The bedroom shades were drawn to block out the early morning sunlight. There was a unique type of serenity in pre-dawn Zootopia, a tranquility one could only find away from civilization that miraculously found its way into the wee hours of the next day. The sole occupant of the room was curled beneath a bundle of blankets that were strewn atop the center of the mattress, sound asleep.
Bzzrt! Bzzrt! Bzzrt! The phone set on the nearby wooden nightstand violently convulsed as the alarm went off. The lone message of ‘Get Up!’ lit up the dark room, revealing a cluttered living space and walls decorated with peeling posters of bands or events long passed. The vibration grew in intensity and the disruptive noise stirred the mammal beneath the blankets.
The mound shifted around before a russet paw dug its way out of the fabric cocoon. It slapped around blindly for several moments. Frustrated by the lack of success, the head of a red fox popped out beside the arm with a low growl. Blearily, green eyes focused on the cause of his state of semi-wakefulness and the paw found its prey. Blinking the essence of sleep away, the tod stared at the message and then the time above it.
Another blink came as he tried to rationalize the purpose of such a ridiculously early alarm.
Oh oh oh oh oh! Oh oh oh oh oh!
The screen lit anew, the image of a famous cartoon carrot mascot encompassing it, and was accompanied by the chorus of The Angel with Horns’ latest hit. The noise and bright light elicited a yip of surprise. His startled jump resulted in him falling to the floor back first. The phone fell from his paw, but continued to ring. More awake, and sore, than usual at this ungodly hour, the fox ran his paws over his face and growled again. He grabbed his phone just after the ringing stopped and waited, lidded eyes glaring at the screen. With a huff, he dropped his phone to the bed, preferring to wait for the inevitable second call.
“Could’ve just let her do her own thing, but no-o-o...That would’ve been too easy.” The fox grumbled as he managed to free himself from his predicament. Once he was upright, he pressed his paws into his back and pushed. The cracks that resulted from applied pressure was a mixed blessing. He sighed and bent to gather his spilled blankets.
Oh oh oh oh oh! Oh oh oh oh oh!
Ready this time, a paw dropped the fabric where it lay and deftly snatched up the vibrating annoyance. A swipe of his thumb pad across the screen and he greeted the caller with a yawn.
“Mo-o-or-” His yawn came to a close with a small yip. “-ning, Carrots.”
“Mornin’, Nick!” The fox was sure that the ever chipper voice of his partner was only insufferable because it was so early. After six months working with her, he knew Judy Hopps was a mammal of habit and that she’d probably already been awake well over an hour. Since he knew her as well as he did, it was easy to imagine her balancing the phone between her cheek and shoulder as she did up her protective ped pads. Heck, the country-born bunny had probably forced herself to wait twenty minutes before calling him. “ Ready to make the world a better place? ”
Nick looked over his ruffled, boxer-clad state and took a soft sniff. Even for a fox, whose natural musk was hit-or-miss (with miss being the more often case) for other mammals, he was a little ripe. He pulled his phone away from his ear and glanced at the time.
“Nick? You there? ”
“Mm? Yeah...Yeah, I’m…” He let out another yawn and scratched his side. “I’m here.”
“...You slept through your alarms again, didn’t you? ”
“Aw, Fluff.” He put a paw to his chest and smiled at nothing in particular. He had, in fact, slept through the five alarms he set before the last. “I’m touched that you know me so well.”
“Ni-i-i-ick!” His smile grew at her groan. Her ears were probably hanging behind her head as she flopped into a chair or onto her bed in her dinky little apartment. He chuckled as he picked up her not-so-quieted grumblings about ‘lazy foxes’, and made his way towards the bathroom.
“Relax, Carrots...I’ll get to the precinct in time for assignments.”
“Well, the longer we stay on the phone, the less time I’ll have to wash up, get dressed and—”
“See you at work, Slick!”
