over."

Nick shot Clawhauser a smirk and told the other officer what he wanted to hear. "We'll let Ensign Hopps' first transgression slide if she makes it back. Let's do a poor red shirt a favour."

Later, Nick addressed the mission team over their comm lines. "Some ground rules since Ensign Corriedale is new to the whole Away team arrangement here." Nick was glad for how crowded the comm channels were. He knew Judy could hear him, but there was enough of an audience that she couldn't bring up their earlier exchange. "We've got seven communicators on a common channel, and there's going to be three data feeds added to the mix. It could get messy but we're not going to let it. First rule: The main channel is for the team that's planetside. They need to be able to hear each other. Anyone working from the Integrity, yell in event of falling rocks or other emergencies, but I don't want to hear a peep from you on this channel outside of that."

"Toot toot."

"Fuck you too Finn. Second rule: Keep the small talk down, save it for your knitting circle or whatever you get up to in your free time. No one else needs to know your depravity and especially not during the mission. Third rule: Any problems with your channels or feeds, yell for Comms and go back to whatever you were doing. Do your job and leave me to do mine. Any questions before we go live?"

"Yeah, about the communicators," Ensign Corriedale piped up. "Could our connection be cut the same way Judy's and the Away team's was?"

"Yep," said Finnick, popping the 'p'. "Command decided that transporters that could zap someone into outer space or right into the ground takes priority over getting your call cut off. The more reliable communicators are too complex to be replicated in full and we need time to assemble some for future missions. So it's up to you Ensign to tell us if the magnetic field is whack."

"Listen to the Science Sheep and keep your messages snappy," Nick added. "In an emergency, Ensign Hopps has the most stable line. Any more questions before we work on the data feeds?"

There were none. On Nick's screen, the feeds were popping up one by one - the main mounted camera so Command could oversee the mission to assess and disable the transporter; side by side views of the ship's readings run by Corriedale and on-site tricorder readings taken by Wolford on the magnetic fields; Judy with the bodycam so Finnick could peer over her shoulder and give her engineering tips on the transporter, or at least shout before things went kaboomy.

Nick hadn't seen Judy since the whole Away mission went awry. From the bodycam she looked ruffled, like she hadn't had time to properly brush her fur in a while, but she lacked the dark eye bags that Delgato was sporting in the main feed.

Judy smiled into the bodycam. "Hi Finnick. Hi Nick."

In the audio channel Nick had set up Finnick tried a cautious, "You hear me?"

"Crystal." Judy tapped her earbud. "Just you?"

"We've already got one noisy channel. But Nick's listening. Aren't you always?"

"Shut up Finn," Nick shot back out of habit, even though he'd turned off his mic to focus on keeping everything running and he'd never intended to patch his audio feed into Finnick and Judy's dedicated line.

"So when you get back," Finnick said, in that conversational tone that meant Nick was totally fucked. "You and Nick gotta talk."

"I know." Judy shifted out of view as she secured the bodycam somewhere about shoulder height for her. It was still laughably low. "I owe him a ton of favours."

"That right? What'd he get from you for the special communicator?"

"He hasn't said yet."

"Say what?" Finnick snapped.

"He just sneaked the communicator into my stuff with a tag "For Carrots, keep this handy". Nothing else. So I'll have to ask him what I owe him."

"Girl, that ain't the way we work. Sure, we might hustle you, like forgetting to tell you that a pet you're supposed to take for walkies is an oversized sehlat, or that a doodad you're picking up is just a tiny bit radioactive. But open-ended debts? We've got our standards too. If Nick didn't tell you what favour you owe him, you don't owe him. Well. Not a favour anyway."

There was an uncomfortably long silence from Judy - Nick on his part was busy with the main feed and the feed from Science. He definitely wasn't listening for Judy's response.

But he's a Comms officer. When Judy spoke again, it was with such determination and resolve that his ears perked up despite himself. "Well then. I've got to make it back for a conversation with Nick Wilde."

"Attagirl," said Nick, even though Judy couldn't hear him.

