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Paw in Paw

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It was Monday, late afternoon, the inside of a small apartment room on the second floor in a block of flats. It was a remarkably small room, dull gray in color and sparsely furnished. There was a small fridge and a microwave for a kitchen, the bathroom was outside the room, down the hall and to the left. There was a desk with scattered paperwork on it, a photograph of the tenant’s mother and father and a few other sentimental treasures, one of them being a novelty-plastic 'carrot' pen. There was a cheap wardrobe, containing several summery outfits and a uniform, a door on one end of the room, a window on the other and that was about it.

Except for the bed which was against the old wall and took up about a fifth of the floor space. There was a rabbit on the bed, more specifically a doe who sighed at that moment from apparent boredom. The bunny, her name was Judy, or to a certain red-furred friend of hers: Hopps, Fluff or Carrots, was staring up at the ceiling and waiting for the day to end.

Even though she had wanted to be an officer since she could hop. Even though she had finally made it. Even though she was the only rabbit ever to have done so, and even though she loved her job and found excitement in even the most mundane of tasks, she still had moments like this. Moments where her time at work was over for the day and she would find herself with nothing to do until work would start again, again and again. Crime never slept, but apparently she had to.

It was at moments like this that she realized... well, she realized she had no life outside her work: no hobbies or interests; no places to go and be other than here; no family to visit anywhere near within traveling distance. She was even missing the entertainment of her neighbors as they had gone away for the month. While she got on well with just about all the officers, she could only call one of them a friend in the real sense. Someone who she could talk, and open up to. Someone to tell how her day went and how her family was. To make jokes with, tease, embarrass, fall out with and then make up again later that day. And Nick, her only friend, was at work.

He was at work in Precinct One while she was at home... lying on her bed. Many officers would’ve been pleased to have the afternoon off, but not Judy. While at work during the morning, busy doing paperwork to follow up a foiled burglary, Bogo, the chief policemammal, had burst into the office and abruptly had told her that she looked dead on her feet and was to go home immediately and rest. She had tried to argue her point; she hadn’t felt tired in the least; it was Monday morning, and she just had had the weekend off and was itching to get some work done at last! But Bogo had overruled her argument and had sent her home regardless. What was there to do other than lay in bed and wait for Tuesday to come?

Her phone buzzed, breaking the silent monotony. After a moment's wondering if it had just been in her head, she reached over to the end table by the bed and picked up the phone. There was a text. She looked at who the text was from and smiled. It was from her friend, Nick. She opened the text and read it, smiling yet further at Nick's appalling grammar at texting. It was a short text and didn't make much sense as it merely stated, "you in".

She stared at the bright screen for a moment, then texted back, "Yes..?".

Several seconds passed and then her phone buzzed again, "open the window". Her brow furrowing, Judy sat up out of bed. Putting her phone back on the table, she stood, threw her dressing gown on and pulled open the curtains. The dull grey light fled as the golden midday smile of the sun flooded in. She picked open the window, blinking in the sudden warm light. The street was busy with the standard comings and goings of city life. The cars, the public, all looking exactly as they always did. She was about to turn from the window and text 'what am I looking at' to the fox, but was interrupted by a certain noise.

Loud whistling drew her attention down to ground level two floors below, to a clearing on the pavement where she saw a very familiar figure with two fingers in his mouth that were responsible for that specific high-pitched sound. The rabbit raised her eyebrows. The daft fox was grinning up at her on one knee. He had one paw on his heart and the other proffered a bunch of flowers towards her. He opened his mouth and then — without any shame, much to the embarrassment of Judy and to several odd looks from passersby — Nick started to serenade her, "Come sei bella, più bella stasera. I brillare un sorriso di stella, nei tuoi occhi viola."

Leaping back from the window, Judy threw herself to her wardrobe and changed out of her pajamas, Nick's voice still calling clear through the open window, "Anche se avverso il destino domani fermarci. Oggi mi fermo per voi."

Dressed, Judy headed to the door but stopped, quickly returning and fetching her phone. "Dimmi che illusione non sono solo, dimmi che sei tutta per me." Throwing open the door and sprinting down the steps, while giggling all the way, Judy came to a stop outside the door to grin at the fox who was still singing, "Dimmi di più sul nostro amore, l'amore che abbiamo tra il coniglio e la volpe, l'amore condividiamo, me e tu." Rushing forwards once again, she hurried across the street, throwing her arms around him and nearly knocking him flat, while he wrapped his show up. "Hey, easy there, Carrots, easy!"

She laughed as she drew herself away. "Since when have you sung Italian?!"

"Just one of my many talents, Carrots. I may have just learnt a few lines. Perhaps just enough for me to impress a certain bunny by appearing at her window to serenade her. Quite good I think..." with that, he burst back into song, "come sei bella, più bel—"

"Nick!" Judy quickly regained her composure, without meaning to shout out quite that loud. "Nick, thank you, that was very kind of you. It really was very thoughtful and thank you again!"

"You’re welcome, Hopps. But if you think that's as far as my thoughtfulness has gone on this momentous day of ours, you're in for something else entirely." Her ears pricked up as he mentioned a 'momentous day', but she was interrupted from asking about it by a large bundle of flowers being pushed before her face.

"Oh, my favorites! Thanks, Nick." She gave him another appreciating hug.

"Wait, that's it? A hug? I buy you flowers, I serenade you. What's a fox gotta do to get a kiss around these parts?" Lost in the moment somewhat, Judy humored the reynard with a playful peck on the cheek, while Nick's already smiling face notably brightened at this gesture, as he handled her the flowers.

"So," Judy asked as she started munching into the tasty treat her fox-friend had brought her, "you say this is a day of some significance, what's the occasion?"

Nick's face dropped, his expression became aghast. He stood upright. "Don't tell me you've forgotten! Oh, the agony, the heartbreak." Concern grew within Judy at this display. Fortunately, she had known Nick more than long enough to spot the gleam in his eyes and the twitch of a grin which danced around the edge of his initials.

Judy, instead, watched the display with a bemused smile as Nick placed one paw over his heart and the other to his forehead as though he was about to faint. "Oh, cruel, cruel bunny! How could you forget today of all days?"

"Nick, just tell me what today is…"

Nick stopped, suddenly bending over to Judy's height. His emerald eyes sparkling mischievously, "Three hundred and sixty five days ago from today, Carrots, a certain restless bunny was on meter maid duty, whilst a certain suspicious-looking fox was trying to con a jumbo-pop from an elephant."

Judy gasped, her paw going for her shocked mouth. "Has it really been a year? A whole year since I met you?!" She had meant to do something memorable with Nick for their 'meeting you' anniversary: spend the day with him, go for a meal or a film, or a walk in the country or something. But she didn't have a clue just how late in the year it had become.

"Time sure does fly, Carrots," Nick said, softly, to which a blush filled her cheeks as she looked away from his emerald gems in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry I forgot, Nick. I'm so sorry I forgot…"

"You bunnies, so emotional." She looked back and punched him playfully on the arm. "Come on, Fluff, before they give away our table."

Suddenly Nick was gone, walking briskly away. It took Judy a second to process the statement and Nick grinned as Judy ran to follow, as he knew she would, while calling up to him, "Table? What table? Nick!" He remained stubbornly silent as he led Judy through the streets and back-alleys of Zootopia until she was truly lost. At length, they approached a small café on a street corner. It was old and slightly shabby, but warm and inviting, with peeling red paint, yellow light shining from within and a sign written in gold-leaf above the door itself.

'Joe's Place'

Nick stepped forwards and opened the entrance for Judy, bowing playfully as she entered, before following behind her. It was only two stars, but that was pretty good going for a pair of coppers living in the heart of Zootopia during their first year of service, and felt like fine dining to the two mammals as they went to their seats.

The chair was pushed in for Judy by Nick as she sat down, much to her amusement. Then he walked around the round table to his own. He looked down at the accommodated surface as he seated himself and found, much to his surprise, that the chair was being pushed in for him by Judy.

Nick managed to stop his mouth from dropping open, if only just. She giggled at his expression as she returned to her own spot of comfort. 

How quick can that bunny move?

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

- We're producing high-quality YouTube videos of animated tendencies. Support us there by checking us out and leaving your precious feedback!

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Chapter Text

Within five minutes of being seated they had ordered drinks, looked over the menu and were now waiting for their food to arrive. Judy scrutinized about the interior of the restaurant. It wasn't the largest of cafés, but it was warm and cosy and instilled a sense of comfort. The furniture was old but made of sturdy, good quality wood of a deep brown color, smooth with age. Soft instrumental music was being piped in through a number of speakers concealed about the room. Their table was next to the window and they could look down the length of the street. The red tablecloth was white-checked, with a lit candle in the middle of it.

Judy finished looking about their surroundings and turned to Nick, who was warmly watching her from his place on the other side of the small round table. She smiled back in response, "What?"

"I was just remembering your face when you realized what day it was."

"Oh, that. Yea, I'm sorry again, Nick. I meant to do something but we've just been so busy with the recent spree in drug crime."

"Don't worry, Carrots, I'm just glad one of us remembered. I, for one, would’ve hated it if we missed today."

"Me too." Judy settled back a little in her chair. "So, how long’ve you been planning this?"

Clearing his throat, Nick looked off to the side, "Oh, I actually forgot about it myself until I looked at the calendar this morning."

"Uh-huh..." she tilted her head to the side, a brow raising, "and the flowers?"

"Bought them on the way over."

"The table?"

"Booked it half an hour ago."

"The serenade?"

He shrugged selflessly, "Been practicing if for a couple of weeks, just thought it might come in handy some time, knowing how emotional you bunnies are."

Another thought suddenly struck her, one that was obvious, yet she hadn't considered it until a moment ago. "Nick, why aren't you at work?"

At this, he did pause. "Bogo, ehr, told me he couldn't bear to see my face today, and so I should take it someplace else." He looked down, embarrassed at this, but his face brightened again as he found the loophole in Bogo's insult and turned it into a compliment, "Guess I'm just too damn handsome for him."

Judy looked thoughtfully at the table. The answers were all completely believable, but there was something not quite right about the way he had said them. Judy had spent the best part of a year with Nick and knew a lot about how he expressed himself. Being the kind of mammal who hid his every emotion from the world had forced Judy to learn the meaning behind the slightest twitch, the smallest change in his tone of voice. She didn't do it for any 'unfair advantage' over him but it was the only way of knowing how he was truly feeling. Therefor, something was off. Resolving to find the truth for herself, she stood briskly to which he stared at her in startle, as she rose from her chair, and he asked in confusion, "Where’re you off to?"

"The little bunny's room," she called back. Nick sat back in his chair and watched Judy's retreating fluffy white tail as it swished delightfully from side to side as she walked, then he realized just what he was gawking at and quickly looked anywhere else. He looked to his right and saw the ageing waiter, a billy goat with their food, who shortly after set down their plates, in between Nick's thanks, before walking away. Nick looked from his plate to Judy's, then back to his again. This was too good an opportunity to miss. He had been curious for a while, but Judy would never even try it... not knowingly at any rate.

When Judy returned to her table a minute later she found her food waiting and Nick a third through his. He sent her a sheepish grin as she sat, "Sorry, Carrots, I meant to wait for you but I just found myself eating and couldn't stop."

Judy smiled witheringly at him as she sat, "Just so long as you wait for me."

"Hopps, I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind."

Her paw stopped as she reached for the fork. Wow, he put a lot of sincerity into that comment, he really meant it… I wonder... A grin set upon her face as her mind went back to her recent 'discovery'. She pondered when to bring it up. "What’re you hiding, Hopps?"

She looked up, startled, "What?"

"I know that grin," his eyes narrowed playfully, "you're planning something, aren't ya?"

No, now was not the time. Thinking quickly Judy found another believable answer. "I was just wondering what you were singing when you serenaded me."

It was subtle, but Nick did choke a little on his mouthful. "You know what? I can't really remember." Judy squinted her eyes, to which he quickly resumed into eating, apparently really enjoying every mouthful and giving each bite his full attention. Judy looked at her food. It would be cold by the time she finished if she pursued that line of inquiry now, so she reached out a paw to pick up her gravy boat of spiced carrot that had an identical gravy boat but of chicken, and brought it over to her food.

"Can't wait to try this spiced carrot gravy you recommended." She was about to pour it on her food when Nick's paw shot out.

"Ehrr, Carrots, it’s possible you won't like it." As much as he wanted to find out, he didn't want to risk ruining Judy's meal for the miniscule tradeoff of the expansion of his curiosity. Nodding, she picked up a piece of broccoli and dipped it in, raising it to her mouth, while Nick watched with interest as she put it in. Her eyes shot wide, chewing as a grin broke upon her face.

"Mmm! This carrot gravy is really nice, I've never tasted anything like it!"

"Really... glad to hear it," Nick grinned through a straight-face as she poured copious amounts over her food. So, Judy Hopps likes meat.

"Sweet Cheese and Crackers, I didn't know you could make carrots taste like this!" He chuckled inwardly. Oh, the meal I'm gonna prepare for you, how could she hope to resist me after opening up 'that' revenue of taste sensations?

...

Half an hour later, Nick and Judy had finished their main meal. Judy had asked for some extra crusty bread to dab up the last of the carrot gravy, and their dessert: a large ice cream sundae which they had shared until Nick got a brain freeze. Now, they were still sitting in the warm café, comfortable and cosy after their tasty and delightful meal. Neither wanted to leave just yet, so they sat and talked, exchanging pleasant conversation with one another.

A full hour passed, but both were having such a wonderful time just by being in each other’s presence, while time just flew unchecked by anything but the satisfaction of the two close prey and predator, time heavenly, time that felt as if it were just not enough.

Judy lay her head on the table, resting her chin on her paw and looking up at Nick, giggling occasionally. She felt warm right after she had eaten the lovely meal, in a lovely place, with a very lovely mammal. The whole evening, in fact, had been bliss for Judy. She was so comfortable and relaxed by this late stage she didn't even question her feelings as they radiated freely towards Nick in a manner deemed instinctive and natural. Therefore she felt safety, her tongue had loosened as the feelings had now overpowered, "You know, I really like you. You're a really great guy."

"You're not so bad yourself. In fact, I'd say you're a real articulate bunny." She beamed up at him as he quoted her from their very first conversation from the very first time they had met. She couldn't remember him ever doing it before but it seemed somehow fitting for him to do so on this special occasion.

"I love it when you smile like that." He lowered his own head onto the table in level with hers. "Makes you look so—"

"Don't call me cute," she interjected automatically because of the times he had said exactly that and she wanted to keep this… cosy and intimate atmosphere burning and not smouldered.

"Beautiful," he clarified with warmness which got her to smile and to lean back in her chair, and as she stretched her paws out, she clasped them on the table in front of her and nodded off slightly from sleepiness created by the tasty meal, cosy atmosphere and intimacy warm.

"Thanks, Nick. You're not bad looking either." Nick grinned wider. This dinner of his had worked. She was completely at ease with him, it was going better, even so than the best he prospected it to be, to the point where he felt as though, if he took it steady, he could tell her how he felt about her before the evening was out. He knew his next move was risky, but he decided it was worth it.

Judy's paw was resting in front of her on the table. Nick reached over, Judy watched his paw as it crossed the table and took hers. Her first reaction was to pull back, but she stopped herself and allowed Nick to hold her. "You have such warms paws." Judy's eyes returned to Nick at his comment. "So soft and gentle." She watched him, smiling lightly as he leaned forwards, planting a soft kiss atop where he held her.

"Nick," Judy whispered a little reproachfully, but smiling. And then, Nick started moving his muzzle towards hers. Giggling, she pushed his approaching head away with her free paw,"Oh, Nick," she teased, "I never knew you were such a romantic."

After her gentle push, Nick's muzzle immediately returned from hence it came, though slightly closer. "I'm not normally, but there's somebunny who I just can't help myself with." His grin turned to a warm smile. He squeezed her paw tighter, and the gesture sent a buzz to Judy's head and a prickle down her spine. Judy's voice failed her at his words and the closeness gave her a hot flush. She wondered why he was so close, and realized with sudden dawning that if she would only lean forwards slightly her lips would connect with his... and it would be sweetful bliss.

Her smile faded as she took in the whole evening's activities. The serenade, the flowers, that sparkle in his eyes she could not quite place. Her ears slowly fell as she connected the dots which lead to how intimately close Nick now was to her. A much hotter flush took her as she realized that she, herself, was moving closer, her lips towards Nick's, his handsome red face, his enchanting and alluring jades...

Suddenly, a bright flash. A deafening rumble. The two close friends all but leapt from their chairs as their heightened emotions made them react with much more vigour than normal, while the instinct of the dangers of their profession aided with lightning reflexes that got their panicked eyes to wonder and take in every single detail, every single spot and crevice that could mean danger.

Then... all the lights in the café went dark, the music stopped and the ovens began regressing to coldness.

At another crash the partners looked out of the window, just as a bolt of lightning struck the radio tower of a tall apartment building. Neither of them had ever spotted the approaching black clouds, they were all too focused on their own thoughts and their own intimate moment. The shock of the suddenness with which the storm had hit, had knocked all intimacy from the prior moments and out of Judy's mind, and Nick saw this with just a glance at her lavenders. Rising, Nick grunted heavily as droplets started speckling the window. "Come on, Carrots, we'd best get you home before it starts pouring."

Four minutes later, after Judy had reluctantly let Nick pay for the meal, but only because she had left her money in her apartment and she was going to pay Nick her half later, despite how many times he had refused. Nick and Judy were staring out into the storm from under the protection of the café's porch, bracing themselves for the trip to come, a trip that appeared trickier and trickier with every split in the sky which then brought echoes of doom in the form of nature’s retribution and cleansing of the land.

A magnificent, yet terrifying sight, everso.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Nick looked out at the now torrential downpour. A perfect storm, but one which will be all in my favor. He looked to Judy, raising his voice against the clamour of the storm, "You sure about this? We could just wait it out in the caff."

"I checked my phone, Nick. That storm’s not stopping 'till the middle of the night."

"Okay, Hopps, lead the way." Judy was about to step out from the protection of the porch when another crash of lightning lit the sky and the volume of rain increased a notch.

"Cheese and Crackers! Lets get this over with." With that she stepped out, sprinting down the pavement with Nick following behind. Twenty paces later Judy stopped, she looked about her, then shouted back to the slacking drenched fox, "Nick! I don't know the way!"

"Oh, yea!" Nick drew, fully shouting now, over the cacophony of the downpour, "okay, Fluff, this way." He started running down a nearby alley. Judy followed, being careful to stay close to the fox as he darted from narrow alleys and unlit backstreets, through the maze which was the world of Zootopia, especially when she’d let Nick lead the way.

When Judy lead the way, it was a simple walk from their destination using the main roads and pavements to get to where they wanted to go, but with Nick it was much more, well — fun he called it, though Judy had her doubts — you found yourself darting from street to street, each darker and more shadier then the next. According to Nick it saved time and kept you out of the way of prying eyes, but in all honesty Judy thought it was just for appearance’s sake. It was not uncommon to have to climb an odd fence or traverse an odd garden either, as Judy now found herself to be doing.