The call ended and he set his phone down by the sink. Green eyes, half-lidded stared at himself in the mirror. For a fox in his early thirties, he was in great shape. Better shape than he’d been in his twenties, where he was little more than a twig. He scowled at his reflection as memories of those years filtered through his head. A growl was stifled before it could escape his throat, and he turned away from the sink to start his shower. Once the water was at a comfortable temperature, he drew back the curtain and stepped in.
As he had since his first day almost one year ago, Nick strode into the ZPD with the confidence of a lion facing down a mouse. His reflective aviators were on, protecting his nocturnal eyes from the harsh morning glare. He sipped from his Snarlbucks coffee as he approached the dutifully dedicated dispatcher, who was in the midst of jamming out to what was most likely a Gazelle hit. He watched and waited, enjoyed his morning fix of caffeine and finished it, before the fluffy cheetah took notice of his presence.
“Oh! Good morning, Nick!” Clawhauser pulled his Beasts out of his ears. He propped his elbows on the desk with his paws in his chin,and a blinding smile fell in place. His eyes flicked to the side and back, before he leaned over and whispered conspiratorially. “Judy is in the bullpen already. She waited out here for a few minutes, um, thumping . You should probably get in there before she brings the whole building down.”
Nick lifted his sunglasses and smirked.
“Spots, if anything’s going to bring this place down, it’s not going to be Carrots’ bad habit.”
Honestly, if Judy’s thumping foot did bring the precinct down, it probably wouldn’t be the building’s collapse that killed her. The mortification and ridicule that would follow such a tragedy would be the thing to do the sensitive bunny in. The latter, if he wasn’t dead or injured from said collapse, would obviously come from him ribbing her about it until her dying day. Then he’d revive her and start all over again. He’s a good friend like that.
“You’re right. It’ll probably be you, Wilde.” Clawhauser teased. “You’re a fox after all.”
“Wha-? Benjamin Clawhauser, how dare you! Accusing me, an upstanding citizen of Zootopia—a member of its police force, no less!—of nefarious schemes against the very mammals I serve with? Of defacing this monument to justice, loyalty and integrity?” Nick placed a paw over his chest and his ears drew back. He sniffled and looked away. “I thought better of you, Benji. To stereotype me, for my species! You catty cheetah!”
Clawhauser giggled as his tail flicked behind him, and Nick made sure to keep his smile off of his face. The theatrics of the most recent addition to the blue blooded roster always got a laugh out of at least one officer — unless that officer was Chief Bogo, but then very little made him smile — and the front desk sergeant was no exception. Oftentimes, in fact, the plump officer was the example of the rule.
“...And here I was, thinking of you when I purchased this.” Nick continued, lifting a small bag bearing the Snarlbucks logo and dangling it out enticingly towards the desk. Clawhauser sniffed and let out a (mercifully) soft squeal, paws covering his muzzle as he did.
“Is that a grande puma-sized Snarlbucks Springtime Special Strawberry Yogurt Scone?”
“It might be.”
The overweight officer reached out and hesitated before an encouraging quirk of the lips from the fox prompted him to snatch it.
“Nick!” The cheetah gasped as he pulled the small pastry out. He took a few more sniffs before taking a delicate bite of the treat. With a mouth full of scone and a voice full of bliss, he tagged on, “You are my best friend today!”
“Careful who hears you say that, otherwise our favorite bunny cop might get jealous. Your friendship is expensive, but clearly worth it.” Nick gave him a claw up as he went on his way to the bullpen. “Keep me updated if something interesting pops up, buddy. Bogo’s probably got us on reserve after what happened with that koala yesterday.”
“Moo know ip!” The dispatcher saluted as he munched on his treat.
With the dispatcher properly bri— appeased, Nick continued his venture towards the bullpen and the start of another day. He ducked left down the east hall in order to sneak up on his favorite prey. So far he was 5-7 in his efforts to surprise her, with her ears giving her an unfair advantage. Although he did cherish the memory of her leaping into Rhinowitz’ full coffee mug on victory number four.