Nick had things - both personal and mission related - mostly under control by the time Captain Bogo took the bridge. "Wilde, put the mission feeds on the main viewscreen."

A few taps later and all three feeds were up on the main viewscreen, with the wider range of the main mounted camera dominating the view. The team had reached the room housing the malfunctioning transporter, and had finished taking their baseline readings. Corriedale had helpfully marked up the baseline readings in green and the readings at the time of the malfunction in red on her display.

"Put the bridge through to the team." When Nick flashed Bogo a thumbs up, the Captain addressed the team. "Mission team, update."

"Delgato here. All's quiet planetside for now."

"Magnetic field readings are within acceptable parameters."

"We'd better start disabling the transporter, and soon," said Finnick. "I don't like how the electromagnetic focusing looks even from all this distance away."

"Right, you heard Engineering. Disable the transporter as quickly as you can. Shut it down."

"Yes Captain!" The team chorused. Even Nick tossed off a lazy salute that had Bogo rolling his eyes.

This was the tough part, even for Nick. Nick had to listen and pay attention to all the feeds and the work that the team was doing in them - the chatter of the team as they confirmed task assignments; watching for potential lag in Corriedale and Wolford's readings even as Wolford verbally confirmed his readings with Corriedale; Finnick snapping instructions at everyone in one channel and directing Judy's camera in the other. Nick had to make sure data was going the way it was supposed to, that the team wasn't receiving X when they'd meant to get Y.

To Nick, the mission seemed to be going well. They had enough members in the Mission team to work on the matter stream converter, subspace domain connector and particle lock at the same time, though Finnick really wanted to get the matter stream converter disabled first. It wasn't fun to be in a matter beam that had no idea what it was supposed to do. Judy, acting as Finnick's eyes on the ground, wove between the three groups. Nothing was going kaboomy.

Nick's first hint that something was going wrong was Corriedale and Wolford's harried conferencing in their dedicated line. What he picked up was skimpy on consequences and heavy on science babble with mentions of K-index and declination and the impact of CMEs. Finally Corriedale said on the open channel, "Readings are approaching the levels seen during the first transporter mishap."

"When?" Finnick barked.

"The readings haven't been trending consistently - "

"These levels happening at warp speed or do we have more time Corriedale?"

"It's not going to happen like a lightning strike," Corriedale admitted. "But I suggest you finish whatever you're doing fast."

"Hopps, I need your paws for the matter stream converter too. Rest of the team, I won't be able to give any more tips. Mess up and you've got to deal with your own shit."

Under the looming threat of Corriedale's warning, Nick felt time start to crawl. He tried not to dig claws into the console as Finnick yanked people from the particle lock to work on the matter stream converter.

Despite the fewer paws, the subspace domain connector was disabled first. Nick spared only a glance at the same group moving on to work the particle lock, too busy watching Judy and the others worked on the matter stream converter in dual view - the close up from Judy's camera and the larger one that Bogo was focused on. They'd reached the last component just as Corriedale said, "We've dipped below the buffer."

"Clear out everyone," said Delgato.

Everyone started moving, with Judy and her camera motionless in the middle of all the flurry. "There isn't a prescribed safety distance, not with this malfunction," she said.

"We know what happened to you." Finnick's voice, already ground towards the lower end of his register by worry, was a rumble on the edge of a growl. "That's why you're supposed to run as far as you fucking can."

It wasn't as obvious on the larger camera, but Nick saw the direction of Judy's camera adjust to match her shift in focus - it was pointed right at the last remaining component. Nick's claws scraped over console buttons as he willed himself not to patch himself through. He had to settle for murmuring to his muted headset, "Carrots, don't do it."

The camera was jerked forward, followed by Delgato yelling, "Hopps!" just as Corriedale's readings hit her red marks. Exact match.

The ship's connection to everything - tricorder readings, visual feeds, communicators, Judy's communicator - cut out. Nick was already on it, sliding through the frequencies as he tried and discarded channels that were dead dead dead -

He almost missed the blip of green from Judy's communicator, a green spark that died almost as quickly as it appeared. He backtracked, going slower until there was a channel, glowing green and reading clear.