She jumped the fence Nick had climbed, while the back door to the residing house swung open with angry but muffled shouts of the apparent owner. "Nick!" she called to reprimand him — an officer of the law — for trespassing, but her voice was lost to another loud thunderous and raging echo sharp.

She followed Nick through the last of a dozen narrow unlit alleys and suddenly recognised where she was. Picking up speed she drew level with Nick as they were only two streets away from her house and as he noticed her next to him, his pace gave way to more. Judy, well aware of the competitive edge each of them constantly shared for outdoing one another, sped up again. The speed of before was but a leisurely trot compared with the momentum with which Nick and Judy were now trailing at. They ripped down the pavement, the large puddles erupting as they passed through them, they were but a grey and red blur in the night. Unfortunately for Nick, one of the large puddles he stepped into concealed a manhole cover...

With a yelp he lost his footing on the slippery wet metal which he had failed to see and landed face-first into the pavement with a heart wrenching thwack. Judy stopped as soon as she heard him yell and was kneeling by his side a moment later, mortified as she saw the tinge of red which the puddle had taken. "Oh god, Nick! Are you okay? Can you hear me?"

Nick heard instantly how worried Judy was and forced himself to recover quickly, even managing a soft chuckle to help calm her, "I'm fine, Judy, jus' a nose bleed, tha's all."

Judy reached up a paw at the now kneeling fox, and Nick moved his head away at her touch, but at seeing the slight hurt in her eyes he quickly added, "You'll get your paw all bloody." Nodding after a moment, Judy instead held her paw out to Nick with defiant confidence to which he noticeably saw no other way and took it, thus getting pulled on his feet again a moment later.

They walked the rest of the way to the door, Judy still holding Nick's paw. The storm abated, if only slightly, and through the thick black clouds a tinge of pail moonlight shone through. Though it was a dull light, faded through the clouds it had to pass through, it did offer some little vision upon the earth alongside the dull yellow of the silently humming streetlights. The masonry steps leading to Judy's apartment were shining marginally blueish as Judy's foot stepped upon them. She released her partner’s paw to get her key and he returned it to its standard place within his trousers’ confining pocket. "Okay, Fluff, here is where I shall leave you. Thank you for being with me tonight."

Judy stopped, key in the lock, and looked over to Nick with drownful concern in her face. "But... you live on the other side of Zootopia!"

He shrugged, giving her a lazy smile. "Used to it, Carrots. This ain't the first time I've walked across the city in a downpour."

She leaned towards him, unlocking the door with an echoing click. "Last time, you didn't have me to watch over you. You're sleeping over tonight, whether you like it or not."

He looked nonplussed up towards the window to her apartment. "Fluff, I've seen the inside of you apartment, no way is there room for both of us. Besides," he looked back at her grinning, "I'm a big strong city fox, I can take care of myself." Judy was weary with this back and forth, she was soaked, she was tired and she wanted only to be dry, to be warm and to not have to 'be-awake-all-night-worrying-if-Nick-got-back-okay'.

She kicked open the unlocked door. "Nicholas Wilde! Inside Now!"

...

Five minutes later... Nick was dripping in the corner of the room with his head tilted up, holding a piece of tissue paper to his nose. Judy had dried herself off and changed. Nick, diligently and without requiring instruction, had stood against the wall, turned his back and shut his eyes through the whole thing.

"No, Nick, you tilt your head forward."

He looked at her, surprised. "Forward?" his speech slightly more nasal than normal, "I allays thought you tilted back."

She shook her head, her ears hanging behind her at her injured friend. "No, tilt it back and you might choke on the blood." He did as Judy said, trusting her words implicitly. Several seconds passed.

"I think it’s stopped now." He walked further into the room and put the bloodied tissue in the bin, his muzzle now clean.

At seeing her partner returned to full health, her ears pricked up and her voice recovered its musical qualities, "Okay. Come on, get your clothes off."

Nick froze in place for a second, then coyly slid into a lazy smirk. "A little more forward than I was expecting but, pfft! Who am I to complain?"

Judy, fully expecting this reaction from the childish fox, tilted her head and raised her eyebrows — the voice of reason, "No, Nick, I didn't mean it like that and you know it. If you don't take those wet things off and dry yourself you're going to get pneumonia."

"And what do you want me to wear? I assume you don't have anything fox sized in that wardrobe of yours."

"No, but..." Quickly she reached under the bed and pulled out two spare duvets. One she lay out flat on the floor like a mattress and one she piled as a heap above. Then she placed one of her two pillows on the floor and then fetched a towel from a drawer in the wardrobe. "Undress, dry yourself with this," she handled him the towel, "and then get yourself snug under that blanket."

"You won't mind my being, err..."

"So long as I don't see anything, yes, I'm fine with it."

He looked down at the towel, down at the duvet, then up at Judy. "I do, kinda, toss and turn a bit in my sleep," he warned.

Judy rolled her eyes. "Nick, for the last time, take off those dripping clothes or I will. I know you're trying to put on a brave face to impress me and all, but I can see you shivering from here." After a moment his grin again came. Then, with a wink, he reached up and slowly started to tug at his tie and then — the second before Judy would have had turned around — the fox's grin parted, his mouth opened and then Nick Wilde started singing out that instantaneously recognizable theme...

David Rose's... 'The Stripper'

Judy was frozen at this unusual and rather amusing turn of events as the fox slowly stared pulling the tie away from his neck. He slipped it off and swung it around as Judy started to giggle, the volume of his singing increased a notch. After swinging it several times, Nick let go of the tie and threw it to an imaginary audience. Judy's giggles turning to laughter as she caught the tie mid flight. Still bellowing the music, egged on by her obvious amusement, Nick started to undo his top buttons, his hips swaying, his tail flicking, undoing each button with a flourish in time with the music. Judy watched all with captivation at the almost ridiculously hilarious act... And then, then came the first time where things were now strange for the unsuspecting doe.

The grin which had been plastered across her face from the start of the act slowly dropped as the last of Nick's shirt buttons were undone. The sound of Nick's humming seemed to fade. She felt as though she was watching from afar. Something new — an emotion she had never really felt before — stirred from deep within her... and it was growing stronger, stronger with every second as the fox slipped his shirt off, dropping it to the floor, no longer singing and just gazing straight at her, his face lacking his usual slyness.

She had meant to turn around and miss the whole thing, but it started so innocently and playfully with the tie — she didn't want to miss that — and after that there was no real harm in just seeing a couple of buttons before turning around... and now... At last his lazy smirk came as his paw slid down to his belt buckle, while Judy‘s mouth hung slightly open. "This is about to get a little heated... right abouttt… now."

"Oh... y-yea sorry." She turned away hurriedly, wondering what made her linger so long in the first place. That feeling, luckily, had gone as quickly as it had come, the rabbit stared fixedly upon the far wall.

"Watch if you want. I won't mind."

"Nick!"

"Only kidding, Carrots, only kidding." She failed to see the humor. Judy had been curious as to what her partner looked like naked for a long time, she told herself she was only curious... and she was sticking to it, but she realized now that this was the perfect opportunity. All she would need to do would be to wait until she’d hear his trousers drop and then, simply, turn around and see what her mind had been fantasizing about from curiosity... She bit down hard on her lower lip to suppress that line of thought before she was to start blushing.

But a blush formed anyway when she heard his buckle undo, his trousers to drop and then his boxers a moment later — cursing her bunny hearing as her mind unwillingly visualized every sound. She heard him rub himself down with the towel for a while and then, after a rustling sound which lasted only a few seconds, Nick's voice filled the awkward silence loud, "Okay, you can look."

She took a small glance over her shoulder — not fully trusting the fox not to be staying stark naked right behind her — no such luck.

What! No such... no such luck..?

Control yourself, JUDITH!

Sweet cheese and crackers, what am I thinking?

She managed to hide her internal scolding for thinking such thoughts as she looked down at Nick, fully covered beneath the duvet and grinning up at her. "Surprisingly comfy." Smiling as she stepped over to him, Judy crossed the room, lay Nick's wet things out to dry, flicked off the light switch and then made her way back to her bed. Dark though it was, the outside streetlight shone enough yellowish light through her thin curtains to give the room enough light to see by. She stepped over at Nick again and into her bed. "No goodnight kiss?" he teased like he’d usually do so.

She smiled, bemused, "Don't push it Nick."

"Okay. Seriously though, thanks for this." She sat up to see him, meeting his warm smile with her own in the shadows of the night, while their sheared looks of warmth conveyed all that needed to be said.

"Sleep well, Nick."

"You too, Fluff."

The two good friends lay back down in their beds. Judy covered her face beneath the blankets, trying to relax into something like sleep while all she really wanted to do was giggle; suddenly very giddy and childish at having Nick sleeping over... with her, in her small home, for the first time.

...

Judy sat up abruptly a moment later, "Nick?"

Nick sat up too, propping himself up on his elbows and straining his neck to look properly at her. "Yes, my little Bunbun?"

"If both of us being sent home was just a fluke, how come you'd booked a table at the restaurant?" There was no pause in his delay. Not that this meant he was telling the truth, it just meant he had already considered this as a possibly asked question.

"I thought I already told you, Hopps," he replayed coolly, "I just called in about half an hour before-"

"No, you didn't," she snicked, "when I went to the restroom I actually sucked a peek at the reservations list. You booked that table three weeks ago, Nick!"

This time there was a pause. Then a long intake of breath, "Okay, you've rumbled me. I shall come out with all." He smiled at the self-satisfied humph Judy made, but his features again became solemn at what he now had to say.

"I have been planning this evening for two months now, I thought about taking you to the movies, I considered taking you out of Zootopia for the day, I looked at about a dozen different restaurants within walking distance of your humble home before finally settling on Joe's Place. I found a florist who sold the flowers you like and eventually decided that a serenade was, by far, the best way to start off the evening."

Judy chucked, "But for all your research, you never checked the weather report?" The fox grinned back apologetically... he had to play along after all. He told Judy he would come out with all... but that didn't mean she had to know he knew full well of the coming storm and had planned and timed their evening accordingly. He was pleased to say his plan had gone down without a hitch as Judy — as he knew — couldn't bare to see poor Nick walk all that way in such weather and was now — as he had foreseen — cosy and warm, in a small apartment... with Judy.

It crossed his mind that he may have shot himself in the foot with all that planning, it could have been quite a different evening if it was not for that storm, he knew he hadn't imagined Judy's lips parting the moment before the bolt hit. All the same, this was the first of a number of small logical steps Nick had worked out long before tonight. It all started with a first sleepover, then other such steps would follow more easily, his place, her place, a weekend away together, a week off in a cottage in the country and then, maybe, they would be living together!

All logical steps simple on their own, but together: something very powerful, and it all started... right here.

"... and Bogo," Nick was drawn back from his thoughts, "was he in on it?" Nick nodded in reply, "Well, nice work, Slick. How'd you get him to agree to the time off?"

"Oh I just explained how much of an important day this was to you and he accepted."

"... and Bogo gave us the day off, just for that... just because I met you a year ago?"

"Yes, in fact after I explained how important it was, Bogo seemed to think it should be made into an annual national holiday." Judy still wasn't convinced, ignoring the second comment which was obviously a playful lie and a rather pathetic attempt by Nick to throw her off subject.

"So, Bogo, 'Bogo' said..." she huffed, "look, you sure we're talking about the same mammal? Cape buffalo, tough, 'bout two thousand pounds of attitude... secretly likes Gazelle."

Nick chucked, grinning even in defeat, "I really can't pull anything on you, can I, Carrots?"

Judy returned with amusement of her own, "Not anymore."

"... I have agreed to several hours of unpaid overtime to make up for today."

"Nick, you shouldn't have! I'll help you, of course, the'll—"

"Sorry, Hopps, but Bogo Boy was very explicit that I was not to drag you into doing unpaid overtime with me or I'd be doing it in solitary confinement... in a cell... for a week. His orders, not mine."

There was another, longer pause.

"Nick," she began again as she lent down, resting her head on the edge of the bed, meeting his steady gaze, her voice soft and soothing, "why didn't you just tell me? I get the 'not telling me so it's a surprise' part, but why did you pretend it was all last minute?" He answered, but his speech quickly fell to incomprehensible mumbling as his gaze dropped.

"What’s that?" her voice raised to a teasing level. If sincerity won't get it out of him, maybe joviality will. "Come on, Slick, even my bunny ears won't pick that up!"

"Huh," he snorted a single, faint laugh after which he fell silent. Several seconds passed of Nick simply looking into her lavenders, as though finding strength in them. He sucked in a breath of air and then continued, "I didn't want you to know how much I cared."

"... and how much do you care?"

"Go to sleep, Carrots." Judy was silent for several seconds. Nick often subtly changed the subject whenever Judy trod too close to something delicate, thanks to his silver tongue half the time she didn't even realize it had happened until thinking it over after, but he didn't normally make it this obvious... only he wanted to make it obvious when he was done talking on the subject. Judy doubted she would get any more out of him that night. Driven though she was, if he wanted to be, Nick could be impossibly stiff-necked and would just get in a mood and leave despite the storm long before telling her what she wanted to hear. It was coming though, any day now, she could feel it.

She made good of the situation as it was and smiled sweetly then spoke, "Thanks, Nick."

"Not a problem, Judy."

"For everything I mean. This was a wonderful evening, just as memorable as the first day we met and for all the right reasons. You’ve been golden company and I won't ever forget it." Nick smiled back honestly, his eyes glistening in the dim of light. Then, Judy turned her head briskly away from him to sleep, secretly though, it was to hide the tears of joy which where, for some reason, welling up in her precious windows of vision.

"Night, Jules," Nick's voice came soft and warm, soothing its way through her ears like a soft hug. It calmed and warmed her, which resulting into lulling the blanket of sleep around her mind.

Jules? Haven't heard that one before. Not that she minded the new nickname, truth be told, she loved it. "Night, Nick." Judy replayed a little hoarsely, wiping away a tear, her head hidden beneath the blanket. She hoped he didn't mistake her hoarseness as coldness yet time alluded her mind’s thoughts as she drifted quickly to sleep.

...

Nick maintained his loving smile on her for several seconds further. He wanted to sit up, lean forwards, lean over the cute and sweet smelling bunny, plant a kiss on her cheek and then whisper the truth into her ear.

He just wasn't brave enough to do it…

He let out a soft huff and settled down for rest. The day for the admission was coming, he could feel it. For now he were to just let what he had achieved wash over him in the soft knowledge of a good job well done and then, with a smile still in place: He let himself be cradled into the clouds of imagination and comfort come.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

Nick awoke and was instantly alert, he kept his eyes shut, he was being watched. He called it 'street smarts', Judy called it 'instinct'. But whatever it was he knew he was being watched. There was a lot more to surviving on the streets of Zootopia than being able to talk your way out of situations, after all. Opening his eyes the tiniest of crack — not enough for the movement to be seen by the onlooker, but enough to get a bleary outline of the situation — Nick took in his surroundings.

He could see no color or defined shape because of how close his eyes were to being tightly shut. But he managed, after a few seconds, to realize he was not in fact sleeping on the streets as he first had thought. He was on a semi-comfortable floor, comfortable if compared with those on the streets, a floor he recognized as the one of Judy’s small apartment. Then, all the memories of last night came back, and the feeling of being watched? He opened his eyes the tiniest crack more, blurs became shapes and a little color appeared. One smear in particular became the shape of a small, large eared creature with amethyst gems.

Judy was sitting up in bed, watching him. He was a little uncomfortable as he wondered how long she had been staring, but decided to be flattered by the dreamy expression on her face as she leant her chin on her paw, elbow on the bed with her eyes half-lidded. He laid still for several moments; enjoying his secret admirer and admiring her in return.

Oh the surprise I could give her if I just opened my eyes. If I sprang up and leapt at her. Perhaps I should roll a little, just enough to show off maybe a little more 'Nick' then she was planning on seeing. Nothing too much, just enough to get her flustered.

He tried to contain the ensuing chuckle at the thought but all he could do was suppress it to a spluttered cough. Judy, quick as a flash, had turned away and lain back down.

And like that the moment is gone. Well, best get on with the duty of the day.

Nick opened his eyes fully. He looked about at the morning sun as it was coming in through the thin curtains over Judy's window, he looked about at where he had slept for the night and then he looked upon Judy, wondering exactly what had been going through her head while she was taking in all his body’s sight. He looked at her clock, an idea came. Maybe the moment wasn’t over quite yetHe quickly flicked off the alarm, mere seconds before it were to ring, and shifted onto his knees. He lent over the bed and slowly loomed over her smaller frame.

He smiled as he saw her try to hide further under the blankets without showing she was awake or any suspecting elements that she had been doing what she had been doing moments prior. With the alarm turned off, there was no reason for Judy to be awake, so she could not stop him in what he was planning without revealing she had been aware. Nick knew there was nothing he could do if she revealed she was awake, she could just deny everything, but he knew Judy would be too embarrassed to realize this and carry on pretending to be asleep regardless.

Making the most of this advantage over her he slowly reached out a paw. Placing it gently upon her face he slowly stroked it down her cheek with the back of his fingers — though he thought he could get away with touching her ears but he also knew what ears were to a rabbit and what a tail was to a fox thus didn't want to go too far — happy to just enjoy the soft warmth of her face instead. He chuckled tenderly as she started blushing slightly at his touch. Knowing that there was nothing she could do without giving herself away, he lent forward and planted the softest of kisses on the side of her head. He lingered for a moment, taking in the hitching of her breath, the warmth of her face and the sweetness of her scent; then he pulled away. A smile formed on Judy's face. Judy found she was unable to suppress it.

Then, deciding he had taken enough pleasure from Judy's disadvantage, he reached out again and gently shook her. "Carrots, hey, Carrots. Wake up." Nick laughed inwardly as he watched Judy's impressive display of acting as though she had only just woken up, and she was evidently trying to ignore the emotional confusion she must have been feeling after his affections. She was such a good actor, she mumbled incoherently, her eyes were bleary, she turned her head slowly and focused on Nick with an expression of sleepy surprise.

"Hey there, Carrots. Ready to make the world a better place?"

She grinned, "Always." And then… then she glanced… down... "NICHOLAS PIBERIOUS WILDE!"

Another minute later, Nick was dressed and cowering in the corner of the room with his arms around his legs and his knees against his chest, under the interrogation of Judy who had armed herself with her cushion. "It was the one thing I said, the one thing! 'So long as I don't see anything' but what did you do?!" the last four words came in time with four hefty whomphs from her rather ineffective choice of weapon.

Nick would have found the assault amusing if he was not too busy fearing for his long-term well-being by this point, yet he tried to put on a soothing voice, "Judy, how many times, it was an acc—" another whompf came to be.

"But you admit it was you who caused the cover to slip!"

"Only in as much as my motion let gravity move it."

"But you were kneeling in exactly that spot!"

"Judy, I'm sorry you got an eyeful bu—" his voice was muffled by another hit by the aggressive cushion.