Rounding the corner that would give him a further edge to his plan, a manilla folder slapped into his chest from above. Looking up at the obstruction to his fun, Nick’s hustler smile fell over his face to conceal his nerves. There was a zebra wearing the same dress blues as he, but had three golden stars on his collar. The immaculately polished badge bore the words Deputy Chief, and the tag on the right side of his chest read Equinn.
“In a hurry, Wilde?” The baritone voice betrayed nothing. Nick prided himself on being able to read mammals, but whenever he looked at the Deputy Chief, he couldn’t figure him out. It was so unnerving to be in the equine’s presence, he had to work to keep his tail from bristling.
“Hey, DC! Just reporting for duty. You know, getting ready to start the good ol’ nine to five...Hey, since we work seven to seven, shouldn’t we call it that? Hm, then again the “good ol’ twelve hours” doesn’t have as much of a ring to it—”
“Wilde, stop talking.”
Nick did so. Bogo was an intimidating force, but he’d stared down the jaws of polar bears, so nothing the Chief snarled really fazed him. Heck, most of the time he submitted to the Chief was to ease Judy’s frazzled nerves caused by his nonchalance. The Deputy Chief on the other paw, was a whole different type of mammal. Something about the way he stood, the way he spoke, demanded respect. Nick only gave that to certain types of mammals. There were those who earned it with their actions—such as a certain grey furred bunny—and the mafia dons such as Mr. Big, who had an aura about them despite their appearance. He wasn’t a betting fox, but if he had to guess, he would say that Deputy Chief Equinn was former military. He had a stare that made predator and prey alike avert their gaze, and carried himself with a certain air.
On top of that, E’quinn could be pretty liberal when delivering punishment. His ears flicked back as a phantom pain rushed through the crown of his head. Judy’s punches were love taps compared to Equinn’s hoof-slaps to the head.
“Good, now read this.”
Nick took the file and flipped it open. He blanched when he realized it was the report Judy wrote about the ‘Sloth Street Racer’, aka one Flash Slothmore, who they encountered the day before. Included was a reference to their first encounter with the adrenaline addicted sloth, which occurred on his first day as a member of Precinct One. They’d let him go with a warning then, using the excuse of his help during the Missing Mammals case to smooth it over with Bogo. However, this time Nick convinced Judy to write a ticket so that he could, in his words, “repay any lasting favors”. Words that were written into the report by the dutiful Officer Hopps, verbatim.
Nick looked up and met the coal eyes of the stallion. Glancing at the watch on his arm, the Deputy Chief hummed.
“You have two minutes until Bogo starts his morning briefing, so I’ll keep this quick.” Equinn took the file back and prodded the stunned fox officer in the chest with it. “If you ever get yourself in debt to a criminal again, I’ll take your badge.”
“Uh, you got it, DC.” Equinn’s stare became frosty and Nick straightened up with a salute. “Er, I mean, yessir!”
“...Keep up the good work, Wilde.” The Deputy Chief dismissed the salute with one of his own and tucked the file under his arm as he walked away.
Nick watched the zebra head towards the main hall and shivered. He was never going to get used to compliments from the higher ups. They were either straightforward, backhanded insults, or they so flat in delivery that it made his head spin trying to figure out the angle of the mammal dishing them out. The Deputy Chief’s always seemed to be the latter.
“You’ve got thirty seconds until assignments, I suggest you get moving.” Equinn advised without looking back as he rounded the corner.
Nick’s eyes widened and he cursed under his breath as he hurried towards the bullpen. He stopped at the door and recollected himself. Wouldn’t do to let anyone other than his favorite walking stuffed animal know that he was more than just a walking smarm machine. With his mask back up, he entered to find the mammals within as rowdy as ever.
“Where have you been, Wilde? Get lost chasing your own tail, or did a sleek vixen finally catch your eye?” Andrew Grizzoli, a white timberwolf, called as he walked by. A series of playful catcalls came from the officers around him. The fox graced the group with a smirk and a shrug.