Nick patched himself through. "Hopps!" He toggled the volume. "Carrots!" But that wasn't the problem, that was never the problem when an Away team went fucking missing. "Judy!"

Then he heard it - laughter.

It started with chuckles, and then grew to full bellied laughter, edged with hysterical relief. Judy Hopps was laughing.

Delgato's whooping could be heard layered with the laugher. "She did it! I can't believe it, she did it!"

Now that he had a working channel, Nick tried the video feed. The Mission team came up on the main viewscreen, still very clearly in the transporter room and very clearly whole and fine. Delgato had extended his paw to someone, and when he pulled that person up Judy came into view.

Judy held up the last component from the matter stream converter to the camera, winked and whispered, "Boom."

The Integrity was celebrating.

Apart from the successful dismantling of the transporter, the rest of the Away team had been located and all Starfleet officers planetside had been brought back safe and sound to the ship. Even Bogo had admitted that was worth celebrating. Finnick had left for the party ages ago, though it was early enough that he'd brought the replicated drinks first. Later, when Bogo was relaxed enough to not bother that some of the bottles smelled different from the others the moonshine might make an appearance.

Later, when Finnick went back down to the still Nick might turn up there for a quiet drink with his buddy. For now, he was in his quarters with music that was much more to his taste. This crew had one too many Gazelle fans, and her music was not conducive for conversation. Even though he was owed one.

But it was easier to stay out of Judy's way. He couldn't be compromised if Clawhauser was responsible for checking Judy's Starfleet issued communicator for issues. Nick had already deleted the transmission from the Comms console within the promised 48 hours. Judy could just go on her own busy way. Science had been interested in having her confirm what things like had been planetside before and after the transporter incident, and then Engineering had pounced on her to ask her questions about the transporter itself, and she had all the reports that she had to write for Command.

Yet Nick's communicator right now was saying that he had a call from Judy.

He could take this. He knew what to do. Never get attached right?

Before he could overthink things, he jabbed the button to have Judy chirp at him, "Ensign Hopps to Integrity, what's your status?"

"Integrity, standard orbit. But you knew that already." There had been curiously little background noise before and after Judy had spoken, which did not make sense given a communicator's sensitive microphone. "Aren't you at your party Carrots?"

"It's your party as much as mine. You were also on the team."

"I didn't disable a matter stream converter at risk to my life."

"No one is ever going to let me forget that, are they?"

"Never Carrots. Is that why you skipped out on your party? Didn't want to keep telling the story?"

"A little." There's a clink that sounded to Nick like she'd tapped some glasses together. "Everyone kept talking about that like that was the most important part of the Away mission. But it wasn't."

"Coming away with your life sounds pretty important to me." Now that she was safe Nick could forgot how even the concept of losing her felt like it could tear him apart. "What did you think was most important?"

"I can't forget when I'd thought I had to give up, and then I heard your voice."

Play it smooth Wilde. She didn't really know him, what with their insults and the remoteness of a comm line. He was banking on that. Had to, because he had no more defences left. "I thought you found my voice the most annoying in the history of Comms Officers."

"Because I never know what to do when I hear it!" This time the thunk sounded like she let her head fall against something hard. "Because it's like the whole thing with the favours and the carrot communicators that come out of nowhere and with all you've done for me I don't know what I should do Nick!" When she next spoke, her voice was quieter and gentler. "And I do want to do something for you, dumb fox."

He was on his feet, glancing around him to see if he needed to bring more than his communicator. "We can talk about it. Where are you now Carrots?"

"Level 114, between lifts 69 and 78."

He stared at his own door, dumbstruck, before moving to tap it open.

Judy Hopps was standing on the other side, bottle in one hand and a pair of drinking glasses in another. She held out the bottle to him. "I thought I'll bring the party to you, and we could talk at the same time."

"Clever bunny," Nick admitted. "Well, the place isn't exactly decked out for a party, but if you don't mind, Ensign Hopps." He gestured inwards.

Her smile as he let her in could have lit up the dark.

waiting all night

When she told Nick Wilde she was standing on the other side of his door, her communicator went silent again.