So it went on for several minutes, eventually Judy forgave him, but only when he started blushing so hard it was visible even through his red fur. Nick was cursing himself, it had been such a tender moment. When he had seen Judy's face looking up at his, he could see the affection behind it, he had considered trying for another kiss, this one on the lips, before his own damn ineptitude at keeping his private parts covered came to be in the form on untold humiliation.

Judy too was cussing at what had happened. She knew, now, it was unintentional as Nick hardly ever shew emotion — so for him to be embarrassed enough for her to see his blush through his russet fur was quite something — but she had seen it. She had seen 'it'! And it was something she was never going to forget in a million years even if she wanted to and tried.

Ha, okay! Where the fluff did that last bit come from? Judy thought, freaked out to the point of finding it amusing. She threw away that thought before the blush would start... again. She put it down to karma or something, she had been staring at him for a while after all, watching him as she tried to remember all the parts of the dream she had just had and all of the 'experiences' she and Nick had shared in that special dream. The dreams were becoming more frequent with every month but she knew there was nothing she could do about them, even though they were getting out of paw.

She told herself that if there was anything she could do to stop them, she would... but since I can't, what the hell, might as well enjoy them. Judy dressed in her uniform and Nick again stood against the wall, eyes shut. Nick dressed in the clothes he had worn yesterday, they had dried out sufficiently overnight and he could pick up another uniform once they arrived at the department, tho he could get a chewing for it from Bogo but he didn't have time to go all the way back to his apartment to pick his spares up.

There was no conversation between the two, only slightly uncomfortable silence, as he and she had changed. This time she had copied Nick’s lead and turned to the wall as he climbed out his wears. He had grinned and opened his mouth to comment but thought better of it. The ensuing silence had allowed Judy to calm down a little and she opened the door with Nick by her side which got her to needingly look at him. By my side... this is where he belongs.

"Nick, I haven't forgiven you for what you did. But—" she carried on loudly as his mouth opened, "it was really nice having you over all the same," her words faulted as her embarrassment grew, "maybe, we could... I mean I know it’s hardly practical... one of us has to sleep on the floor, but..." her eyes couldn’t hold their ground as bashfulness overcame her. "Actually just forget I—"

"I should like that very much, Judy."

A smile grew as the fox placed a tender paw on her shoulder. Then a blush formed and she poked him hard in the chest. "Next time, Mr. Wilde, you bring a change of clothes with you."

"You mean, you didn't like what you saw?" he teased, and she poked him again but it was more of a heavy punch to the gut this time and Nick wheezed and bent double a little, a tear coming to his eye as Judy set off at a considerable speed down the corridor. He cleared his throat after she was gone, taking some deep breaths until he felt better. Yep, there are definitely disadvantages to being this close to Judy, but she's worth it. Then, locking the door with the key, he headed down the corridor after her. Some seconds later, Nick found Judy waiting for him just outside the front door, he pulled out his sunglasses once he knew Judy was watching before opening them with a stylish flick of the wrist after which came the smug motion of putting them on.

"Come on, Slick. We're going to be late if we don't hurry." Unfortunately — despite one little hick up with a slipping sheet — Nick was in a good mood... and Nick in a good mood was not something that could be rushed. She rolled her eyes as he sauntered past her, humming some old jazz piece and clicking his fingers in rhythm with the imaginary music. From the other direction, a tall camel was slowly going about their day when Nick’s smile managed to attach itself to the mammal’s still-unattracted attention.

"Hey, sir, how y' doin'? Beautiful day ain't it?" The camel stopped and turned dumbfounded to watch the strange over-friendly fox as he swaggered past, clicking his fingers to a beat only he could hear. They shook their head and walked away while checking their pockets as to surely make sure that their wallet was still where it was supposed to be, to which Judy’s head fell into her paw during the pleads of her surrenderful voice.

"Nick will you stop wasting time, we have like five minutes before roll call!"

He turned to face her, walking backwards with his shoulders in a shrug. "Don't mean to be rude, Whiskers, but I‘m actually closer to the ZPD than you."

She glowered at the space between them. Yea, by like three paces! Her anger bubbling down within her, she marched on at her full pace, grabbing the tie of the dawdling fox and continuing striding past with tugs in tow. "Come one, Vulpes vulpes."

"I'm a coming, Oryctolagus cuniculus."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Several minutes later and the established, familiar structure of the Zootopia Police Department, headquarters came into view. On two separate occasions on the short stomp-over, Nick had tried to dart into a food repository vending establishment where he could acquire some nutrients to masticate upon but had been foiled in his attempts on both accounts by an impatient Judy who had never once in the last year been late. Worst of all, she had sworn this day would be no different. After squashing any last resistance, Judy led Nick through the glass doors of the ZPD, her head turning sharply to see the big clock on the wall just as the minute hand ticked into the danger zone.

One minute, we still have one minute…

"Nick, hurry!" Nick would meet Judy just outside her apartment each and every working day, unless it was raining in which case he would just wait quietly outside her room's door, and in earnest, most and nearly all of her nonworking days as well; as a result of this, Nick's record of punctuality was just as untarnished as Judy's. But as they swung open the glass doors to the ZPD, Judy audibly groaned while Nick's ears lowered slightly and his tail slouched just a little bit, both sounds caught only by Judy, as they jogged from the entrance and across the large hall-like room and towards the front desk.

"Hey, Hopps, Wilde!" Clawhauser — a quite hideously obese cheetah — called out to them from behind the desk as they darted past.

"Hi, Clawhauser," Judy called back, "can't stop! Nick, quick, go on ahead and get changed!" Nodding, Nick's pace increased and he sprinted off towards the changing room and Judy got to stand beside the door leading into the Bull Pen.

"You guys better hurry up," Clawhauser shouted back, "roll call starts in one minute."

"I know, Ben, but thanks!" Clawhauser tried to call back... but found himself too out of breath to do so and, instead, decided his efforts would be better spent on his sixth bowl of Lucky Chops Cereal.

...

Judy was still standing tall outside the door of the Bull Pen — the gathering place of all the officers of the ZPD — while waiting for Nick. She was pacing quickly back and forth before the large door but, as the minute hand ticked off the last minute, she stopped all motions as her head fell into her desperate paw.

Thanks to her, both herself and Nick were late.

True they weren't very late and she wasn't wholly to blame after, what she had started to refer to in her own mind as the 'Bedsheet Incident' to avoid unnecessary blushing, had happened. All the same it was she who had kept arguing and letting her personal life get in the way of her job when they should have been getting ready to go. She groaned airily into her paw as she heard howling and the thumping of tables from within the Bull Pen which always accompanied Bogo's entrance to the room, but she looked up again as, a second later, the chainging room door slammed open and Nick shot out towards her while doing up the last of his shirt’s buttons.

She pulled the door open for him as he approached. "Come on, Carrots! Why didn't you just go in?!" With no time to answer him she rushed in behind, closing the door herself after the fox, who didn't have time to finish doing his tie as they rushed across the room of silent mammals and towards their conjoined chair. However, they did come to a stop — a dead stop — when the shadow of a Cape Buffalo came towering over them.

"Morning," Bogo, the chief policemammal, greeted with an uncharacteristically singsong and lighthearted tone to which they looked up towards him... something every officer flinched at.

If Bogo was shouting, you were usually safe... it's when he was quiet when you needed to watch your tread.

"Hopps, Wilde," he continued, smiling pleasantly, "good to see you at last, I was getting worried."

"Heh-erm," Judy chucked nervously, "yea... hi, sorry we're late, we ju—"

"Just saw fit to join us at last?" he interrupted regardless, his tone as bright and cheerful as before, "I am very sorry if I have inconvenienced you by starting 'on time'," his tone started to rise in volume, "perhaps we could just move the whole damn bloody timetable," and then his voice just began losing it, "to suit your personal requirements rather than that of the official Zootopia POLICE force!"

"Come on, Bogo!" Judy retaliated, "we've never been late before and we're only like thirty seconds late at that! We haven't even had breakfast or showed or—"

"Shut your tiny mouth, now!" Turning back to the board, both Judy and Nick let out the lungfuls of air they were holding onto, Nick a little more subtle but relieved none the less, relaxing as the imminent danger had passed... for now at least. "I should put you both on Parking Duty." Judy took back the lungful of anxiety, her pickling around the back of her neck returning in the fearful. "But," Bogo continued as he paced to his normal spot, "we need to focus on this blasted spike in drug crime."

He turned away, the belated officers took the opportunity to climb up to their shared seat before Bogo curved around and stood in his normal spot to address the fully comprehensive and now completely attentive officers. "Now," he began in a deadpan, "as I'm sure, all of you are aware, there has been a dramatic spike in the purchase and sales of illegal drugs right here in Zootopia. What some of you may not know is the full extent of this, so called, spike. In the past week alone the number of reported dealings has risen by no less than twenty five percent, a further eighteen percent increase on the week before, with the suspected rise of the growth of said substances rising in..."

"Hopps," Nick whispered to Judy as Bogo continued with some of the finer details, his speech soft but with a slight accusing edge in his words. "Hopps, why didn't you go straight in?"

"And leave you behind?" Judy whispered back, indigent, "no way!"

"Judy, there was no reason for you to take the blame of this with me, I can't and won't be the—"

"Nick, you’re my partner." He looked down to his paw in surprise as the sensation of something touching it... surprise which soon turned to a warm smile as he saw — sure enough — a small, soft paw enclosing itself in his. Nick looked back up to Bogo, pretending of paying attention to him while only really doing so with Judy.

"Everything we do, we do together, Nick: the good and the bad. To be the best we can be, we need to take and give everything we have to each other. If that means being late for you? It doesn't matter in the least. So long as we do it together."

He groaned a low, quiet and happy sigh as he turned his own paw around to hold Judy's in return before playfully stating, "sometimes, Carrots, I really love you."

He looked round quizzically at the disappointment in her next words as she stared up sadly at him, "... Only sometimes?" And then she smiled, and it was that smile she always had reserved for teasing him.

"Well... maybe not... kinda more like, alw—"

"Enough talking in class!" Bogo bellowed. "You think this is a damn school, Wilde? Do you want detention or something? Make you sit in a corner with a cone on your head with 'dunce' written on it? Throw chalk at you and then tan your backside with a ruler?"

"Bogo, I know perfectly well you would pay money to have me bent over in front of you with your, so called, ruler ready to tan that part of me... but it's really not my kinda thing." Obviously this comment from the smart fox was kept on the inside of his deep mind and what he actually said was... "No, Sir."

"Glad, to, hear, it. Now—" At that moment, the police siren kicked into life and the Chief was cut off from his report by the loud and irritating ringing to which he instantly grabbed his radio. "Clawhauser, what's the situation?"

"Fire, Sir!" Clawhauser's voice crackled in return, "the old factory 'Ladders and Ladders and CO', the fire service is en route."

"Arson?"

"Unknown at this time, Sir."

"Right," Bogo clicked off the radio and then shouted in clear bellows which cut clean across the already deafened room. "Everyone, forget about the drug spree for now and get down to Ladders and Ladders. Pronto!" With practiced efficiency, the room cleared and, within minutes, each and every officer were darting into their cars and setting off down the road at high speeds with their lights flashing and their sirens crying for way to be made.

Judy leapt into the cruiser, doing up her seatbelt while Nick entered through the passenger side and, as they tore off down the road following the rest of the procession, Judy spoke, "Nick, Ladders and Ladders... know anything about them?"

"They make ladders," he stated in a deadpan and a shrug.

"Har, har," she replied without humor, "details, Nick."

"Sorry, Carrots, couldn't resist. Ladders and Ladders and CO founded about thirty or so years ago and went bust a couple of years back." They followed the procession with speeds through a set of red traffic lights, the ordinary cars waiting respectfully as the squadron of law enforcement drove past.

"Why'd they go bust?"

"When was the last time you needed to replace a ladder, Hopps?" Nick asked in return.

"Well... never."

"Exactly, sure they were fine for the first couple of years, but then everyone had ladders; and, I mean... ladders last for years, you know? Once everyone had a ladder they just ran out of custom and shut up shop. The place is still full of all their stock." The sky above appeared visibly darker as they approach the ladder factory, with that darkness finally being easily recognized as smoke from the fire which had filled the innocent air of prior.

"Their stock is still in there?"

"Yea, there's nothing worth stealing, just some old wood, and it was cheaper just to leave the stuff dumped there when they went under... so there's plenty of fuel for the fire.” The cars ahead of them turned round and away from the, still out of sight, warehouse as the road to reach it curved off for quite the detour... something which the fox apparently found most distressing. "No! No, no, no, dumb-dumbs, where are you all going?"

"What? Know a shortcut?"

"Hardly a shortcut, Carrots, just common sense! Turn right here." She did so, swerving away from the rest of the convoy and into what appeared to be the car park of another industry building. "Hopps, all these industrial buildings have car parks, right? And each of them connect to its adjacent one. So, by going this way, we cut half the journey by going along instead." As if on cue, the shapeless grey building, a dull block with a single large door, row of grubby windows, exterior fire exit stairs bolted to the side and a sign written in peeling and faded paint on the front.

'Ladders and Ladders and CO'

"Ohh, god," Judy breathed as they pulled up, taking in the swarm of fire engines gathered around the building wrapped in flames, fire oozing forth from the windows and black thick smoke rising through the ashy roof.

Nick was silent, taken about by the sight but instinctively holding back all outward signs of shock as he took in the visible story complex with bright golden-red flames spewing from within while Judy turned the rumbling engine off.

"Nice going, Slick," Judy complemented as they got out. "Come now, we’ve got get these people away from the flames." With that, they pawed it towards the crowd, the fire being hot enough to make them lightly pant even at this great of distance which was getting shorter and shorter with every step taken, tho it didn’t take long until Judy's small-yet clear and authoritative voice spoke up, cutting cleanly through the general chatter of the ruckus loud.

"Okay! Officer Hopps, ZPD! Everyone back up!" With Hopps and Wilde both working to shift back the crowd, they had nearly everyone backed away to a safe distance by the time the blue flashes and accompanying sirens of the rest of the ZPD convoy caught up. Their cars pulled up in front of the quietly smug officers, they disembarked and could only gawp at seeing them already there.

"Don't just stand there!" Bogo yelled from somewhere behind the crowd, pushing his way through, "get these people out of the way and..." he stopped as he broke through to the front, halting as he saw officers Hopps and Wilde. Bogo was good at hiding when he was impressed with his officers, and the only inclination that got off this was a slightly longer gaze sent towards the two before he glanced over to the already cleared public. His eyes moved back to them again before he turned around to face the other officers trailing behind, and then issued the next orders.

"Okay move! I want a perimeter around here now, and get that tape up." The officers complied without a flinch, while Bogo turned back to Wilde and Hopps, shaking his head with a thin smile on his lips before walking away. "You two stay here and keep an eye on the public; the reporters'll be here soon no doubt but I'm sure you can handle them... just as long as you keep them out of the way of the fire engines."

"Yes, Sir!" The two smaller officers replayed in unison as Bogo marched off. Sharing a little 'nice going' wink to one another as he walked away.

"Guess we're good on the whole 'being late' issue now?" Nick asked his partner by his side.

"Yep, thanks to you. And going back to that point, of course I should be late with you. It was my fault we were late anyway, besides," she continued, wrapping a small arm around him in a friendly hug, "I know you would have waited for me."

Nick's only reply was to chuckle as he put his own arm around Judy, and held her for a moment until they were forced by police duty to return to the moment at paw as, behind them, the large hosepipes for the vinous fire engines continued dousing the orange hellish tongues that were trying to escape to freedom and into the sky above that was now sickly plagued with black and many pieces of black ashy stars countless…

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

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Chapter Text

It can be surprising just how long a large fire can take to put out. While an average house fire takes around half an hour to extinguish, putting out a factory inferno when it’s full of half-complete wooden ladders surely takes considerably longer.

The hours dwindled on for Hopps and Wilde as they stood and watched the multistory complex as it was doused hour after hour by the dozen hoses of the fire trucks. While the other officers had been given the tedious task of forming a perimeter around the rest of the factory to make sure no idiots tried to get too close, Hopps and Wilde at least had been given the task of keeping the press at bay. This job not only gave them something slightly more interesting to do than stand around all day but — as Nick pointed out before turning to a camera, winking, and then sliding his aviator sunglasses over his nose — they were going to be on the front page of all the news’ reports tomorrow.

But as the fire started to dwindle, so too did the day and by the time the fire was out and the fire crew entered the building to put out any remaining rogue flames, the early morning had turned to late afternoon.

"You think anyone was in there?" Judy asked as the last of the firemammals entered the ruined building.

Nick gazed at the warehouse for some lonely seconds, the last of the putrid smoke rising high into the freedom above. "I doubt it, the place has been abandoned for years."

They waited for some minutes longer and, due to the action having had dulled down, the reporters started to clear away their things and then drove off with all the necessary material inside their SD cards.

"Finally," Nick thanked, slipping off his aviators as the last of the vans pulled away, "it's not easy looking this good all the time.

"Well, you seem to manage it well enough," she approved with a coy smile.

"Aww, thanks, Hopps," he chirped with a cheeky grin, "so you admit you did enjoy the view you got this morning?"

Her bright face instantly dropped to a hesitant scowl. "Nick! You filthy-minded fox!" The rabbit raised a fist with which to smite the fox but Nick, for once, was able to put his combat training to use and blocked the small fist before it hit home. Drawing back her other paw, it shot forwards towards his chest but was, again, caught in flight by the fox's superior natural reflexes. Nick kept firm hold of Judy's both paws in his as he spoke.

"Hopps, just be grateful I didn't have a morning ere— argk!" With her paws unavailable for use, Judy had no choice but to kick him in the shin. Bending over and releasing Judy's paws, Nick rubbed his shin furiously to subdue the throbbing pain. With his head this close, Judy could not resist latching her finger around the knot of his tie and pulling his head down so he was now looking straight at her.

"If you ever mention that incident again, Slick, then I'm going to cut 'it' off. With a dull-bread-knife." Someone made a loud gulping sound... after a moment Nick realized it was him. Then Judy — just to really confuse him — kissed him on the nose. With a gentle shove the rabbit pushed the stunned fox, who suddenly took on the characteristics of a tailor’s dummy, back into an upright position. Judy knew full well Nick liked those kinds of affection from her and she was going to tease him for it until his last breath — or until he eventually got up the courage to ask her out like she had been waiting for him to do for months — whichever was the soonest. Now upright, the fox blinked a couple of times before his gaze shifted down upon the smaller form of Judy. His mouth just opened when...

"Atten-Hut!" From somewhere among the grouped cluster of police cars, Bogo approached and joined the two officers. At seeing the Chief approach, Wilde and Hopps instantly stopped acting unprofessional and stood to attention with respectful salutes.

"At ease," Bogo commanded with a glance around to which the rest of the officers returned to their natural of stances. He visibly checked to make sure none of the them were within earshot before leaning down to be more at Nick and Judy’s diminutive height, and then continued, "officer, Hopps, Wilde. You're interested in detective work, right?" Their only reply was the pricking up of their ears and the widening of their eyes, fortunately, it was the only reply Bogo needed.