“I was held up by my adoring fans, you know how hard it is to appease the people.” Nick gasped and covered his muzzle. “Oh, that’s right! You wouldn’t know, because you weren’t the officer that saved the city twice over.”
“Neither were you!”
“Never said I was!” Nick called back as he hopped up to his and his partner’s chair. A series of thump-thump-thumps had him give his full attention to the source of the sound. His vulpine smile was in full effect. “Morning, Fluff. Told you I’d make it.”
“Took your sweet time, Slick.” His displeased partner refuted. Judy’s foot continued a steady thumping. Her arms were crossed and her amethyst eyes remained narrowed. “Where were you?”
“Looking as good as I do every day is a tough job, Carrots. I’m sure you can understand this pain. Or do you just roll out of the bed without brushing your fluffy, wuffy tail?”
The scrutinizing gaze went flat.
“Baby talk? Seriously?” Judy’s scowl pulled up into a small smirk and her paws rested on her hips. “I think you’re running out of material, Slick. How far you’ve fallen.”
“Carrots, please, you couldn’t handle all of my material.” Nick leaned back and flicked his shades down onto his face. “I’d charm the pants right off of you. What would the rest of the lonely buck bunnies do once they learn that the Judy Hopps was snatched up by a sinister, shifty fox?”
“They’d have to suck it up, because the only way I’m getting snatched up by any male is if I want them to snatch me up.” Judy huffed. Nick considered bringing up her last three dates, all bucks from Bunnyburrow that just so happened to be in the city on business the day her parents told her about them, but decided against it. Those dates often ended with him being called and getting his ear talked off before plans for a cheer-up-Judy-movie-night were made for the following evening. Not that it mattered if he did try to bring it up, since she continued. “And really? ‘Charm the pants right off of me’? Pretty big boast there for someone who hasn’t had a date in the past two months.”
Oh, she’s trying to challenge him now. He narrowed his eyes at her and his ear flicked. She knew better than to challenge him in public like this. She only did so if she wanted something, but the only way for him to find out what that something is was to play along.
“To be fair, I could woo anyone here, but I value the respect of my fellow officers too much to do so. You, on the other paw...” He playfully lifted his sunglasses and gave her a purposefully lengthy once over. Her ears drooped, and he could swear that there was a tinge of red to them. Her nose gave a few subtle twitches and her eyes dilated just slightly before she reigned her reaction in. He let his shades drop again and shrugged. “Well, there’s always one exception to the rule.”
“You don’t respect me, Wilde? I thought we were friends.” Her nose twitched and her eyes became watery.
Yep, she’s definitely trying to bait him into something. Probably to get back at him for sleeping through his alarms again. Unfortunately for her, he’s onto her game. Heck, he’s been playing it before she was born.
He snorted and ruffled the fur between her ears, causing her to drop the crocodile tears and bat at his offending appendage.
“Carrots, I have all the respect in the world for you. And that is why I’ve only given you a fraction of the gift that is…” He swept his paws out over himself in a grandiose manner. “Nicholas P. Wilde.”
“Oh, the bunny doubts me, does she?”
“Obviously.” Judy finally sat beside him, facing forward with a smirk on her face and her arms crossed. “Your ‘charm’ is just another hustle. I see right through it.”
“Fifteen percent, on a good day.”
Her neck could’ve snapped she turned her head so fast.
“Fifteen percent. On a good day.” Nick wobbled his paw. “That’s, on average, the most of my charm that you are exposed to.”
“Cabbage fertilizer on a rainy Sunday, it is!”
“Oh yeah?” He grinned. Her stare was unflinching. Her stubbornness could rival Bogo’s on a bad day. He slid his aviators down his muzzle as he leaned into her personal space, allowing him to stare into her purple eyes. A paw cupped her chin and kept their gazes locked. Already heated, the little bunny became outright flustered as he spoke in a tone he usually reserved for the occasional winter-time vixen.