She tried not to fidget, though it was hard when all the times that Nick went silent on her collided in her head, including his absence at the party. She'd steeled herself for a conversation then. But when Finnick had arrived without Nick and the minutes had stretched on with Nick still suspiciously missing, she had gone to her quarters to grab gear. Nick had been hard to pin down since her return to the ship, and Judy wasn't one for waiting. Maybe she ought to have come up with a plan, as she had been reminded by everyone from Academy instructors to Captain Bogo. Right. Working on it.

Then Nick's door whooshed open and she straightened, with her ears up. Wait, was that too intimidating?

Nick himself looked relaxed, out of uniform in the green button up he seemed to love. It made Judy wonder if her uniform had been the right choice. (She had come straight from an official party, official meant uniforms and the others had been in their uniform, also her uniform had the shortest skirt she owned - moving on!)

She held out the bottle to him before it could get any more awkward. "I thought I'll bring the party to you, and we could talk at the same time." She paused, bracing for frosty silence or bitter rejection.

"Clever bunny," said Nick, and Judy squashed the habitual urge to check if he was being sarcastic - he sounded honest enough and hey! Not either of the worst options.

In fact, it got better. "Well, the place isn't exactly decked out for a party, but if you don't mind, Ensign Hopps." He gestured towards his quarters.

Her smile grew, though she checked the urge to fist pump. Wouldn't want to break the glasses. Or the wine bottle.

Nick didn't have to share quarters – benefits of being a rank above Ensign. That explained the fancy sound system where the volume could be cranked up, though it was now playing a quiet song. There was a little more floor space than in her quarters, which Nick had mostly used up when he'd replaced the standard table with an oversized sofa and a coffee table that was low, even for Finnick. She leaned over to set the glasses on the coffee table, then started working on the cork of the wine bottle.

Nick stepped in, scooping the bottle out of her paws. His brushed hers, and though Judy was over the schoolgirl blushing stage, she savoured the brief contact.

Then he put distance between them again. "You came to visit me, Carrots, so you're the guest. Make yourself comfortable on the sofa or something."

He didn't glare her into sitting as Captain Bogo might have done – the opposite actually with his lazy smile – but the way he'd stilled gave him an expectant air that made her want to do as he said. She coughed, seized by the sudden urge to make small talk. "The sofa is fine." She sidled over to the sofa with the intention to perch on the edge, the only free area not taken up by throws and pillows.

The sofa was a cushioned monstrosity that promptly tried to swallow her up. Even as she floundered, her ears caught a bark of laughter. By the time she struggled to a sitting position though, Nick had already worked the cork from the bottle and was pouring wine to fill the second wine glass as well. Either he worked fast, or Judy had been hearing things.

Who knew with Nick Wilde? Like his gentlemanly act when he plucked the filled wine glasses off the table, one of them held out to Judy. She took it and seriously considered downing it to drown out her mortification.

Nick distracted her from that by somehow managing to get onto his sofa without being swallowed by it. He raised his still full wineglass. "I think the occasion calls for a toast."

"To what?"

"To lucky rabbits."

The past Judy Hopps would have dumped her wine on him and stormed off. This Judy matched his smile with hers and clinked her glass against his, "And lucky foxes."

"Oh I think I can contest that."

"Really? I heard about your ability to pull live channels out of thin air."

"Was that a thing that happened? You'd think I'd be able to recall my own miracles."

"Sharla told me it happened after the communicators shortened out."

"Sharla said. Don't listen to rumours, Fluff, I know these rabbit ears catch everything - " He tugged Judy's ear to prove his point, and the past Judy would have smacked his paw away. Judy now tried to see if it was a distraction, if it was smoke and mirrors from – what? She wasn't sure exactly, but she was going to find out. " - but you seriously have to consider installing lie detectors on these."

"To better call your bluff?"

"It's not bluffing if it's the truth."

"And it's not bluffing if Engineering showed me the records that the communicators were definitely out during the mission."

"I never said the communicators didn't go out, what I said was I didn't pluck a channel out of thin air. I'm a competent Comms officer who has backup channels on hand."