"Good. Then I'm giving the two of you the duty of investigating the fire that broke out just over there," he pointed a large finger towards Ladders and Ladders, "I want you two to find out if this fire was arson or accidental, where it started, how quickly it spread and what was used to get it going. Think you can handle that?"

"Yes, Sir!" Judy nearly shouted in ardor, her ears quivering with the excitement of the prospect.

"Okay. But look," he continued, his voice becoming even more so serious, "this is not a promotion, got that? Nor is this a promise that you'll make detective any time soon. This is just a little preliminary taster for you to see what it's like, and for me to see how you handle it. Neither am I expecting some amazing revelation. Just a normal fire, possibly arson, not connected to any major plot to take over Zootopia or anything like that... we clear?"

"Yes, Chief Bogo Sir!" Judy reckoned, her voice high and tremulous with the excitement despite the slight disappointment of not having the real opportunity of building up towards that rank of allure, yet just having a small tasteful of the real thing apparently was enough for now.

"The fire crew and demolitions team have both looked around and have declared the building both extinguished and structurally sound. The entrance is open. On your way, Officers." Walking away, Bogo called out one last thing as they trekked towards the smoldering shell of Ladders and Ladders and Co, "this is just between the three of us. There are plenty of officers on the force who have been waiting for this kind of opportunity for far longer than you have even existed!"

...

Pseudo Detectives Hopps and Wilde entered the large door frame of the burnt out husk of the factory Ladders and Ladders and Co. Tooled up with plastic gloves, feet protector bags, goggles, flashlights and a camera to photograph evidence, they stepped in. The factory was oversized for their class of species, like much of the city was, everything towering over them in the darkness. They found no fire damage on the first floor, just a multitudinous supply of half-finished ladders, and so they climbed the concrete steps to the first floor of the seven-storeyed establishment.

"So, what do we know already, Fluff?" Nick asked as they entered the main workroom of the first floor, knowing that Judy thought better when speaking out loud.

"Well... where— where should I start?"

"Tell me about the nature of the fire, Hopps."

Her eyes moved about and recalled the memories that were of freshness or dullness while her mind put it all together in a pile of consistency and deductions, "It was, judging by the amount of fire coming out of the windows, centered around the middle of the third floor as the amount of visible fire decreased further away from that point as we watched. There was no fire visible on the first three floors.

"And the building?"

"All the buildings around here being big industrial buildings, they probably all have pretty thick walls, which would explain why the fire was not able to spread beyond the confines of this building and into the others."

"The flames?" Nick asked as they left the first floor, also devoid of fire damage, and climbed the stairs to the second floor.

"Massive golden flames which came right out of the windows and several feet into the air. So the fuel burning put out a vast quantity of flame without much intensity when compared to a fuel-like coal which puts off smaller but much hotter flames."

"There’s my clever little Bunbun!" Nick boasted, tussling the top of Judy's head between her ears in a way that instantly brought a grin to her face.

"Okay, Nick," she encouraged as they entered the main workroom of the second floor, pushing his paw away, "you do the clean-up of the facts." With a pretentiously-uppish expression Nick then took upon himself the role of a famous fictitious detective: pacing slowly around Judy with his paws clasped behind his back; walking in slow, steady strides; his back as straight as a broom handle and his speech overpronounced in the 'Proper English' of the Queen herself.

"I hereby detect," he began, "that the nature of the fire: as you said, a vast quantity, but without much intensity, fits the presumption that the fuel burnt was wood. So no apparent foul play is at paw although it is somewhat suspicious as, after all these years of abandonment, I cannot fathom any reason as to why it would suddenly burst into flames."

"So is it arson, Mister Sheerluck Wilde?" Judy asked as they left the second floor which was also mostly devoid of fire damage, apart from the ceiling which was blackened from the heat.

"Inconclusive at this time, Doctor Judy Hoppson," he replied as he began miming smoking a pipe, "for we have not yet seen the point of origin and as you well know, it is a capital mistake to theorize before one has conclusive data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." Nick dropped his act as they reached the door which led to the main workroom of the third floor. He sucked in a lungful of air as Judy passed by him, not noticing his outré behavior until he reached out and stopped Judy by taking her by the arm. She looked around to him, his nose high, his nostrils flaring. "Hopps, you— you smell that?"

"No, what?" She remained motionless as Nick moved away from her, opened a rugged door and took a step into the room behind it, walking slowly with his eyes mostly closed and with an expression of concentration on his deadly-serious face.

"Alcohol," he concluded as he turned to her after one particularly long sniff.

"You mean like gin, whisky, or vodka?"

"No, I mean propanol, butanol, pentanol. I can't tell which, obliviously... but whichever it is it could definitely be an accelerator."

"So it is arson?"

"Well I think so, there's' no reason for any alcohol to be about here, but a scent isn't going to stand up in court, Hopps." He turned back to the room, looking properly at it for the first time. "... this however, is a little more incriminating." In the center of the room — which was coated wall to wall with soot and missing its ceiling — was a large pile of charcoal. All the wood on this floor had been pushed into the center of the room into a heap but was now all burnt out and cold and crumbled under the touch of incineration and combustion.

"Surely this is enough to prove it," Judy contemplated aloud as she walked once around the heap of ash and soot.

"Again, I would say so. But it could just be circumstantial since we have no way of proving the wood wasn’t piled up like this to start with."

With an accompanying sigh, the rabbit stopped as she walked away to investigate the rest of that floor. "Boy, this is harder than I thought it was gonna be. I mean I knew it would be hard, but I just thought once we had enough evidence to be convinced that would be it. I didn't think we'd have to keep on looking for more once we believed it was arson."

"Yep, still, it's good fun ain't it?" Something upon the floor attained Judy’s notice, a small blackened object, a couple of inches long, as burned out and blackened as the wood that surrounded it. She knelt down for a closer look after which she called out.

"What do you make of this, Nick?" He turned to her, seeing her knelt down low on the floor while looking at a small black object on that same surface. He crossed the short distance between them and took a closer scrutiny. "Looks like a cigarette," she contained, "wrapped in a... piece of paper?"

"Clever, very clever. This is how the fire was started, Hopps! If you look closely you'll see a couple of matches attached to the cigarette. My guess is it's like a delay switch. You light the cigarette, the cigarette slowly burns away. It then lights the sepulcher on the heads of the matches, thus making a flame which then sets the paper alight."

"And then the flame from that lights the flammable solution on the wood which, in turn, ignites the rest of the building. So, we can prove it is arson now?"

"Oh I should think so, there’re too many coincidences to overrule them all. And this thing… it leaves no doubt on the matter. Snap a photo of it, Hopps, I'm gonna search the rest of this floor."

After making appropriate photographic documentation of the rest of that floor, they then searched the remaining three levels which was difficult as all of the forth and most of the fifth floors had lost almost all their flooring to the scorching inferno that had been. But irregardless, they already had enough evidence to prove this was arson and so left the building after searching briskly through the remains of the sixth and final floor, which had a view of burnt beams and healthy sky that no more was sickened by the blackness prior that had tried to instill it’s reign but ultimately… failed.

...

Emerging from the ladder factory, they approached the police car where the profile of Chief Bogo was standing, backlit by the headlights of the police car which was being used to keep the building visible. "Officer Hopps, Officer Wilde," Bogo grated nonchalantly as they approached before asking, "what do you have to report?"

"It's arson, Sir," Judy reported and took a breath that lacked the bitterness of ash and coal, "firstly, Officer Wilde smelled some kind of alcohol-based flammable solution in the air, then we found that all the wooden equipment on the third floor had been piled into a heap and then," she stopped as her paws reached for the camera in her pocket with the finding of the image of the cigarette, "we found this. It's a... what did you say it was?"

"It's a delay switch," Wilde clarified without hesitance, "a cigarette attached to matches which are attached to some paper. Light the cigarette, that'll light the matches, then the paper and set the rest of the pile on fire."

Nodding slowly, Bogo finalized, "Good work, both of you. Get back to base and fill out the paperwork. And I expect I'll be seeing both of you at the annual ZPD Christmas party this evening?"

Judy's ears dropped down. "Erm..."

"Weren't we given the duty of staying clocked in this year?" Nick asked because, even at Christmas, the city could not be left without law enforcement, thus some officers had to work during the holiday as well. This was worked out each year by the difficult and technical process which involved all the officers writing their names on a piece of paper, putting them into a hat, and then having several names taken out at random by Bogo.

"You were, yes," Bogo answered but then a small tug on his lips showed more to come, "but since you missed out last time, I pulled a couple of strings for you and managed to give that duty to Grizzoli and Higgins."

"Oh, err... thanks."

"Don't worry about it, Hopps." Turning, Bogo started walking away, "I'll see you two there."

"Okay... bye..." Out of earshot, Judy's head fell into her paw and a low groan escaped her at the prospect of having to spend an evening with a dozen rowdy and drunk officers of the ZPD.
Nick looked down at the disheartened rabbit desponding by his side, but because he couldn’t hold himself at seeing her like this, his arm instinctively moved around her shoulders, and healed her close.

It was the only small comfort he could provide but as she moved into him so slightly, he knew that it had been enough despite not carrying that much of weight.

It was the small things that mattered after all, they were the foundations to those that’d become big in time given forward.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

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Chapter Text

Ice crackled underfoot as Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps trudged their way across the short walk from the police cruiser to the sizable bar where the annual 'Christmas ZPD gathering' was held. The two officers had changed from their uniforms and into more casual attire. They continued their conversation as they walked from the car, pulling their thick coats closer around them as they stepped out from the vehicle, while the icy wind and setting sun were contributing to the rapid drops of temperatures in Tundratown.

"After all, Carrots, I'm by farrrr the better chef."

"That's not true. Okay, it's a little hard to make fine dining when you only have a microwave, but what about that time I cooked round yours? Remember, the night before you left for the academy?"

"I do, Carrots, I do. Fact is, I'm still chipping bits of it out of my oven." Despite the fact that the temperatures in each of the precincts were meticulously maintained through a series of either: heaters or coolers, when it was Christmas time in Tundratown, with its snow and cold weather, it would invaluably become more popular for a couple of days with mammals wishing to get more into the 'spirit' of things. Judy muttered something too quiet for Nick hear as she sped up, pulling the door to the pub open and stepping inside, and holding it open with a gloved paw as Nick followed a moment later.

They removed their outer garments, coat, gloves, scarf and other wears that required attentive attention. Nick again commented on Judy's barrel-like appearance as he helped her out of it all. Taking her coat and hanging it upon a hook along with his own, Nick turned to Judy on the front porch of the pub after glancing out through the window of the wooden door which lead to the main room — wherein was visible most of the rest of the ZPD, engaged in some boyish and foolhardy bar game.

"Ready for this, Carrots?" Nick asked after a deep exhale, looking in at the sight within. It had taken longer than anticipated to fill out all the paperwork as — after half an hour — Nick had decided his time would be better spent at seeing how many balls of screwed-up paper he could throw into a bin at twenty paces.

"Yea, you said we can leave off early, right?" Judy asked in uncertainty, while still being cross at him for leaving the horridly tall piles of double paperwork onto her, not only because she had to do all the work yet again but because they were nearly an hour late and everyone around them, by this point were... rather drunk.

"Absolutely, there's no need to drag this on any more than necessary." Judy was looking forwards to tonight about as much as Nick looked forwards to his yearly dentist appointment... which he only took because Judy forced him too, i.e. would rather be stuck in a lift for six hours. "Suppose this is the first Christmas away from home?" he asked with motes of confidence to his deduction, while still watching the interior of the pub.

"Yes." He looked down at her from the delivered, an eyebrow raised at the way she huffed it and how her ears tried to droop behind her head before she forced them back up again and opened the door, stepping in and letting it shut behind her. Nick, naturally swift, slipped inside as the door shut just close to the last hairs of his auburn-tipped tail. He put on his best smile as he saw Judy forcing the same with a welcoming — if somewhat slurred — cheer arose from the other officers.

"Mry Chrismss!"

Nick affected a lazy two fingered salute while Judy smiled and waved as the room full of much larger mammals returned to their prior conversations. Nick lent towards Judy's ear so she could hear over the din. "Can I buy you a drink, missy?"

"Please. I think I'll need it to get through tonight."

"So what can I get... look out," he warned sharply, his voice dropping as a large mammal started over to them, "here comes Buffalo-Butt."

"Hoop san While!" Bogo roared in greeting as he came to stand before them — swaying slightly and holding a metal tankard which could double as a beer barrel for mammals of their size — before continuing, "I buy youa dink, first round s'on the Chef."

"Oh, hey, Chief!" Judy replied, "Thank you, but that really won't be—"

"Hey, hay, hay. Hopps, what are you doing?" the panicked fox whispered into her ear. She turned to him, squinting in confusion, "free booze?" he said simply, shrugging. In reply she rolled her eyes and turned back to Bogo... and with that drinks were ordered and they joined the other off-duty ZPD officers. Over the course of the evening, however, the two of them became separated and, although Nick kept an eye on Judy as she sat alone while he, being far more sociable than her, was able to mix and mingle.

Nick circulated, talking to each of the other officers for the smallest amount of time possible while still being polite — using his silver tongue to contrive a reason for the conversation’s hastened ending — before returning to Judy.

At last able to rejoin her, Nick slid himself into the long seat that lined most of the walls next to Judy. Close, very close. He knew he was probably sitting closer to her then she would have thought appropriate but she needed the comfort and she was probably drunk enough for him to get away with it as he had seen her order several drinks over the course of the splendid evening.

"How ya' holdin', Carrots?" The glass paused en route to her mouth, she turned her head slightly to look at him out of the corner of her eye.

"No one's talking to me," she gloomily gave voice to.

"I'll talk to you." This comment managed to get a smile out of her and she slid her warm arm around Nick's waist and pulled herself closer. What little distance there was between them was now gone.

"I know. Out of evr'one on the force— and even mer parents to thome exss-tent… I know I can all'ays talk to you." Her arm was very warm. She turned to him, the glistening eyes not quite managing to focus, "I know youloveme, dumb fox."

He lent back at her breath slightly, it hung heavy with the scent of alcohol. That and the heat coming from her arm gave him the distinct impression she had, perhaps, had a few more than she should have. He watched with some concerned interest as she raised the glass back to her lips and took another sip. "Hey, Carrots. How many of them have you actually had?"

Downing the remaining third of the glass she placed it down on the table. "S'only my fifth."

"Your fifth! Jeez, Carrots, you know you've got the alcohol tolerance of a four year old!"

"Yea... get me another will ya?" She held the glass beneath his nose, he took it and set it out of of her reach.

"I think you've had more than enough, Hopps. You have work tomorrow for heaven’s sake!"

"Don't worry about it, Nick, I'm fline. Bethides, mer rabbit meter-aboly-ism'll clear allthatup by morning. Won't even have an'angover."

"...if you're sure. You ready to split yet?"

"A-miy' ever?"

And with that they left. With the other officers too busy with their game of darts to notice them leave, they slipped out and into the confines of the otherwise empty porch. Nick retrieved Judy's coat, et cetera, from the hock and passed it over. She tried twice to put it on but couldn't, for some reason, quite manage to. Nick suggested that this was because of the alcohol she had been drinking but Judy denied and resented the implication that she was drunk... whilst propping up the wall to stop herself from swaying.

After helping her dress, Nick fussed with his own coat, though did not put it on, as Judy thanked him for only having half a point, so he was still sober to drive meaning she could have a few more drinks, and told him that she would do something to make up for it. A point upon which — in her rather drunk state — she was most insistent upon.

"No need, Carrots." Nick defied for the third time.

"C'mon, Nick, I need some way of making it up to you."

"Honestly, Hopps, don't worry about it." She pulled to a stop, swaying between him and the exit-way from the empty porch.

"Don't give me that," she replied playfully, but stubbornly, "there must be something I can do." Nick stood watching her for a few seconds, his mouth slightly open in thought. He smiled at her and then raised a paw, twitching his index finger in the gesture to 'come hear’. Judy, after a moment, swayed forwards and did so. The index finger moved to point at the floor just before him in a 'closer' gesture. She, again, moved after a moment and stood slightly less than a foot from him, her neck straining slightly to look into his face. Then he knelt down, shifting low onto his knees, so his head was level with hers.

"Okay Judy, you want something to do for me? Well here it is, or rather there it is." With that he raised his index finger a third time and pointed up. Watching as her head slowly rise to look upon the ceiling, enjoying the expression of surprise that crossed her face at what she saw there.

Mistletoe.

When she looked back down to him, their faces inches apart, she stared for several seconds. While Judy decided what her reaction would be, Nick decided he would make his own theories.

...

This is what Nick expected...

"Dumb fox," she'd tease, followed by a shove on his shoulder before the rabbit would carry on walking away like nothing had happened, she would think of it as one of his many jokes without giving it proper thought, and he would be no closer to reaching his goal. And he wouldn't be able to blame her.

This is what Nick hoped for...

A quiet little giggle would escape Judy's lips after which she'd look away in embarrassment with slightly quivering ears, a hint of red covering her cheeks, and then would the sweet and gentle kiss, smelling of cherry, be planted on the side of Nick's muzzle, , followed by the sight of a snickering little bunny retreating hurriedly from the noisy pub.

...

And this is what Nick got…

Her eyes locked upon Nick with surprising intensity, but the focus of her amethyst eyes was not on his emeralds, they were on his lips. She moved forwards and there was no giggle or blush, no timidity or unease, no second thoughts or trepidation, just a kind of 'drunken brashness'. She took a step firmly towards him and reached out her small strong paws. They grabbed him firmly by the collar, tugged him hard towards her, parted her lips, stuck out her tongue; and gave Nicholas Wilde the most passionate kiss of his life.

His eyes shot wide as she pulled him towards her, he opened his mouth to voice his surprise but at that given moment small their lips met, while the surprise was taken advantage of by Judy's small tongue which entered between teeth and inside Nick's mouth.

The tongue was now roaming the inside of his mouth, along the edges of his teeth, probing his incisors and curling around his own-but-longer spongy flesh. A little of her scent and her taste made it to him, but most of what he smelt and tasted was the rather copious amounts of alcohol she had been drinking.

She moaned into the kiss as she pushed her tongue a little deeper, then she pushed a little more. Nick was unable to think or move as the small tongue worked its way around the inside of the furthest depths of his needy mouth, her paws tightly grasping the fur on the back of his neck.

She pulled back from the kiss to a loud smacking sound as they parted. She eyed the fox — statue like, apparently stuck in the moment past — as she rubbed her arm across her mouth before she turned and started to walk out of the door at a steady pace.

Just as if nothing had just happened.

Heat rolled through Nick, boiling through his veins as his brain was both speeding fast, yet unable to muster a single thought. His eyes still wide, his mouth still open, the world started spinning slightly like it was he who was drunk, or like he was about to pass out or had been holding his breath for too long. Yet, it was also like he was charged with electricity, like he could leap over a mountain, run through deserts, swim across oceans deep and terrible.