“Carrots, have I ever told you how breathtakingly adorable your colloquialistic cursing is?”
“I...You...” Her fumbled retort was accompanied by a strangely sweet twist to her scent. It took all of his willpower to not blatantly sniff her in order to figure out what the change alluded to.
Part of him felt a little bad for teasing her like this. Judy’s love life—or lack thereof—was always a sore spot for her, which was understandable considering the expectations of the bunny’s family. However, his inner hustler that would never truly go away, considered the fact that she instigated the challenge and he was only stepping up to it. It was all in good fun, and one day—likely tomorrow—they’d look back on it and laugh.
“See? Already at a loss for words.” Nick sat back on his side of the chair and pushed his sunglasses back into place. The silence was music to his ears. “Face it, Fluff. You can’t handle all of this prime example of fox.”
“Ooooo~!” Nick’s ears went back at the chorus from his fellow mammals in blue.
He hadn’t realized that their banter was drawing an audience. Guess that would explain why Judy got so flustered so quickly.
The cat-calls and jeers from the other officers lost their zeal, but a fifteen second audience reaction was quite impressive. It was no wonder the ZPD would win the choir competition against the Zootopian Fire Department every year for solstice. Although the ZFD would clean up when it came to the annual charity race; that was because most of the fire-mammals were trained to run in and out of burning buildings.
One glance at his partner affirmed that she had regained her vocal capacities and leveled Nick with a glare so cold it would’ve frozen a good dozen pawpsicles in an instant.
“You...Dumb fox!” She finally managed to blurt out, derailing his train of thought. Her balled-up paw dug into his shoulder.
“Ow!” Nick rubbed what would undoubtedly become a bruise. He shrunk back as Judy continued to give him a heated glare. “What!? How is it my fault that our coworkers are all into watching us? Bunch of voyeurs...”
“Well it’s not our fault you’re both just so darn cute!”
“Can it, Grizzoli!” Judy snapped, glaring at the grinning white wolf. The polar bear behind him leaned forward with a smirk on his face, his chin brushed against the wolf’s shoulder for the briefest of seconds, before resting there.
“I didn’t say anything, Hopps.”
“Ohh, you know who I was talking to, Brandon!” Judy’s foot began thumping again. Nick watched it pick up speed, a bit fascinated with it since normally he only ever heard the sound of her frustration.
“Hey!” Andrew stood on his chair and wrapped his arms around Brandon’s neck. He glowered at the rabbit and stroked the ursine’s neck. “Don’t you yell at my Boo Bear just because you’re mad at your fox, Hopps! He’s sensitive.”
Nick shook his head as the polar bear attempted to make puppy eyes, much to the enjoyment of the other officers. Aside from logic using law breakers and his own antics, the only thing that could fluster his partner would be to insinuate their relationship was anything more than platonic friendship. Though he didn’t know the actual reason for it, he figured that was due to Judy’s conservative, countryside upbringing. Granted, some country mammals were becoming more and more progressive—as evidenced by Judy and her family’s business ventures—but there were certainly quirks that Zootopians had become accustomed to that the rest of Mammalia have yet to accept.
Interspecies relationships, rare though they were, was one such topic that Zootopia as a whole more or less accepted. However, those relationships usually consisted of predators with different predators or prey with different prey. Prey-Pred relations were still on the fringe within the gleaming city, and a relationship that the wolf was suggesting would be akin to pouring gasoline on a dying fire.
Or if one looked at the blushing bunny beside him, whose ears had practically become giant red beacons, set off a certain grey lapine’s temper.
“He’s not my fox, Andrew!” Judy managed to get out once her stutter got reined in.
Her nose was twitching and she kept flickering her gaze between the Grizzolis and Nick. The fox wondered what she was thinking about that had her nose bouncing as it was. Probably worried that he was going to be offended or upset or something equally ridiculous. His brows furrowed when that strange sweet scent caught his attention again. No longer determined to keep her flustered, and not under scrutiny from the bunny, he was able to ponder on it.