"To competent foxes then."

He accepted that with a clink of his glass against hers and they drank. Nick had barely sipped before his eyes widened and he pulled the glass back as if the wine had suddenly turned into gold. "I think you're the one pulling miracles out of nowhere, Carrots. Is this wine from Otterton in Botany?"

"It is. What's the matter, Wilde, can't take drinks from your competitor?" Otterton was the go to for the only other source of non-replicated alcohol on this ship, which Judy preferred because drinking herself blind was not her style.

"He hates my guts," said Nick, as if he was sharing a status update.

"Otterton? But he's such a sweet otter!"

"Au contraire, otter teeth in your tail is nothing to joke about. Haven't you heard what they do to alligator tails?"

"He did not bite your tail!"

"But he could, and wouldn't that be a pity." Nick flourished his admittedly beautiful tail.

"What actually happened? I'm sensing there's a story here."

"Well our Otterton deals with plant samples, right? We used to have an arrangement on the side to get him the more exotic plants and he'd give us fresh fruits, or nuts, or whatever he had on hand. So one day, I'm in his lab for a delivery, and there's an entire jar of blueberries on the table."

Judy's giggle still escaped the paw she clapped over her mouth. "You didn't!"

"I did. I ate the blueberries from the blueberry jar. Apparently I messed up his experiments for the week. He chased me out of the lab and I haven't been the same fox since." Nick put on his most put upon face, tucked ears and pouting mouth. Judy squashed the urge to rub his ears - they weren't that close, not yet.

"A big fox like you is frightened of a tiny little otter."

"Maybe it's a size thing, because obviously rabbits aren't afraid of otters. How about that, Carrots? Will you venture into the den of the tiny toothy otter to get me some blueberries?" He switched to a more hopeful expression, ears perked and tail swishing. This was a Nick Wilde Judy felt she could actually get along with.

Now was Judy's chance, because she knew a distraction tactic when she saw one, even though this had been a verbal instead of a visual feint. "Is that what you really want to use your favour on?"

She might not have chosen her battleground wisely. Nick slid on his usual cool expression as if he hadn't been making puppy eyes earlier. "I recall you owed me for the rest of your life if you put me on Comms for the mission. So it isn't just blueberries that I can ask for."

"What else do you want then?"

"Let's start with a simple 'thank you Lt Wilde for going on this mission, you were the best team member ever'. Go on, Fluff, I even gave you a script."

She took a fortifying sip before set down her glass – had to for what she was about to do. "I think I can do better than that." Before she could think too hard about it she tugged on his tie and pressed her mouth to his.

The kiss was unexpectedly sweet – eyes closed, breaths held, mouths warm where they met. That was how they leaned into each other for a beat. Two.

Judy didn't know who breathed first, but the intake of breath also drew them closer to each other, to seal the breath in with a better fit of their mouths. She savoured the moment. When she touched her tongue to Nick's mouth, she could taste just a hint of wine. She pressed in for more taste -

Nick pulled back. "You kiss by th' book."

"... are you using an older form of Standard?"

"So you do recognise enough of it." His smile was sardonic, but the light in his eyes read different to Judy. "I give that kiss 5 out of 10, Carrots."

She knew how to respond to his words, less so the other emotion she had picked up on. "That was not a 5 out of 10!"

"I give the score, I make the rules. That was good enough for a thank you kiss, but you have some way to go before I let you throw me down on the sofa and have your way with me."

"I'm not here to jump you!" Though Judy wouldn't have minded if the evening had gone in that direction.

"Nice to know you care about me as a mammal, Fluff."

"What do you want then?" She sat on her hands so she didn't reach out to shake him, strangle him or smooch him. All three were appealing as possibilities of putting an end to this nonsense. Or maybe that was the disappointment speaking.

"I want you not to cut your tongue on my teeth. You ever kiss someone with sharp teeth, darling?" He tilted his chin up so when he spoke, what she saw from her close position on the couch was fang. "It'd be the most embarrassing trip to Medical ever."

"You're worried about teeth and tongue. I wouldn't even worry if I had your teeth on my neck."