Judy's kiss was all of these thing and more, he was paralyzed entirely and could have remained like that had Judy not spotted his apparent mental and physical shutdown, returned, and tugged him several times by his tie. After about the fifth tug he slowly shifted his gaze to look at her, giggled once, then fell over backwards in a daze… Judy exhaled a single, long and heavy sigh, lurched back to the bar and ordered another drink.

Nick knew not how long had he laid there in a blissful daze, but eventually Judy returned with a cup of water and poured it over him. "Argk!" he yelped as he leaped up and off the floor to look into Judy's impish face, "c-c-cold!" he stuttered as he pawed at his soaking shirt.

"Well then," she began as she put the cup upon a cabinet, "you'll just have to take it off then."

He glared at her for a few seconds — not entirely trusting her not to whip her phone out the moment his shirt was off — but it was drenched and they were about to go into the open cold night air so he had little choice. It was either take off his shirt or freeze like a fresh pawpsicle. It didn't matter too much anyway, once he had his shirt off he could put his coat on and be covered again. A smile split his muzzle as a thought came like a wanted memory playful. "You want me to do 'The Stripper' again?" he asked with amusement that was overflowing without visible restraint.

"That won't be necessary... I have it on my phone."

"Wha—" Then Judy clicked a button on her phone and a saxophone jazz band started playing 'The Stripper'... Nick's ears sank, his head lowered into his shoulders in obvious embarrassment and then, with a grumble, he turned his back on her and hurriedly slipped his shirt off. Despite the fact he did this with none of the flair of last time, Judy whopped and whistled at every move, every detail about the fox's behavior simply radiating fluster to the rabbit. But a minute later and the fun was over. Nick threw his dripping shirt at the rabbit and managed to wet her slightly as payback before slipping into the warmth of his fur-lined coat and doing up the zipper.

She has been getting just a few too many one-ups on me, Nick thought, I think it's about time I got her back for a few things.

They came to the front door, keeping it closed and staying in the warmth of the porch for as long as they could before absconding to the blizzard without. The snow was coming down in near visible sheets by this point. It crackled underfoot as they made a brisk march to the police cruiser as the ice below had been cored thick with snow and both mammals were glad they would soon be leaving this chilly place. Seconds later and they were within the comparative warmth of the police car, starting the engine and turning the heaters on full blast before setting off home.

Nick looked at Judy from his place in the driver’s seat after stopping at a red light, a grin spreading across his face as he saw her deep in licking her lips, clearly still lingering on the 'incident' they just shared. "Taste something you like, Hopps?" he asked smugly.

She glanced over to him, the reek of alcohol still strong. "Yea... it's you." By the way her eyes roamed the space around him without being able to actually focus, Nick guessed she had about thirty seconds of consciousness left in her. He could do just about anything he wanted and she would have no memory of it later.

"Taste good, do I?"

"Hmm, not bad." It was time to get her back. While he perfectly enjoyed what had just happened, the way it was dealt — that, and the glass of cold water and the discomfort of having to go through the stripper act in such a way — meant that, in Nick's mind, she fully deserved what was coming to her.

"However," he interjected, controlling his grin, "seeing as I'm a predator and you're a rabbit; it should be me tasting you."

"Well that's tough, because I—" Nick found himself no-longer able to control his grin. "What? Nick, what is it?"

And then the fox lent forwards and tasted her. Licked her with a tongue across her face: it started beneath her chin and slowly but surely worked its way up along the side of her neck in a motion that made her visibly shiver; it then worked across her soft cheek in a way that made her eyes drop shut; and then his tongue slowly seeped up the length of her ear in a way that made a deep blush form on her cheeks before he sucked — just for an instant — upon the tip of that delicate ear in a way that made a soft moan escape her lips.

With a final rush he slid himself down between her ears, pushed his muzzle atop her forehead and licked her once more in the space in the top of her head between the two, cupping her warm face in both paws before lowering it against the cushioned passenger seat. Her head instantly rolled to the side and it was clear Judy Hopps, had passed out. The traffic light, for the second time, turned green. This time Nick, pleased with his work, pushed his foot off the break. 

Was it too much? He thought to himself as he drove. Possibly, but she had it coming to her, and it's not like she’s gonna remember it tomorrow. That, you see, was the irony of the situation. As much as he enjoyed both Judy's passionate kiss in the porch of the bar and the taste of her he just stole... they would tournament his dreams while Judy — he was ninety percent sure — would have forgotten the whole thing come morning.

"Come on, Hopps," the fox muttered to as he pulled away gently, "let's get you home."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

Sunlight crept in through the thin curtains of the second story window and into the apartment of the rabbit, Judy Hopps. From the bottom of the deep well, she dragged herself into consciousness and cracked her crusted eyes open. The blazing light shot through the window, nearly blinding her, and she let out a soft moan at how unusually bright the sun was that day.

Turning over with her eyes tightly shut, she rubbed her paws in a soothing motion across the throbbing sides of her head as she tried to leave this uncomfortably bright world and return to the darker one she had been occupying moments before.

Lifting her head — that alone took effort — she raised the edge of her pillow with a paw and placed her head on the bare mattress, laying the pillow atop her head. Here, between the underside of her pillow and the mattress, it was cold and dark. It was quite blissful for the rabbit in her current state and she closed her eyes again, readily returning to a state of sleep in the darkness her pillow offered. The throbbing of her head abated as sleep’s cool and soothing embrace took her. Her breaths became shallower and her heartbeat lowered before she, at last, fell from this world into sweet slumber.

Until that came to a crashing failure as this beeping noise began slowly building up into her ears, the unceasing beeps of her alarm ripped through the restful peace and smashed into her mind, just like a hammer pounds upon an anvil. Moaning much louder this time, almost wailing in fact, the rabbit clutched her ears over her head in an effort to drown out the sharp tone, feeling as though her head was about to split open.

Work was calling…

Moving as little as possible, she reached out a stiff arm and silenced the sinful device. Just five more minutes. Or five more years preferably.

Settling back a second time, she reveled in the newfound silence the room had to offer. She would get up soon, go to work. But for now… she would just wait a while. Sighing airily as she settled back down, the drift of swirling exhaustion was making her almost feel like—

From without, someone pounded heavily upon the door, it wasn’t that loud but to Judy, the effect was as though the scalp of her head was being removed, and then her bare brain was being flogged by a car driving at seventy miles an hour. Or in simpler words: It was painful.

Is everything conspiring to make me suffer? Her mind huffed before she called out, "Who is it?" At least, that's what she tried to call — but her actual reply was really just a muffled, "Gerwhoganan?"

The red fox waiting patiently outside was unable to hear the call of his partner, let alone understand it, and so, after a moment, he raised his paw back up to the door and, again, lightly tapped his knuckles upon it. This was the second time he had tapped lightly upon the door and also the second time it was received as a loud pounding noise by the hungover bunny within.

Groaning, Judy tried to call out again but choked on the dry, foul taste of her mouth. She decided the quicker she did this the quicker it would be over, so she hauled herself from beneath the sheets of her bed and placed her feet down upon the wooden floor. Almost falling, she steadied herself on her cabinet and found a full glass of water which she picked up — not wondering how it came to be there — and gulped down half the contents. She coughed twice more, than spoke, "Who is it?" This time her voice did not fail her but was still raspy, cracked and weak.

"It's me, Nick." Despite the pain her head was giving her, she smiled at this as she looked about for something to cover herself with, but soon realized that she was still wearing her cloths from yesterday, minus her coat, gloves, and so on. At length, she managed to cross the small room, which was swaying from side to side, and leaned against the doorframe for some moments, breathing deeply before taking up her key and — after several unproductive attempts to put it in the keyhole — unlocked the door and pulled it open.

Judy gazed at the handsome fox before her. As always, he was meticulously well-groomed; every hair was in its place, brushed smooth and soft; his ZPD uniform was clean and his tie neat — but his tie was undone slightly, his collar a little askew and his shirt tucked imperfectly into his trousers — giving Nick the wonderful lop-sided charm that she loved so much.

Nick gazed at the... rabbit before him. Dressed in yesterday’s creased cloths with her fur ruffled and matted, her head lowered, as though her neck was afraid of the weight, in the expression of exhaustion. Honestly, Nick wouldn't have been surprised if she just collapsed right there and a part of himself prepared to catch her, before she fell, if needed. Her ears were low and her eyes baggy, her mouth sagged open and her eyes were dull, slowly blinking up at him as though still not used to the light — she was still adorable — in a shabby state, but adorable.

His eyes shifted back upwards to look the rabbit in the eyes before speaking, "May I, come in?"

She blinked once, then shook herself slightly before replying, "Of course."

Well, so much for 'my rabbit metabolism will clear it all up by morning'. She's not drunk anymore, but she's definitely hungover.

She stepped aside and Nick slipped in. He heard the door shut behind him as he crossed the room towards the half-glass of water, which was still on the cabinet — glad that there was still water in it so he wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom for more — and he reached into a pocket and pulled out a box. He sat down on the side of Judy's bed and placed the box from his pocket on the table, keeping his actions silent for Judy's sake, as he heard her walking back towards him. A smile set upon his muzzle at what happened next.

Judy, quite exhausted from crossing the room twice, shifted back onto the bed and sat just behind Nick before resting her weight against her fox. Too hungover to really care what he might think, she leaned fully into him with a paw resting on his shoulder and her head resting on his other one, while her eyes closed, huffing heavily into his side.

Smiling at the intimate familiarity she must feel to be comfortable to do such a thing, he raised one paw, from fiddling with the small box, and gently stroked the soft fur on her cheek. She released a small hmm at his soothing touch before he spoke, keeping his words soft for obvious reasons, "This your first time?"

"First time what?"

"Your first hangover."

"I... I'm not hungover." He rolled his eyes and tutted silently at her indignant reply, then stopped rubbing her cheek, moved his paw before her face, and clicked his fingers once. The unhappy groan she released, at the sharp sound the act had caused, a sound which would be of no comment to most 'non-hungover' mammals, was proof enough for both of them, and she huffed again before sheltering from the light of the world by pushing her head into Nick's soft-brushed neck.

As much as Nick would have liked to have sat there all day, feeling the warmth of Judy's body against his and the tickle of her breath against his neck, he knew that the one of the few things Judy hated more than being late was not turning up at all, therefor she would surely be insistent upon the point of going to work, despite her many ailments. And while she was in no fit state to work like this, Bogo would not allow an officer to have the day off because they were hungover. Although, if Nick took Judy in, not only would Bogo see how bad Judy was and probably send her home, but Judy herself would see how bad she was and agree she was in no fit state to work... rather than sit at home, blaming Nick all day, if he were to let her stay.

So, to keep up good relations with Bogo — and to satisfy Judy's sense of promptitude — Nick carried on with his original plan, despite the fact it went against everything he wanted. Opening the small cardboard box, he moved the half-glass of water closer. The sound the glass made, as it dragged along the imitation of wood, startled Judy into opening her eyes and looking up. Over his shoulder, she saw him take out a packet of pills from the box and pop two out of the metallic foil that covered them. After popping them out into his paw, he dropped them into what was left of the glass of water and they immediately started to fizz.

Picking up the glass, Nick swirled it several times before raising it towards Judy's head. "Gulp it all down," he said and she took it, "it won't clear everything, but it'll help."

"Thanks," she replied before tipping it back. She swallowed several mouthfuls of the rather repugnant-tasting liquid, then swallowed the two pills with her last mouthful. Moving off him and setting her empty glass upon the counter, Judy pretended to choke on the pills a little, mimicking a spluttering sound.

Nick fell for the act easily and shifted around to place his paw delicately upon her back, rubbing his warm, firm-padded paw across her in a way which was as soothing as Judy hoped it would be. Nick didn't stop rubbing her back even after she had stopped pretending to be choking. She didn't mind his touch in the slightest as his paw continued rubbing up, then down the length of her spine with its own accompanying tingle of pleasure.

A few seconds later she gave in absolutely. She slid sideways, from sitting upright, to laying against Nick's chest: almost in his lap. The fox stared in surprise for a couple of seconds, but then wrapped his arms around her in a tender hug as Judy huffed heavily before closing her eyes, the throbbing in her head somehow soothed by his touch. Nick breathed slowly, relaxed considerably by his embrace with Judy, feeling her chest slowly rise and fall with every breath through the arms he had wrapped around her moment’s prior to which he, slowly, lowered his muzzle to rest on her head, between her ears with his eyes closed likewise.

"Nick..." she began at length.

"Yes, Hopps," he replied, opening his emeralds, his voice a low whisper against her ear.

"Was it you who got me the water?" she asked, waving a loose limb towards the now-empty glass.

"Yea. I hope you don't mind: I had to go through your pockets for the key."

"I… didn't get it for you?"

"No, well... you were asleep at the time, so you couldn't have."

She opened her eyes and looked up. Nick raised his muzzle to see her properly. "You carried me up here?"

"Hah," he chuckled, keeping his voice low, "I didn't have much choice. Even if you were awake, you had too much to drink, so you'd have needed carrying anyway."

She chuckled slightly in return. "Sooo, look... I can't remember anything from last night beyond my— I think… third glass of-of..." she lowered her head again, rubbing her aching eyes with her paw. "Of whatever it was I was drinking last night."

"Huh. Well, we didn't leave until you'd finished your fifth. Do you remember anything past that?"

"Ermmm. No."

"Nothing... on the porch?"

"Nooo?"

"Nothing... at the red light we pulled up at on that small road, just across from the pub?"

"Why, what happo—"

"Nothing. Just, you can't remember, right?"

"No," she said pointedly, "I doubt it anyway, it's hard to know what you've forgotten if you don't remember it." She sat up at this, Nick allowed her up as soon as he felt her tugging against his arms and sat up after she stood.

Judy decided she felt better than she did previously and, while the light was still somewhat painful, the dizziness had reduced and she felt a lot more alert. "Okay," Judy said as she unzipped her jacket, removed it and threw it over Nick's face and eyes, before walking over to her wardrobe, facing away from the fox and slipping out of her shirt. "You know the drill."

Not understanding the rabbit, Nick took her jacket away from his face to see what she meant... and for a beautiful, amazing, heart-pounding second: Nick had full view of Judy's bare back — naked to the room — her blueish-grey fur glowed silver, and her sharp shoulders and trim waist were a very satisfying sight indeed. As soon as he had processed what he was looking at — which, admittedly, took longer than it should have — Nick turned away. He didn't see anything 'sensitive', just her back, but it was still enough to set his heart thumping in his ears, blushing hard and resisting the urge to pant as to reduce the flush of heat which was rolling through him.

Judy was completely unaware of this, as she pulled on her blue ZPD-issue shirt and did the buttons up.

It was even less helpful to Nick when he realized — in his haste to turn his back for the sake of his partner’s privacy — that his paw had slipped down, into the sheets of the bed where he was now able to feel the warm patch on the mattress Judy had left from her night’s sleep.

Judy asleep, he decided, was probably the cutest thing imaginable. Honestly, he hopped he would be able to see it first-pawed someday, close up.

Dressed fully, Judy padded across the room towards the fox who was sitting on her bed – paw, for some reason, tucked beneath the sheets — staring concentratedly at the wall. He appeared to be in thought for he did not hear her cross to him, so she tugged him once by his tie. He turned to see her smiling face. "Feeling better?" was his question after a moment’s delay.

"Yep," she replied, "much better." She passed him and threw open the curtains... something she immediately regretted as the golden light flooded in, making her physically stumble away from the window as her paws dragged her ears over her eyes in a bid to block out the incoming onslaught of light. Nick threw the curtains shut again. He crossed over to the rabbit, took his aviator sunglasses from a pocket and handed them to her.

"...thanks," she said as she took the glasses from him.

"Well, you seem less vague and hazy, but you're definitely not well. I hope Bogo gives us somewhere dark and quiet to work."

"I hope so too... and thanks for the water, and carrying me up here, and everything, Nick."

"Don't worry, Hopps. You know I enjoy catering to the needs of a dumb bunny like yourself." She grinned at his affectionate insult — for affectionate it was despite the fact it was an insult at core — and spoke with just a little trepidation in her voice, her paws clasped behind her back, rocking on her feet.

"And, I got you a Christmas present!"

The fox grinned, tussling her ears. "Aww, thanks, Hopps! I got you one too, but it's too big to carry from my place to here, so it's still round mine."

"Don't worry, that's okay. You didn't have to get me anything anyway." She handed him his gift. It was small, flat and rectangular. About three inches across and only a couple of inches high and quite thin. It wasn't paper thin, about three millimeters, and it was — for its size — quite heavy. Investigating a little more, he found it to be partly flimsy — not flexible — but it did bend and return to its original shape easily. "We better get to roll-call though," Judy broke the immersion, "so... open it later, okay?"

"Okay, Hopps, and thank you." With that, Judy reopened the door and stepped out. After Nick followed, she shut the door and locked it. Together they left the building. When they reached the front door of the apartment block, where the light of the sun, which was painful to the hungover bunny, became a problem. Judy waited until she knew Nick was watching, and she then opened his black polarized sunglasses with a stylish flick of the wrist before putting them on. Just as he had done not one day before. "Come on, Slick," Nick mocked, grinning in recondition of her action, "or you might make us late again."

With that they set off, instantly engrossed in a conversation revolving around the point of, naturally, the fact that they weren't late and exactly whose fault it was that they nearly were.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

The hungover rabbit and sober fox walked their routine path to the ZPD. It was a bright and rather hot day in Precinct One, and the streets were busy with mammals from all walks of life, each busy with their own world, alone, lost in the masses. Had the towering skyscrapers of Zootopia not blocked their line of sight, Nick and Judy might have spotted the large grey clouds gathering in the distance, slowly but inexorably being carried across to them by soft wind.

Reaching a 'large black and white stripes' crossing (a method pedestrians use to cross roads safely - once known as zebra crossings but renamed for for speciest reasons), Nick pushed the button for the traffic to stop.

After a moment, the continual line of traffic, which ran from dawn till dusk, slowly came to a stop. The commute of hundreds of workers, the lives of thousands of mammals was shearly frozen - for the sake of just two. No one ever wondered why or how, no one ever thought that it was wrong that a line of a dozen cars should wait for the sake of just two mammals, nor did they question how incredible it was that they did. The masses, nameless and faceless, simply followed the rules of convention without ever questioning them, or even realizing there was something to question at the least...

This, truly, is the clockwork markings of a well-run city - where 'the people' follow not only the rules of the law, but of convention, willingly and silently, each and every day of their lives - all of them are but sheep (even the lions); ruled by convention, led by the subtle paw of the governance.

Not everyone was so bound by convention, of course. Some mammals saw themselves above the law and would occasionally try to go against it, breaking convention to suit their own ends... such mammals will, sooner or later, find themselves face to face with an officer of the law.