What the heck is that-?
“Not with that attitude, he won’t be!”
Whatever retort was going to be made to that comment, was quashed as the Chief made his entrance, slamming the door open. Higgins about faced and shot up from his seat.
The customary chant and desk pound followed the declaration as Bogo walked to his podium. Behind him was Deputy Chief Equinn. The zebra’s gaze washed over the officers as he took position to Bogo’s left, leaning against the wall with a file in his hands. He glanced at Bogo, who snorted as he dropped his pile of assignments on the podium.
“Alright, you’ve made your point! Enough! I said enough, Wolford!” Bogo glared at the grinning grey Timberwolf. The Chief relaxed and pulled his reading glasses out. “Now that we can begin our day like civilized mammals...Assignments: Jackson, Snarlov, undercover in Tundratown. Fangmeyer, Johnson, Wolford, and Grizzoli, report to Capt. Mahowley in Narco for your cases—and Wolford, if I hear anything about you overdosing again, it’ll be parking duty until the winter after next! Am I clear, Officer?! ...Good. Higgins, Jackson, and Polaran—Don’t even think about opening your muzzle, Grizzoli!”
The wolfish grin he received from the predator earned more than a few snickers. Nick kept his smirk in place as he watched Bogo give his patented stink eye to the larger canid. Grizzoli, either of the two, liked to remind the other mammals of their recent legal union. The name change was hard for some of their brothers in blue to keep straight and an outright headache for the Chief, who blatantly refused to address Brandon by his new surname, if only to keep from getting assignments confused. The buffalo assigned beats, a sting, and a stakeout relief before his eyes fell on the two smallest officers on the force.
“Hopps. Wilde.” Bogo’s lip curled and his ear flicked in agitation. A shot of pride went up a vulpine spine, and Nick’s grin became just a tad more genuine. With a huff, he dropped the file down and pulled his glasses off. “10-62 reported at 117b Spots & Stripes Apartments, downtown. Check the scene, get witness statements, and report back to Deputy Chief Equinn. He’s taken charge of the case, but we’re throwing you two at it as per Mayor Mohem’s request. I expect there to be no distractions from this. That means even if you see a suspect running with a purse in hand, report it in, but do not leave your cruiser to pursue them. Understood... Hopps?”
“Yes, sir.” Judy let out an uneasy laugh as her ears dropped, likely recalling last week’s on-foot pursuit of the Purse-Snatching Pronghorn. She had corralled the thief into an alleyway one mile away from the initial start, ten minutes after her chase had begun. Not the best record, but it wasn’t terrible either.
Nick didn’t bother to hide his snicker this time as more burst out among their fellow officers. His amusement at her suffering would distract her from her guilt. Over the months he’d spent as her friend, he learned real fast that she was far too hard on herself. She would obsess over mistakes she made, mistakes she was already forgiven for, and while it made her an exceptional officer, it made her very vulnerable to criticism. Especially self-criticism.
“Wake up, Wilde!” Nick blinked at the chief’s snarl. The buffalo was glowering at him, which wasn’t new, but he hadn’t done anything to really warrant the hostility yet. “Welcome back to Earth, Officer. How was dreamland?”
“Nowhere near as wonderful as it is to bask in your presence, Chief!” Nick saluted and grinned. “Why, without you to inspire us to rise from our beds, what sort of life would we be living?”
“Would you like a reassignment, Wilde? Parking Duty is miraculously vacant this week,” Bogo said, gaze narrowed. His nostrils flared. Nick sniffed the air as he dropped his salute and stood at attention. His smile dimmed, but didn’t fall. He wasn’t going to give the Buffalo that much credit. Judging by the tension and worry radiating from his partner, now was the time to submit.
“No sir, just commenting on how grateful I am to see your face before I start my day.”
“...Dismissed.” Bogo huffed.