That had Nick shutting his mouth with a clack, tucking his muzzle down so he could eye her warily. Now she was sure she had his attention, she tilted her chin up so that her neck was bared. It was now up to Nick.

She felt his breath on her neck first, followed by the touch of his teeth on one side of her neck, then the other. At the slightest prick from sharp edges, her blood began to pound in her ears. Still she held herself still, submissive to the caress of his teeth.

Then as quickly as it started, Nick had pulled back. "You're an extremely dumb bunny," he said, almost inaudible over the roaring in her ears.

"It's no different from trusting you with my life on Away missions," said Judy, even though the adrenaline rush she felt then and now were different.

"Both would send any sane mammal running in the other direction, and yet here you are," said Nick, and downed his wine.

"Away missions aren't that bad."

"The last one was pretty bad, Ensign Hopps. You'll probably have to do it all over again since the natives still want their transporter. How do you feel about that?" He held out his now empty wine glass to her as if it were a microphone.

"I should. I did have experience with the transporters on that planet so far."

"There's no shame in calling it quits."

"Yes there is." Judy squashed the memory of the cave and the oppressive feel of ground and silence. Nick had broken that; that was what she needed to focus on. "I won't be alone. I hear they're trying to get the same team together."

"A little more advance warning if you need me on Comms this time. My sleep schedule is a very demanding master."

Since she’d been rebuffed once before, Judy had figured out her answer from experience. "Do you want to be?"

The way he looked at her now was like the way he sometimes eyed Captain Bogo when he was weighing whether to come up with a zinger of a response, or duck his head down and do what he was told.

Judy tipped the options a little more in her favour. "I came here tonight to find out what you want Nick. I - I think I made a mistake with the latest mission somehow, and the carrot communicator, maybe even earlier than that. So I'm here to find out what you want. Talk to me."

"I was, before you were sidetracked by kisses. Is that the way of your people?"

"Yes, if the gratitude is aimed towards a Nick Wilde. Unless he has an aversion to being thanked with kisses?"

"Aww, is the widdle bunny sweet on me?"

"Not particularly, when you're being that sarcastic. You haven't answered my question."

"I was thinking that's a lot of effort for very little reward. I spent two sleepless nights on you, Fluff, before I got a kiss. A 5 out of 10 kiss."

"Are you fishing for more kisses, Wilde?"

"How else will I be able to tell you've improved?" He was smiling with teeth, as if it was still a deterrent.

The thing about Judy was that she didn't know when to quit. She tilted his muzzle down for a better angle and went in for her kiss.

This time there was more - more pressure, more movement, more warmth, because Judy was going to get her 10 out of 10. Nick didn't seem to have issues with Judy's teeth when she nibbled lightly on his lower lip before touching her tongue to the same point. His own tongue mimicked her gesture, only brushing the line of her lips and retreating when she parted them. For that, she ended the kiss by tugging on his bottom lip, sucking it between her lips before releasing. From the satisfied sound Nick made when she let go, he didn't mind it at all.

"7 out of 10," he concluded.

"Someone wasn't cooperating."

"As much as you'd like me to stick my tongue down your throat, I do want to know - what else do you want out of this Hopps? You can't be content with doing what I want just because I asked for it."

"I think of it as part of getting to know you better. There's a fox I know, that deals in favours and makes speciesist comments. And there's this fox on Comms, who makes me laugh and who makes me feel like a better version of myself than I really am. I - I think I want to know the second fox better."

"Is that what it is?" Nick hopped off the sofa to retrieve the wine bottle. "Well both foxes have a request," he said, more to the glass he was pouring than to Judy.

He held up the bottle, and she held out her own glass for a top up. "What is it?"

"Time." He filled her glass, then set down the bottle. "I need time to come to terms with your change of heart."

Judy nodded. "Deal."

They toasted for the second time that night.

The rest of the evening passed as if Judy were at the actual party in the rec room - a lot more talking and a definite lack of kisses. Not that wasn't fun in its own way, because Nick did have a way of making Judy laugh and feel really comfortable with herself. It was just that she was far too aware once they'd finished the bottle of wine that there was really no reason for her to linger now. Nick had asked for more time after all, and she did have a morning briefing to get to.