Nick and Judy walked in silence, their badges glinting in the early morning sun. They walked in silence because, aside from Judy's sensitivity to the light, which Nick's sunglasses had cured, the only thing Nick's pills hadn't cured was Judy's sensitivity to volume, so he kept quiet, knowing every sound was troublesome for her. However, after checking the time on his phone, he did speak, leaning down to her ear so he could keep his voice as low as possible, "I don't want to hurry you, Hopps," he said, "but we only have like two minutes before roll-call."

"Alright," she peeled in return, "we're nearly there now anyway."

They picked up the pace for the last leg of the journey and stepped into the established building of the ZPD. "Hey, guys!" Clawhauser shouted as they appeared through the door, "I just heard this new Gaze-" but he was interrupted by Nick's frantic expression as he waved his arms horizontally before his own neck in a 'cut-it-out' gesture. Clocking the rabbit’s sunglasses and realizing she must be suffering from last night, the cheetah 'ooh'ed silently as he sat back in his chair, trying his best not to find the oversized shades, meant for a fox-sized head, cute on the rabbit... and apparently failing.

The fox winked at him as he led Judy towards the Bull-Pen, walking just behind Judy with his paws lightly resting on her shoulders.

Sat together - sharing a seat in the front of the Bull-Pen in a room full of rowdy officers, shouting, hooting, and bellowing - Judy struggled to keep her moans of agony silent as the insistent noise grated on her poor ears. Spotting the signs, Nick slipped a red-furred arm around her waist. Judy found the touch soothing, as contact with Nick always was, but it was short lived, as the coming of Bogo was declared and Nick hastily pulled his arm away. With the volume of the room increasing, Judy physically clutched at the side of her skull, and when Bogo stormed into the room and bellowed, "Shut it!" at the top of his voice, her head fell to the table, accompanied by a thin moan.

The noise caught Chief Bogo's attention and, glowering, he leaned in on their table, shifting close to Judy's head as it lay upon the heavenly surface. "Got something to say, Hopps?" he asked, not lowering the volume of his voice.

Judy did not look up and her only reply was a soft gurgle. Bogo glanced from Judy to the fox. "First time," Nick mouthed, then mimed chugging back a large glass of alcohol. "Actually, I was wondering, Sir," he continued softly, "if you would consider sending her home for the day."

Bogo stood upright, his volume at its usual high level, "It is not my problem if my officers can't hold their liquor, Wilde. Now, where was I?" With that he returned to his usual position, handing out the relevant files to the officers in question. "Oh, yes. Fangmeyer and Delgato, the Mayor has asked I send some officers from school to school to deliver a talk about drug safety - this will be your responsibility. Grizzoli, you and Snarlov are to patrol the East Border of the Rainforest District - there's been a lot of reported dealings in that area."

"Wolfard, you're to tail a suspected drug dealer. If you see him making a deal, call in and intercept. Trunkaby, Higgins, McHorn and Rhinowitz; I want you four in tactical armor in half an hour, for a drug bust, here in Precinct One. If our sources are correct, we've got an entire flat full of crack cocaïne, right under our noses. Brake in, and clear it out." Taking the files, the last of the officers made their way out. "

"And now, Officers Hopps, and Wilde..." he waited several seconds longer, until the last of the officers had filed out of the room, leaving them alone. ”Good work on the arson case at 'Ladders'," he began, his voice in tones more bearable to the rabbit. "I have officially assigned you two to investigate it. If you can find the arsonist and bring him in, it won't only look good on your report, but it'll give me some good backing to push for detective with."

"Thank you, Sir," Judy chirped, lifting her head from the desk, the news being promising enough for her to make the effort. "We'll do our very best, I promise."

The Chief cracked a thin smile at them, then spoke, his voice rich with a rare show of affection, "From you two? I would expect nothing less." Then he grunted - either realizing how unfamiliar he was behaving or deciding they'd had enough - and returned to his status of 'The Chief', his voice shifting to its usual professional tones.

"Dismissed."

Both Officers saluted, then departed from the room. Nick pushed the door open for Judy and stepped aside, allowing her to go through first, before stepping out himself. "And, Wilde?" Bogo called, now resting behind his desk, and making the fox freeze at the doorway. "You still owe me that overtime." Nick winced and turned to the Chief, seeing him absently flicking through some files.

"Erm... yes - yes, Sir." Biting his lip, Nick turned, and followed Judy. Was agreeing to unpaid overtime worth it for an evening off with the best bunny in the world? Absolutely. Did he still hate filling out paperwork, especially when he wasn't even getting paid? Yes.

Watching his reaction through the corner of his eyes, Bogo waited until the door was shut, and then grinned at the fox’s reaction. Chuckling as he sat back in his desk, his eyes fell upon the two-foot stack of paperwork he had to fill-in and his mood instantly soured. Working with schools always required a lot of paperwork, and the number of schools Fangmeyer and Delgato would be going to at such short notice was of no help. But that was nothing compared with the amount of paperwork required for a drugs bust – permission to use the tactical armor alone took a great deal of filling-in...

Sighing bitterly, Bogo picked up the first sheet of paper from the stack and looked at what it was for… and, to top it all off, he had to get it verified that he was giving two officers below the rank of detective, detective level work. Pulling out his pen, he made ready to write.

After a minute of not writing a thing and staring at the pile of paper, Bogo set his pen back down - music for motivation, that's what he needed - and so, pulling out his phone, he opened his music selection, went to 'G'... and started listening to his favorite albums while muttering the words under his breath as he wrote.

'I messed up tonight, I lost another fight...'

...

For the second time, the husk of Ladders and Ladders and Co. came into view as Nick drove their ZPD cruiser towards the scene. Judy was in the front passenger seat, with the backside of the seat down so she could lie herself down, all the while with Nick's bigger glasses still over her head. The car pulled to a stop and Nick looked upon the building before him. The clean-up crew were in full operation, a couple of small news teams were present and filming them. And then, Nick looked upon the rabbit beside him.

A smile crept across his face as he heard the rhythmic breathing of sleep, with her mouth hanging slightly open. Lowering the back of his own seat, he shifted himself so his head was more or less level with the rabbit’s. With a tender paw, he reached out and slid the glasses away from Judy's eyes to better see her adorable face. Putting his glasses on the dashboard, he reached out with his paw again and, in a gesture even more tender than the last, he stroked the very tip of Judy's nose with the back of his finger, loving the soft smile which crept across her face.

Then finally, silently, Nick leaned across, and took in a breath of Judy's scent...

...it wasn't the kiss Judy was hoping for, while pretending to be asleep, but it'd do.

Then Nick got out of the car, opening and shutting the door quietly enough so as not to wake the rabbit, but she was already awake and when she opened her eyes with a start, she realized he had left. "Nick?" she called faintly in the loneliness of the now uncomfortable space. It got her heart to squeeze in trepidation that got her body moving, and she got out of the car seconds later.

The fox turned to her, smiling, before he spoke, "Stay here, Judy," Nick tried to affirm soothingly, "Bogo doesn't have to know his favorite officer spent the day sleeping off a hangover in a police car."

"No, Nick. I want to come with you." She walked to stand by his side to his lackless surprise.

"Sleep it off, Carrots," Nick repeated, his voice becoming more stubborn, "you'll feel better if you just rest; I don't like to see you struggling."

Judy noticed the change in Nick voice, and her tone became slightly more resentful, "Nick, I'm fine."

Then he groaned, rubbing his forehead with his paw. "Why can't you just take my advice, Hopps?" Judy was startled as his voice became suddenly strained and bitter, until her scrutiny was broken as he huffed and turned away.

"... What?"

"Just take my advice!" he called over his shoulder.

"But... I want to be with you!" she called, but Nick was too far gone, marching away with his paws shoved in his pockets as he made his way to the burnt-out factory. The truth of it was she didn't want to sleep because moments like this were special to her. At the end of the day, when her time for work was over and she found herself with nothing to do until work started again, she could sleep... but not now.

While it was true that 'at moments when she was laying on her bed, waiting for the day to end, bored out of her skull' she did realize she had no life outside her work... it was at moments like 'this' that she realized just how lucky she was. If she had Nick, the most mundane tasks became enjoyable. If she had Nick, she could face each and every day with a smile on her face. If she had Nick, she could make do without hobbies or interests, make due without places to go and without the opportunity to visit family members... just so long as she had Nick, she could be happy.

Every moment she and Nick shared together were special to her... and she was not going to lose a second of it just because she had a hangover. A fresh resolve coming - which diminished the fear that she had upset her friend, and that she should do as he head said as to appease him - a smile spread on her face and she ran on her padded feet to catch up to the fox, locking the car up as she ran stealthily.

Nick grumbled to himself as he reached the half-way mark between the car and Ladders and Ladders. But the subject of his grumbles were not upon the rabbit, they were upon himself. He didn't like raising his voice against Judy like that - in fact, he hated it - but Judy didn't know when to stop and take a breath and he had to raise his voice to get her to listen.

He was so deep in thought that he no idea of the rabbit racing up behind him. Several paces behind, a grin on her face, running fast; Judy leapt up through the air, launching herself at Nick. Her body collided with his, and she wrapped her legs around his neck, putting her paws over his eyes as he stumbled forward, yelling in surprise, as he tripped to the ground.

Landing on the pads of his paws without injury, Nick quickly realized what had happened and twisted his body, taking hold of one of Judy's paws and pivoting her off his shoulder. She 'eep'ed as she was flipped beneath him but - as he came closer, while baring his teeth playfully, pretending he was about to bite her throat - Judy propelled a powerful shove in his stomach and he was sent flying up and, surprisingly, ended up on his feet.

"Come on, Nick!" she called playfully, standing and racing towards the door, giggling, "last one in is a shifty fox!"

He laughed outwardly as he set running after her, he could never ever be really mad at her.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

The particles of ash, which the air was thick with, shone up bright in the beams of light that filtered through the many broken windows in the old abandoned factory. Officer Hopps and Wilde walked — their footsteps quiet for how silent it was — as they searched the first floor of the burnt remains of the building.

"It's kinda eerie. Don't you think?" asked the rabbit as she leaned down with a torch to examine the broken glass by one of the windows. "It's so quiet, and dark." Despite the fact the early morning sun was shining through the empty window frames, apart from where the light directly fell, the room was otherwise enshrouded in dark.

"You have a right to be scared..." Judy looked over her shoulder at Nick — his tone like the place itself — to see him behaving dramatically, a little overly-so, in the darkness, with the left half of his face bathed in strong light. "It's the old ghost, you see. The mammal who first started Ladders and Ladders was insane. When the company was going down the slide, in debt beyond recovery, he hung himself... using one of his own unsold ladders." Nick stood tall and intimidating in the blackness of the room, and he started to slowly pace forwards, the light that was on his face disappearing, he became but a menacing silhouette... Judy was nearly half-impressed.

"And now," he continued, "they say his ghost wanders the factory, coaxing all who enter to take a ladder or two before they leave. Some do, but they all come to a terrible end; it's fine if they use the ladder in the daytime, but," with that he leapt forwards so he was towering over Judy, his paws high with his black claws glinting, while he bellowed, "but BOO, in the middle of the NIGHT!" He held that pose for several seconds as the rabbit watched him, nonplussed.

"... Was even a word of that true?"

"No, Hopps," he shrugged, "not a word." They stood, or in Judy's case crouched, there for a few seconds, staring at each other. Nick returned to a normal pose, scratched his neck, then cleared his throat, "Find something?"

"Yes," she concluded while turning back to the shards, "look at this glass; it's all smashed just like the rest of the windows on this building, but this one has been smashed 'in'. The rest of the windows are smashed 'out', presumably from the heat of the fire. But I would say this has been broken by someone on the outside... and by looking at the patterns of the cracks, I'd say it was done with a single heavy impact, rather than intense heat."

"Something, like this?" Nick mused aloud, picking up a heavy, fist-sized object on which he had just stubbed his foot in the darkness. It was a rock. He rubbed the side of the rock between thumb and finger. In truth, the rock was an old brick, and a piece of the rubble crumbled off into his furry fingers.

"Yeah," said the rabbit, "that would do it. Can you gather anything from it?"

He crumbled off a little more of the blackened rubble — which was the cement attached to the brick — and looked closer at it, rolling it through his fingers. "It's old," he examined, "and quite a bit bigger than most building bricks."

"It's, for industrial use then?"

"I should think so. And..." he sniffed, then leaned closer into the brick and sniffed again. "...and, a scent?" Judy watched with interest, and more than a little awe, at the fox's exceptional scent of smell — which was highly attuned, even by fox standards — as he turned the brick over in his paws. It was as though his nose acted on its own, while it moved across the brick to find a part of it which must have smelt particularly strong to that fine, strong nose, which was actually, Judy had realized one day, a very deep shade of purple... 'much like her eyes' as Nick had mentioned time and time on.

"Wait— I recognize..." His head recoiled harshly away from the rock, with his paw nearly dropping the scarred piece of brickness, while his expression of thoughts turned into a bewildered surprise. "Finnick?"

"For real? You have to be sure; we can't investigate further on just a possible hunch, especially when the scent could belong to any of a hundred other mamm—"

“Hopps," he interrupted firmly, "Fin has a very distinct smell… kind of a mix between testosterone and crack cocaïne." He turned the brick over in his paws. "This is definitely him."

"Finnick does drugs?"

"Carrots... me and Fin lived off the same income for years, and yet I have a decent flat in a nice part of town. And he lives in the back of a van. Where did you think his money went?"

"Ohh— I see." An uneasy silence fell. "Did... did you ev—"

"No, don't."

"Well, which, Nick? No you didn't, or no don’t ask?"

"Just leave it, Carrots."

"Nick, look, what's in the past doesn't—"

"Judy." She stopped, instantly, and gazed up at his somber expression to see him slowly shake his head once from left to right, before his lips moved and he spoke again, his voice soft and controlled... but Judy could tell by his eyes how he was really feeling deep inside.

"All I want to say, for now, is that no good ever comes of drugs. It tore my family apart, it tore my life apart, and then, it tried to tare me apart.” She stared, lost, in his emeralds. His eyes, which usually radiated such warmth and compassion, were cold and distant, and deeply-deeply hurt. There was so much pain concealed and locked up in those eyes at that moment that Judy felt a shiver run through her as a dozen dark thoughts flashed to the forefront of her mind.

Thoughts provoked by the words Nick had just spoken, and all of the possible implications thereof. She had often wondered about Nick's past and, clearly, had sub-consciously conjured a dozen of possibilities, which appeared 'almost confirmed' by what he had said, thus they became visualized before her. The thoughts of his past which passed through Judy's mind... and looking into the pained eyes of the fox to whom that exact past belonged to, it proved too much for the empathetic rabbit to manage.

She... she could not face him.

"Come on," she cut briskly, "lets go check out the 'point of origin'." She turned and headed towards the door, leaving before Nick could get a word out. Her pace was hurried but steady, and the way her head lowered slightly — to meet the back of her paw that was raised to wipe something off from her eyes — spoke volumes to Nick about how she had taken his behavior.

About as bad as I thought she would. Nick sighed. She is a 'very' emotional bunny.

He knew he should go to comfort her, and he would, at least soon. A minute was needed, just a little time on his own for him to calm, and then he would sort things out with Judy... but then, from some steps up the staircase, Nick heard a sound which almost broke his heart: A single, quiet, and suppressed sob.

Don't you dare, Nick, don't you dare 'take a minute. Judy needs you now. Go, go to her.

...

Judy could feel herself shivering, and knew that trying to take another step would be pointless, and so remained still, two thirds of the way up of the flight of stairs that crawled to the third floor. She sniffed loudly and raised a paw to wipe away yet another tear which was forming — she was going to start crying for real in a few seconds if composure was not to be met.

She couldn't stop the montage of images playing through her mind — things she didn't even have any proof to have had happened: the thought of young Nick, cowering and crying outside the Junior Ranger Scouts; the image of him standing alone at his parents’ funeral; the sense of how lonely, depressed and hopeless life must have been for him as a teenager. The first time be broke the law, the first time he outright conned a good mammal out of their money, the first time he took drugs, if he ever did that is, the first night in a prison cell, the first...

Though these last points were less significant than the first, with 'his mother’s funeral’ outweighing 'the first time he conned', Judy knew that — under his impeccable mask of emotional stability — everything he had ever done in his early life: every con, lie and cheat; had chipped away at his self-respect... leaving him almost soulless.

Lost, unhappy, alone. Set to wonder the streets; forsaken in a crowd; lost in familiar territory and spending everyday telling himself life was good, and that he was happy just because he couldn't face the fact his life... was less then pointless. With these thoughts passing through her mind — such dark, terrible thoughts about the kind, sweet fox that she loved — it was no wonder Judy was now in tears.

...

The fox stood at the bottom of the staircase, looking up at the sight before him. His ear twitched as he heard her take in another sad sniff and then, after a long and silent sigh, he slowly climbed the path towards her.

...

Judy felt a touch on her shoulder, and knew instantly it was Nick — only he could be so gentle and tender — but a paw on the shoulder wasn't enough. She needed more, damn it... besides that 'Nick' needed more! She half-turned to face him, putting her paws around his waist and pressing her head into his chest. The fox reacted instantly and wrapped his arms full around her. The warmth of his body, his musky scent was almost unnaturally comforting to the rabbit.

And the warmth of the bunny body pressing against him, her sweet earthy smell provided a great deal of comfort to Nick too. Not letting go of his waist, Judy wiped her eyes against Nick's blue shirt. "How are y' hanging, little Bunbun?"

"Your life-story’s sad," she muttered. Nick chuckled heartlessly.

"I know Hopps – believe me, I know… but it's the only one I've got. Besides," he added after a moment, pulling Judy just a little closer into him, "it may have started pretty badly, but it's improved a hell of a lot this last year or so."

"Anyway," she huffed, though already in a better mood than before, "of course I'm okay. It should be me asking you that."

"I know Jules," he said, raising a paw to caress the back of Judy's head, rubbing it in a soothing motion and loving the small contented hmmm she hummed at his doing so, quite unaware that the main reason she hmm’ed was because he had used that name again. His mood soured as he went back to what had caused her gloom in the first place... his past. There was something he had to tell her, now. He shied.

"Look, Judy, let me get this straight. You've known me more than long enough to know that I don't talk about my past... to anyone... ever. Most of the time it's simply because I don't trust them enough. I'm worried they'd mock me or something else stupid… otherwise there's just no need for them to know. But, for you it's… you know— it's different…" He looked down at her to see her tear-bleary amethysts looking back. Her eyes were wide and her pupils dilated. Her expression was mostly blank — as she listened closely, hanging on every word he spoke — but twitched with emotion, pure emotion, emotion she was feeling only for him and only because of him.

It was sweet, it was kind, it was patient, caring and understanding... and it reminded Nick a great deal of that moment on the Gondola... that moment when he first realized she cared for him, the first moment he realized he loved her.

"I... I do not 'not tell you' because I don't trust you or something," he continued through a complicated exhale, "I trust you more than I've ever trusted anyone. But I 'don't tell you' because I don't want to hurt you, emotionally. I know I joke about it sometimes but you really are an emotional bunny, and I'd hate to see you tearing yourself apart for something that happened to me.” His eyes tried to distract him from the next words but the bunny next to him made it impossible to do so, “Even with how I... how I feel a— a-about you,"

Damn it Nick, you're not even admitting how you feel to her and you're choking up... you're really gonna screw-up bad when you finally get the guts to tell her.

"I still don't want to recite parts of it willingly. So, you know, you don't want to know, even if you think you do. And I don't want to tell you so... shall we just leave it at that?"

Judy groaned just a little, then rubbed her forehead with the palm of her paw, before letting her head fall back against Nick's chest. "I duunnow, Nick," she said. "I can't think right at the moment; my head feels like it's been smashed with a mallet... and now my heart feels like it's been turned to lead." Judy breathed again, her tears all gone as she pushed her head firmer into his chest, which was soft and warm, even if it was covered with his shirt... she would’ve loved to feel how soft and warm his chest would’ve been without it tho.

Both felt much better than they had after their talk, and Nick's green eyes, again, were full of compassionate love as they leered towards the rabbit in his arms. Wrapping his arms closer around her, he raised the angle of her head slightly more and moved his muzzle a little closer to hers. "Well, I have something that'll lighten your mood." Judy gazed up, lost in the warmth of his emerald eyes. She felt her breath hitch and knew she was about to start shivering with the anticipation. Lowering her eyelids slightly, she allowed her lips to part — just a little — in preparation for what was surely to come...

... And then Nick ruined everything with his next two words, "A joke!"

The sweet little smile she was wearing fell... "Nick, now's really not the time to—"

"So, one day two carrots, who were best friends, were walking together down the road."

"Nick, I—"

"They stepped off the curb and a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over."

"Nick, this really isn't—"

"The uninjured carrot called 911 and helped his injured friend as best he was able."

"You’re not even listing to me, are—"

"The injured carrot was taken to emergency at the hospital and was rushed into surgery, and after a long and agonizing wait..."

She shied, "Well..?"

"The doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured carrot, I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through."

"Oh, God, I know where this is going."

"The bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life!" At his laughter — and Judy's lack thereof — she turned to walk away from him. Nick laughed even louder at the scowl she wore, and clutched her closer to himself, leaning forwards to tussle at her ears.

Before he could to this, however, her elbow came back and introduced itself to his gut and his gut responded with making the fox bend double before the rabbit — and her elbow — marched off up the stairs... but, if anything, her reaction only amused him further and he found himself in the unusual situation of being hunched over with a paw to his chest in pain, whilst winded, and also laughing so much at the hilarity of the situation that he could hardly think.

Because his laughing showed no signs of stopping, Judy turned at the top of the stairs to shout, "Nick, for crying out loud, get a fluffing hold on yourself!"

"H-h-h-Hey!" Nick wheezed, short of breath, in part because of his profuse laughing and in part because of the blow to his stomach, "w-watch the language, F-F-Fluffbutt!"

...

Shortly after, both he and Judy were stood on the fourth floor and pulling away the crumbly and dirty pieces of wood in the center of the room, which had burnt down to the consistency of charcoal. This large pile of wood that was the point of origin, several feet across and several feet high, was where the most information about the fire could — supposedly — be found. With this in mind, they set about clearing the pile of ashiness, tugging away at the large heap in the center of the room to see if there was anything of interest beneath.

"You really expect to find anything in here?" Nick asked, pulling away yet another sizable piece of blackened charcoal, "we already found the incendiary device."

"Nick, we have to be thorougher with this," asserted Judy, pulling off a piece of burnt wood from the opposite side, "you heard what Bogo said, 'if we do a good job here, it'll help us get detective."

He pulled up another piece, and started lifting it towards him. "I know, it's just—" The wood, mere charcoal after the fire, splintered and then collapsed into him, enveloping him in a cloud of black ash. "Urghh! Urgh-no. I'm getting covered in this stuff, argh, God's sake!" He threw away what was left of the wood he was holding and started frantically patting and ruffing up his fur, trying to remove that which he could, which wasn't much. "Hopps, this grit has worked right down to my skin; have you got any clue how hard it is to shift grime embedded like this?"

"Nick," she interjected flatly, "I grew up on a farm."

Okay, fair point. Nick thought, before asking, "Well... well then how did you get clean?"

"Well, we all used communal showers back in Bunnyburrow. The best way to get clean was to have someone else with you to help you. We would wash one another’s backs, scrub right down to the skin and help get up a good sud with the soap." She just dropped the next words in, an offpaw comment, as though it was nothing... "I'll come and have my shower with you, if you like, and give you a paw in getting clean."

The image which flashed into Nick's mind, it froze him.

He and Judy were stood in a tiled room — unmistakably a bathroom. Neither he nor Judy had any cloths on, but were none the less quite comfortable to stand against one another, their bodies pressing together in the hot, steamy room. They stood close, very close, beneath the shower head which bathed them in soft, watery heat. Nick tenderly wrapped his arms around Judy's neck to gently massage soap into her shoulders and back. Judy's small paws worked suds deeper into the fur on Nick's chest — the suds thickening — her paws moved lower, lower... looower.

"Nick? Niii~iiick? Nick!" Judy poked Nick in the chest for the fourth time, "Hey, Nick!" she called, louder than before. He blinked, then looked down at her.

Now, what's got his tail wagging like that? Judy thought coyly, fully aware of what must surely be going through Nick's mind, as she turned side-on from him to carry on clearing the burnt wood. She smiled at him, but he only gave her an odd stare in return. She thought for something to say, hoping to move on from the silence. Thinking quickly, she took in his appearance — the perfectly groomed fox Judy had seen, when she had opened the door that morning, was replaced with a scruffy one with patchy black fur, blunted nails, soot-embedded features and a tail which looked about as light and fluffy as if a bucket of water had splashed upon it.

"You know," she began, "that's quite a fashion scene you've got there, ol' Nickey boy!" Judy hoped that this comment would strike up a conversation, which would not only move them away from this silence, but also give them some fun banter to play around with whilst working. So long that Nick took the offer and engaged in the banter... which, as always, he did.

"It's the latest fashion, you know," he humoured her with an uppity voice and a 'too good for you' expression. "I can't expect you to keep up with it all — but black patches of soot and horribly matted fur is really 'in', this season. Did I tell you I've been asked to attend a fashion show this weekend? I'll have to clear it with my secretary, obviously. But I might attend."

Grinning, the rabbit went along with the performance, "If you're not too busy having your nails filed by one of the many foxy ladies you have your eye on at the moment."

Well, there is one foxy lady I like the look of. But in this instance 'fox' is only used metaphorically, because physically... she be a rabbit.

"Quite," he said, with little option to add anything else without openly admitting his affections for his partner of stunted height there and then. Picking up another piece of rubble, he set back to work as he continued his 'rich, arrogant, fashion-eccentric billionaire' play-act with Judy. Without looking away from the fox, Judy pulled another piece of wreckage from the pile. The fox took a double take at what she held... and then she saw his face turn to a look of shock and horror as his ears shot flat against his head, his tail stood erect, the fur on his neck bristled, eyes wide, mouth open and sucking in a gasp of air...

Judy's eyes, after a moment of confusion, darted to that which she held.

"Aaaaghh!!"

Recoiling from the object, it dropped to the floor and she sprang away, utterly bewildered by what it was...

A fresh, skeletal, limb.

 ...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

It's amazing: The sobering effects of discovering a corpse.

Forget Hair-of-the-dog, forget drinking water and eating greasy foods, forget headache pills, coffee, any hangover-away pills you care to mention; and going for a run... if you really want to clear away a hangover, suddenly discover the charred, skeletal remains of a corpse.

"God's Bones!" Judy cried, wiping her paw furiously off on her vest — trying to remove as much 'burnt dead-person' as she could. "It's murder!?" Nick was frozen, unable to think or move as he stared at the limb, while Judy pulled out her police radio. "This is Hopps reporting from 'Ladders'," she called — not shouting, but definitely louder than usual, "Clawhauser, put me through to Bogo."

"On it," came Clawauser's reply.

A moment of static, and then, "Officer Hopps, this is Bogo. What's your status?"

"We just found a body, Sir; buried beneath a pile of wood at the point of origin."

"Roger that, Hopps. Sending you backup now. Can you identify the body’s gender or species?"

"It’s, err—" she leaned to get a closer look at what little she could see "—unknown at this time, Sir."

"Alright. Try and determine their species; backup's inbound."

"Copy." She returned the receiver, breathed deeply, then turned to Nick. "...Nick?" He was stock-still, so she called again, "Nick." An ear flicked. "Nick!" Like an elastic band severing, his head shot around to gawp at her, his mouth opened but he could't appear to find the words. Judy took a breath, then sidled across to him, and slipped her paw into his.

"You okay?" She asked quietly.

His paw closed around hers.

"Hhhh, yeah. Just shocked me, is all." His gaze flicked to the limb which was lying twisted on the floor — then back to Judy. "Anyway, enough about me. How are you?"

"Shook up," she answered airily with a shrug and a tremor in her voice, which told Nick she was rather more than just 'shook up',"but— you know… we've got a job to do. So..." Nick looked at the small, soft paw he realized he was holding, and rubbed the pad of his thumb gently across the top of her paw.

"Nick," said Judy after several seconds, "we have to at least find out what species this is."

"Okay, Hopps," he returned, reluctantly releasing her paw, and Judy reluctantly taking her paw away, before they both silently — and carefully — moved the rubble aside, where the corpse’s head most likely was. Judy noticed Nick’s nose wrinkling and decided that the best emotional support for each of them would be a little light conversation.

"Guess this must smell pretty bad," she tried to get them distracted from the foulness, "that because of the decomposition?"

"In part. It's that, the stink of the burnt wood, the mold embedded in this place, and I've never liked Finnick's smell ever since I met him. It's that, and..." They pulled away the last piece of rubble and the skull became visible. Judy gaped. Nick's mouth dropped.

The skeleton... was that of a fennec fox.

"...and I've just had a horrible premonition." With that his phone was out of his pocket and Nick was scrolling through his, almost ridiculously, short list of contacts. "Damn it," he muttered, coming to the end of the short list, "I deleted his number, didn't I?" With the flick of a thumb, he opened the phone’s keypad. Bringing a paw to his head, he rubbed his closed eyes in an effort to remember the number of need.

"Who are you phoning?" Judy asked, though she knew the answer.

"Finnick," Nick replied as he started tapping numbers into his device, "I haven't even spoken to him since I left for the academy... It's ringing." They booth stood in silence while ring after ring echoed dully through the transmitter of Nick's phone, loud in the otherwise silent factory.

Booooooooop.

"Damn it!" Hanging up, Nick furiously pounded redial into his phone.

"No answer?" Judy asked.

"No, but that's hardly surprising under the circumstances. You know, I texted him once after I passed at the academy," his phone started to ring, "—telling him that I'd made it through and that I'd be working with you— and he texted me back saying... well... on second thought, you don't need to know exactly what he said— but it made his views on the subject pretty clear."

Booooooooop.

Nick did't shout this time, and as he tapped redial into his phone, he merely fussed a low growl, "I'm hoping if I keep phoning" the fox began explaining with the edge of desperation lining his voice, "that he'll answer, old ties and all that… he may just be—"

With a click, his call was answered... but no voice spoke. "Fin! You there? Talk to me, pall."

"Don't call me your pall; I ain't ever been your pall."

Nick huffed in relief at hearing the gruff, familiar voice which shouted angrily down at him through the phone, looking to Judy and saying, "It isn't Fin."

"Der hell it is Fin! W'at der hell you wan't anyway?"

"Just checking to make sure you’re not dead is all."

"Have you gone nuts? Cause I ain't dead, why’d I be dead?"

"Well, you remember Ladders and Ladders?"

"...dat der wearhouse we broken into couple'a years back an nearly got ourselves arrested for nothin' but a heap of junk?"

Nick's eyes flicked up to look at the raised eyebrows, crossed arms and thumping foot of his partner before speaking, "Erm... yeah, that's the one."

"Whad about it?"

"It's burnt down, and me and Hopps found this—"

"Nick, what are you doing?" Judy breathed into his ear as the sound of approaching ZPD cars made themselves heard.

"Erm... Just a minute Fin." He pressed the mute button. "What?"

"You can't give away information like that to a suspect," she said, still whispering out of habit and natural convention even though Finnick was nowhere near within earshot.

"What? How is Fin a suspect?"

"This place is full of his scent... you said so yourself!"

"Judy, Fin is not a killer. He's many things but not a killer."

"Alright— well— tell him, just don't give him any details."

Nodding, he turned off the mute. "Yeah, we found signs that a fox of some kind had been here and I just wanted to check you're okay."

"Right... whad, is dat it?"

"Just about... sooo, you still selling Pawpsicles?"

"Narh, I got myself a better income deze dayz."

There was a lengthy pause.

"Well, it was nice talking to ya again."

"Wadever, don't you be goin' all mushy on me, Nick."

"Hah, wouldnt dream of it, Fin."

Finnick hung up.

"So, it's murder now?" Judy asked, having calmed down enough to take in the situation. Outside, the doors of several cars could be heard opening as the officers surely exited the vehicles.

"Accidental, yeah, but murder none the less."

"It's disgusting. Probably a drunk or a couple of youths, who thought they were being funny and this fox had to die for it. We're gonna have to bring Finnick in for questioning, you know." Judy turned her back on the scene, walking away into the rest of the room. Nick stood there and stepped over the corpse but, as he did so, something peculiar about the skull grabbed his attention to which he leaned in for a closer look.

"Ughhh..." Judy grumbled, "when we catch this brute, I'm really gonna—"

"Woh. Woh, woh, wait! Hopps, come here."

She turned at his voice, startled as it was low and whispered through anxiety, thus she replied, "Nick, what are you—"

"Come here, Hopps."

"Nick, I—"

"Now!" Panic stricken, the fox lurched towards Judy and took firm hold of her arm, swinging her weight and actually lifting her off the ground, bringing her around to the sight that made her mouth drop.

"Nick— its skull, is— is that a—"

"Yep... that's a bullet hole."

"It— it really is murder and not just an accident?"

"Sure is, Hopps. Brutal, coldblooded, murder."

Behind them, the door burst open and the towering and, under the current circumstances, reassuring figure of Chief Bogo stepped in. "This is starting to become a habit with you two," he bellowed as he approached. "Now, what dastardly plot to enslave the world have you uncovered this time?"

 ...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

When a body has been found — and if it is known with assurance that the crime is murder — then the case is handed expressly to the 'officials' of Zootopia's Murder Investigation Bureau. These 'officials' of the M.I.B. spend much of their time as standard officers of the ZPD, but when a murder victim is found, they will take over the investigation (regardless of the previous officers’ involvement in the case) until they have thoroughly searched the scene for evidence and tell-tail signs which other officers, not trained to such a high level, might have missed.

And so, after talking shortly with Chief Bogo, officers Hopps and Wilde were dismissed from the scene, while officers H. Leopold and G. Jefferson (the former being an all-business, surly lion and the latter being a somewhat sloppier tiger of slightly inferior rank) searched the premises and read Hopps' written report on the matter so far. With Bogo saying 'he didn't care what they did' for the three or four hours, time which would take officers Leopold and Jefferson to conduct a full search of the warehouse, while Hopps and Wilde decided to follow up on a possibly interesting lead... but — because of Nick's past connections with said lead — they decided to do it on the QT.

Nick drove; Judy sat in the front passenger seat. The car pulled forwards, as slow as though it was driving through treacle, on through this dank, rough part of the city. Soho. Here, the houses were small and the people many. He continued to drive, under a sign written in bright red neon, the words: Ladylove's Bar. Lap dancing, topless attendants, poll dancing and private booths. The building was two stories high and unpainted, its brickwork bare and crumbling. The windows were so greasy, they hardly deserved the characterization’s name.

"Topless attendants?" Judy asked, one shade away from being mortified, "I didn't think that was even legal!"

"Oh, they keep their bras on," Nick reassured, then added a moment later, "well, most of them do anyway, but they all have their price."

"Their price? You mean them willing to go that far just for money?"

"Hah! This may surprise you, Hopps, but not many strippers follow their profession out of choice, most of them are just regular people with low morals, who are so broke they can't afford to do otherwise."

"Jeez, Nick; what on Earth are we doing here?"

"Well," he said, sitting back in the driver’s seat, "Finn has always been attracted to the more, how to put this... sleazier places in this city. And Soho definably constitutes sleazy— you heard what he said on the phone 'I got a better income', I reckon he's got a proper— though no more respectable job. Inside a gambling den perhaps? If we could just find his van, we'll find the fox."

Nick pulled to a stop at a red light and a procession of rusting, dented and scratched cars started passing across the way. Looking to the pavement, Nick spotted a female rabbit who was not unlike Judy, in her features and body shape, but utterly different. She was slightly taller, with fur more creamy in color and a lot less well kept. Her face was tight and mean and in place of Judy's bright amethyst eyes, her eyes where a dull shade of grey — as though all sense of hope and joy had been drained from them. And in place of Judy's uniform was a pair of 'fashionably ripped' jeans and an old white shirt of dangerously low cut. She dragged from a fat spliff (of something which obviously wasn't just tobacco) as she stood with her pawbag on the pavement. Most people would assume she was just waiting for a bus or something... Nick knew better.

The red fox spotted her client even before the rabbit-hooker did — people always had 'that walk' when doing what he was about to do. He was a clear foot taller than any rabbit he had seen before with unhealthy steroid-induced muscles and a face of scars. He wore a pair of jeans also — though these where not ripped — with a shirt, dirty grey in color, with a denim blue jacket over that. He walked with his paws deep in his pockets, glancing from side to side as he walked straight towards the hooker.

The large rabbit stopped beside her and said a few words. Nick saw her lips move as she said something back, and then she blew a smoke ring into the large rabbit’s face. Glancing around him, the larger rabbit handed a twenty pound note to the female, and then they both disappeared into the black shadow of a blind alley. In five minutes, Nick knew, they would re-emerge. The male would wonder back to whatever hole he lived in, and the whore would be back on the pavement, waiting for her next client.

Nick glanced to the rabbit beside him out of the corner of his eye — glad when he realized she either missed the entire exchange, or was too innocent to understand the significance — it didn't matter which. There were some crimes that went on in the city, crimes that just couldn't be stopped, crimes that she really didn't need to know about.

The light turned green and Nick pulled away, driving past several lap-dancing bars, casinos, strip clubs, hotels of a nefarious disposition, and sex shops.

"Well," Nick said lightly, pulling a left turn, taking the car past a casino called 'The Overdraft', "lets hope the Memmle In Black find something before too long."

"Nick," said Judy, "enough with the ‘Memmle in Black’ already. How many times, M.I.B stands for the Murder Investigation Bureau."

"Memmle in Black, Murder Investigation Bureau, Monthly Investment Benefit: it makes no difference. If the acronym is M.I.B. then the acronym is M.I.B. — and I can associate any meaning to it I like."

They drove in silence for some seconds more. Nick drove slowly past the rows of parked cars, occasionally glancing at any vans which passed in the other direction; Judy kept an eye out — looking here and there as Nick drove — seeking for a glimpse of Finnick's van.