Nick didn't seem to mind when she told him she had to go. "Let me walk you to your quarters."

Judy, in the middle of gathering the glasses, gave him her most deadpan look. "It's a starship and half of my friends are on monitor duty. What could possibly happen to me, Wilde?"

"Fluff, I know contrary to your name you're perfectly capable of knocking out a full grown rhino, but can you knock out a full grown rhino while holding a wine bottle and glasses?" He took the glasses from her. "Let me help."

"Actually the wine bottle would be more useful in defending myself," she pointed out.

"First, please don't heft that bottle as if you're expecting to smash it over my head. Second, wouldn't Otterton be upset you didn't return your bottle? Then I wouldn't get my blueberries and where would we be?"

"Oh so it's for your blueberries, isn't it? Well then, come along."

She wasn't sure if Nick knew where her quarters were - she had to look up his in the directory - but he went with as if he knew where he was going. The turbo lifts brought them to the right level quickly, and from there it was a short walk to her door.

Opening the door set Zoomba off. The robot whistled at her from his docking station, and when Judy whistled back he came over to take the bottle from Judy. Nick handed the glasses to it too, crouching down for a better look. "Is this Starfleet standard? Where can I get one?"

"You'll have to ask Sharla, I'm pretty sure Zoomba was a personal project."

"The benefits of knowing a robotics scientist."

As Zoomba scooted off to the other end of the room, Judy was far too aware of how small her shared room was compared to Nick's quarters. There was a reason why she preferred to exercise in the gym. "Well! We don't have much in the way of snack or drinks or furniture, but if you don't mind - "

Nick held up a paw. "Carrots. I appreciate the thought, but didn't you say you had a morning briefing to get to?"

"But you're back to working nights again."

"Yes. What's the matter, you going to miss my pretty face?" He sing-songed the last.

"Not a chance Wilde." The habitual rejoinder came out before Judy regretted it. Now it would be incredibly awkward to ask him when they could meet again. Well. She could call him over communicator him later. "I guess I'll be seeing you then."

"What, no kiss goodnight?"

She didn't bother to hide that she was rolling her eyes - she had made worse expressions in front of Nick - but she dutifully went up on tip toe to press her lips to his. It's sweet, just a touch of their lips, like their first kiss. Judy breathed, meaning to break it off -

And Nick kissed back hard enough that he backed her right up against the doorframe with lips paws entire bodies pressed up against each other. She shifted her paws to the thicker fur peeking above his collar and sighed; he shifted his hands to her hips and slid his tongue past her lips to taste her properly. He tasted of wine and heady nights and Judy was seriously considering dragging him in so that they could continue more comfortably, Sharla could go and sleep in Wolford's quarters for all she cared -

Then Nick pulled away and set her down gently. "Just giving you something to aspire to, Carrots. I expect a 10 out of you next time." He winked, and was all the way at the turbo lifts by the time Judy thought up of a response, just in time for Nick to slip into a convenient lift and make his escape.

Judy slammed her door shut. Even though the walls were thick enough that she couldn't hear Bucky and Pronk next door, Judy still grabbed her pillow and screamed into it. The muted sound was enough to send Zoomba clattering out of his docking station and bumping into her leg to check if she was alright.

"No no I'm fine." She shooed the little robot back to its docking station, before falling back into her bed still clutching the pillow. Knowing that Zoomba would send an alarmed message to Sharla if Judy screamed into the pillow again put a damper on that course of action. She just had to get ready for bed without thinking. Of Nick.

This time the pillow went over her face again in the hope that it would cool her burning cheeks. That had been a 10 out of 10 kiss, and Nick had told her to catch up -

Huh. He had asked for another kiss hadn't he? Something to aspire to, he'd said, even though Judy was plenty inspired before. And it had been Nick that dropped his cool act to kick the goodnight kiss up to the next level.

Judy grinned. This time, she would plan. The next time she kissed him, it would be off the scale.