"Still," she said at length, her tone mild, "it was nice of them to compliment us on the detailing on our Arson Report."

"It sure was, they probably realized that we'd be better detectives then they would."

"And it was nice of you share that praise with me by telling them how much time you put into writing it."

"It takes it out of you, you know, writing out all that paperwork, making sure I've got every detail."

"And," she said, no longer hiding the edge in her voice, "it was 'nice' of you to let me fill-out said paperwork, while you threw balls of scrap-paper in the bin from twenty pieces!"
"I told you already, Hopps, I've got hyper mobility disorder in my paws; I can't write for a prolonged period of time."

"Oh yeah(!) What was it you told me when I said we should go for a jog under the beautiful full moon at midnight last week? 'You had a bone in your leg', was that the excuse!?"

"No, I didn't..." he said pointedly, "and I resent the implication. The only way I know how to say no to something is to make up a ridiculous excuse... anyway," he said in tones more natural, "it was my old war-wound was me trouble, that was the reason."

Judy paused for effect, knowing a beat or two of silence would have far more impact.
"...I bet I'd get a different reaction if I suggested we went midnight skinny-dipping."

Nick's head slowly turned to look at the rabbit, trying to figure out what she meant. His eyes widened as he figured it out... and then the car lurched forwards as Nick's foot slipped on the accelerator. His mind frozen by the images flashing in his mind, he nearly swerved into incoming traffic and only avoided hitting another driver because Judy sprang forwards and took the wheel.

Judy streaked as the car span — off the road and into a car park — wrestling with the steering wheel and the centrifugal force of the spinning car as she brought it under control. It screeched, it skidded, skittered, tipped, teetered, and then landed back on all four wheels, parallel parked between the casino wall... and a rather ornately-painted van which depicted the Aztec legend of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuat.

The two officers lay panting for a few seconds — panting from the adrenaline rush the near-accident had caused.

Neither moved for several secconds, with Judy still lent over Nick, and grpping tightly onto the steering wheel. She glanced out of the window and noticed the van. She pointed to it, and the fox who was mostly beneath her, arched his head around to see.

"Finnick?" Judy asked.

"Finnick," Nick confirmed.

...

Judy and Wilde slipped into the dark and low-ceilinged confines of the casino. The thick smoke, which hung in the air, drifting down from the ceiling beams, stank of something which suggested a little more than just tobacco. The building was built on many levels — here a raised platform, there a lowered one — each connected up by a small wooden staircase of one or two steps.

The place was packed; its occupants huddled in the dark shadows and many corners of the building, which was yet more claustrophobic because of the thick smoke that hung about the air. Most of the pack — numerous species, but each of them large and grotesque — were too busy with their games of chance to notice them, but some looked. Those who did, normally the largest with scarred faces and broad arms, would bare their teeth and reach into their pockets for either knives or perhaps a gun.

The law had no place here.

Both officers were apprehensive at their situation as they stepped deeper into the gambling den — but knew better than to show it. Judy walked in front — but only Nick, who was for more familiar with such places then he would have liked to have been — could keep an eye on her and, despite the fact the rabbit was in front, it was actually Nick who was leading by keeping his claws pinched on the fabric on the back of Judy's vest and steering her.

Judy, while an amazing officer of the law, was, Nick knew, not nearly trained enough to get on the wrong side of these kinds of places... but then again, no officer was.

Nick kept Judy as safe as possible: whenever a particularly big or menacing mammal came close, he would steer her easily away from them, just in case the mammal, male or female, wanted to grab at them or pull a knife... Nick had seen that once before — from a distance, mind you — it didn't end well, and he had no intention of seeing Judy succumb to the same brutal, sudden and very fatal end.

He lead her safely through to the back of the casino — fixing a stern gaze on everyone they passed, showing the tips of his fangs and keeping his tail high. A few mammals looked as though about to intervene... but then Nick caught their eye and they thought better of it. It took a special kind of training to survive in these places — not the kind of training any 'academy' could provide — training that came naturally after spending many years living in the rough side of Zootopia as Nick had.

He stepped down a small staircase and past another blackjack table. Past a number of pool tables with faded and ripped green-felt tabletops and into a room at the back. Nick knew how to carry himself. He had learnt the hard way that the best way to win a fight was simply to not start one in the first place. He knew how to walk, how to hold his body and the right mix of 'I am no threat, I am worthless, not worth your time' and 'look at me wrong an' I'll break your damn neck' to survive in these kinds of places and at the moment... it was just about the only thing keeping both of them alive.

The uniforms, whatever Judy believed, were of no help here in the Godless, lawless places of the Earth. "Okay, Nick, how are we doing this?" Judy whispered into Nick's ear, trying to keep their presence there nonchalant... blissfully unaware of the fact that the entire establishment had been informed of their presence the moment they had stepped through the doors.

"What do you mean?" he whispered back.

"Are we just here to talk to him, or do we just arrest him on the spot?"

Like we have a chance in hell of arresting someone 'inside' this place...

... Nick thought to himself, but instead said, "We just want to ask him some questions, and see how he reacts."

"Okay."

"Ohh, and let me do the talking."

"Right."

"... To start with, at least."

...

Of all the mammals in the club he was supposed to inform, the runner who had first spotted the arrival of the fox and bunny cop entering had but one more mammal to inform — the new guy; the fennec fox in the backroom who sat, dealing blackjack cards on the table, talking as he did so.

"You up ten pounds? One more card to the dealer. That's sixty against fourth, dealer wins again..." and so on. He hadn't been with them very long, this small fox called 'Finnick' — arriving out of nowhere only a couple of mounts ago — but he had quickly made an impression. Not only could he hold his own in a brawl (of the three fights that had broken out, the small fox had always been left standing at the end... cut and bruised to hell, but standing none the less) but he was also gifted with handling and rigging cards and had already made the casino a small fortune for all the scams he had pulled, undetected by the public.

The wolf leaned into the fox's large ear as he dealt out another hand. The fox stopped dealing as the wolf spoke, and then his eyes flicked up and past the blackjack players and towards the rest of the casino... his usual gruff voice dropping to a low hush.

"Where?"

The wolf pointed.

"Hell." The fox stood briskly and pushed the wolf aside as he stood. Of all the officers of the ZPD, it 'would' be those two. The blackjack players started to complain but the angry face of the fox snarled at them before marching off.

Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, he hoped to slip past Nick and Judy who were obviously looking for, thus made his way towards the fire exit... after being outside he would be far away and very quickly too. His ears caught these long and quick sniffs at his direction but his head didn’t falter to look around because he didn’t want to lose even a second’s moment due to that possibly costing him his freedom.

Movement filled traces in his meaty ears behind him, but even still he didn’t turn around and just reached out in desperation for the bar that would open the fire exit. A red paw grabbed him by his shoulder. 

Damn it!

"Well I'll be damned," said Nick's irritatingly cocky voice, "if it isn't my old pall, Fin."

... Slowly, the small fennec fox turned to the two officers... and then he put on his best 'cheery smile' and talked with a friendly and over-familiar ring to his words, "Nick-Nickey, my old bud; what can I do yer fore?"

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

  • Soho is an area of Westminster - part of the West End of London, England - which is a long established 'entertainment district'... for much of the 20th century, Soho had a reputation as a base for the sex industry and was well known for its night life.

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Chapter Text

"Nick-Nickey, old pall, old bud! Whad can I do yer four?" Nick lowered a suspicious gaze towards his 'friend' as Finnick took another near-unnoticeable step towards the fire exit.

"Hello, Finnick," Nick said in reply, keeping his voice professionally crisp. "Officer Hopps and I were just hoping that we could ask you some questions about the murder of an unknown fennec fox, found in La—"

"An’ what makes you so sure I wuz responsible?"

"Neither Officer Hopps nor myself are implying you are responsible, it's just I caught your scent there and thought I'd see if you knew anything. And, Fin(?) ...stop slowly edging towards the fire exit; I don't want to put you in lock-up but, so help me God, if you take another step I will."

"No, I'm just shifting from foot to foot, das all!"

"Well, you're certainly closer to the exit then you were before... now, do you have anything to tell us?" Finnick took a step away from the fire exit to stand roughly between Nick and Judy. This part of the casino was dimly lit and under-crowded — so their 'conversation' was unnoticed by many of the punters and staff. Turning side-on from Nick, the smaller fox shoved his paws dismissively in his pockets as he spoke, his voice light-toned and mild.

"Look, Nickey, we bin old friends for years now, right?"

"I... guess so??"

"Well in sight of that, I do have one thing to say to you."

"And what's tha—" The small fox moved faster than the eye could see. His back lurched forwards, his fist shot from within his pocket, he stepped into the movement, his shoulders twisted, his arm arched and his paw became a solid rock as it plunged deep into Nick's chest with a sickening sound of fabric and force that drilled within the spot of violence.

It was a professionally dealt powerful punch and it was only Nick's 'standard ZPD issue' body armor, which stopped him from collapsing into a retching and crumpled heap on the floor. Instead, he bent over double and brought both paws to clutch to his stomach — obliviously in pain but not as bad as it could have been. Nick's cry of pain distracted Judy only for a second, but it was more than long enough for Finnick to kick open the fire exit and bolt outside.

"So long, sucker!" They heard Finnick call as he darted off. Judy glowered at the rapidly-retreating fox for a moment before the fire door swung shut again. She could have given chase, but she had priorities.

"Nick," Judy asked, turning back, "you alright?"

"Fine, Hopps," he reassured, his voice a little strained, "just fine."

"You sure? That was a pretty heavy punch."

"Hmm," Nick replied dismissively, "no worse than what you give me, and that's without body-armor, remember?" She sighed, but couldn't say anything more, seeing how he was completely right. Nick spoke again. "Just be glad he didn't have his knuckle dusters on." He patted the rabbit on the shoulder, then continued, "come on, Carrots, lets go catch us an ex-business."

"Nick," Judy muttered, remorsefully, "he's long-gone."

"Actually, my dear sweet Carrots," he said, taking her paw and leading her briskly to one of the side-entrances, "by a severe stroke of luck I think you'll find that that particular alley," he pushed open the door a crack, peeking out into the street, "comes out right..." He leaped into the alley and pulled Judy with him... and the fennec fox, who had thought to have had left both of them far behind skittered to a sudden halt as they appeared, mere feet before him."... Here."

The alley, the three found themselves in, was narrow and very long. It is here where the poor strippers, who couldn’t even afford their dignity, performed nefarious acts for tough males with hard, mean faces, and the money to buy that dignity full. On Finnick's left was the wall of the club – appearing as grimy and wretched as that which resided within — on his right was a six foot wire fence, ahead of him were two officers trained in unarmed combat, and behind? A long flat alley with no turn-offs or exits apart from the fire escape he came out of — which could not be opened from the outside — and the two mammals (being much larger than him) would easily have caught him before he had reached the door anyway.

He had only one option.

Finnick kicked up a little dust towards them and then sprang at the fence. The officers reacted a second too late and Nick reached up to grab Finnick's leg the second after he climbed out of reach. Grunting, he jumped up and started climbing the fence himself as Judy — who could not burrow through solid cement pavement — started to climb beside him.

Finnick reached the top of the fence and dropped the six feet to the floor. He glanced over his shoulder as he started to run and saw Nick and Judy still climbing, but following close behind.

Nick reached the top a second or two later but did not leap over just yet. Judy — with larger and less dexterous feet — was having trouble finding a foothold on the wire mesh. Keeping a firm grip with one paw, he reached down and held a paw out to her. She took it, and Nick swung her over his shoulder. She landed into a tactical role and was instantly running; Nick landed behind her a second later; the small form of Finnick quickly retreating down the long, sleazy street.

"Come on, Nick!" Judy called, shouting over her shoulder and Nick came up to speed. The chase lead them down through alleys of cracked pavements, on over-busy streets and alongside the backs of many disreputable establishments. Darting between the streets, Finnick only just managed to stay again — and would have lost Judy if she had been on her own — but Nick knew the streets just as well as Finnick. Finnick's only advantage was his agility — gaining ground on them at every sudden turn — but Nick and Judy held great advantage regardless. As they were both larger mammals, they had a far wider stride along with more stamina and, had they been chasing on a single flat surface, they would have caught the fox long ago... but his darting and turning kept them somewhat at bay as they closed the gap between him.

The small fox darted across the wide street. Cars screeched to a halt before him. The two officers closed in. Finnick approached the opposite side of the street and Nick came very close behind him, almost managing to grab onto the smaller fox’s arm before Finnick leaped forwards and dove under a car.

"Come on!" shouted Judy as she and Nick hurdled over the bonnet of the car to find... a complete lack of fox.

Only at the honking of a horn behind them did they turn to see...

"Hopps, he's doubled back!" shouted Nick, leaping back over the bonnet of the car to chase after their swift target, who was now running back across the busy road.

"Well," shouted Judy in return, "that trick won't work a second time."

They were back to square one again; all the ground they had gained on Finnick over the source of the chase had been lost in a matter of seconds, all thanks to a simple foxtrick. With the distance he had gained on them, Finnick risked a glance over his shoulder and knew instantly that he could never outrun them both — he only had little legs, and while he was quick when he had to be, his energy would soon be exhausted. He didn't have a chance. Not out here on the street, anyway. Somewhere smaller, that's what he needed, somewhere he could dart and rush here and there until they lost him, and he could slip away.

One of his massive ears — which were plastered flat against his head — pricked up slightly as he heard the rapid slap of paw pads against pavement closing behind him as the officers, again, shortened the gap between him. Looking down the street a way, he spotted a shop door open with a small brown bear stepping out. Finnick's pace quickened as he approached. He leaped snarling towards the bear, who cowered back from the small but very angry creature, and backed away from the open door. Finnick slammed closed the door of the shop, a bakery, as Nick and Judy ran up to the establishment, and he used the moment it took them to re-open the door to scamper away.

"Come on, Hopps," called Nick as he chased after the small fox, who was darting from the front of the shop and into the bread kitchen behind, "we can corner him in here, there's no way out!" Judy ran into the bakery behind Nick and entered the kitchen — well cleaned, with shining metal all around, and ovens slowly baking the raw yeast into bread, lining the walls.

Finnick rushed to where he hoped the back exit would be, but found none. He darted to the other side of the kitchen and found, again, nothing but solid wall. He turned on his heels, gasping for breath, his mind filled with fear, as the officers approached... the officers slowed to walking pace, the rabbit teased a pair of paw cuffs on her belt, almost mockingly.

Lashing out through the fear, Finnick grabbed a number of utensils — sadly out of reach of any knives — and started throwing the assortment of baking trays, rolling pins and bags of flower towards the officers who battered them away, mid flight, without apparent effort... all the while the small fox backed further away... until he came to a sudden stop in the far corner of the room.

...

The shadow of Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde fell upon the small form of Finnick. Pressed against a wall, his eyes darted here and there as he sought for the way out, now more controlled by his primitive, more savage instincts, which still arised in most mammals at moments of heightened emotion even without intoxicants like Nighthowlers.

A satisfied smile on her face, Judy took a step towards him. "Gotcha." A large paw stopped her.

"Hold it," said Nick, looking up with a frown. Judy watched Nick as his eyes examined the almost feral fennec fox, "He's backed against a wall here, literally; knowing Fin, this could get very nasty." Judy took in the image of Finnick before her. His ears were low, claws extended full, crouching down in readiness to strike, and his eyes glinted with a dangerous light. He may have been small, but his claws were sharp and he was more than ready to use his teeth — even two trained officers on one, they could still come out very badly from the encounter.

"Dart him?" Judy asked.

"Dart him." Nick ordered. The small fox’s eyes shot wide in sudden realization as the rabbit officer pulled a dart gun from her holster. Looking desperately about him, Finnick at last spotted his way out. Judy brought the dart gun to bare, but before she could fire, the fox darted behind a large crate before climbing it. Making his actions quicker than Judy's reflexes, the small fox climbed atop of the large crate, reached for a ventilation grate, pulled it away and climbed within.

Growling as she put the gun away, Judy leaped up and onto the crate to give chase, clambering in to follow while Nick shouted, "Judy, I'm not gonna fit in there, I'll go around and see if I can intercept him."

"Copy," Judy shouted, on paws and knees, as she crawled after their suspected target.

...

Finnick glanced over his shoulder at the rabbit following. She was about five feet behind. That didn't seem like much when you were crawling on paws and knees, but once Finnick was out of the vent — he realized — he would be sprinting away, while the rabbit would still be worming about that foul vent, slowly crawling from behind, for at least ten seconds... by which point he would easily have darted away and found a blind alley to hide in, so obscure, even Nick wouldn't think to look there.

Nick followed below, lessening the dull thump, thump, thump as Finnick and Judy crawled along the shaft above him. Tracking it to a wall, which the vent carried on through, Nick ran around to the last room of the bakery. He spotted an exit to the vent, and guessed it would be about ten seconds before Finnick would emerge. He turned to the dozen-or-so bakers who were standing around, kneading dough, rolling out raw yeast and applying flower across the surfaces from large bags.

"Okay everyone, Officer Wilde," he still loved saying that, "ZPD; there might be some trouble in here in a moment, so if you could all please move outside... thank you." The bakers cleared the room without complaint, the thump, thump, thumps moved closer to the exit, and Nick allowed himself a smug smile at how well it was all coming together.

...

Finnick could see the end of the vent in sight. In a few more seconds he would be out of the vent, on the floor, and far away before the damned rabbit in suit, if she could even get out of the vent. He reached the end, cackling as he mocked, "Well, sorry, Fluffarse, but I gotta split!" Finnick dropped to the floor. He felt the floor sweeping away under his feet, a weight against his chest, speed, momentum, and then the wind was knocked out of him as Nick's forearm pinned him heavy against the side of a table close to the rear of the room.

Seeing the smaller fox land, Nick had rushed him, brought him under control with a forearm, and was now keeping his weight against him, ensuring he couldn't move. Nick’s muzzle parted in a cruel smile, his eyes bright with mockery, daring the smaller fox to try it.

Unfortunately... Finnick did.

Finnick arched the fist of his free arm forwards in an unrelaxed hook towards Nick's face. Nick saw the attack a mile off and leaned easily back. The fist returned with a back-paw to strike against his chest, but Nick turned so it hit the forearm that wasn’t pinning down Finnick, a motion which protected Nick from most of the harm, while not allowing the smaller fox any leeway, as blocking properly would’ve risked creating more openings for his wily ex-partner in crime.

Finnick, this time, brought his knee up and into Nick's chest with as much force as he could muster, grunting in effort at the blow’s delivery.

Nick saw the attack coming but, again, could do nothing to block it without risking the smaller fox getting away. He tensed the muscles on his stomach to try and reduce the damage, and hoped for the best.

At hearing the heavy groan of pain, and feeling the hold on himself loosen, Finnick swiftly brought his elbow into the equation and Nick's nose bloodied horribly. There was no 'manning up' to that attack and Nick recoiled sharply away, clutching at his nose with a high-pitched yelp.

Judy had seen all, but was still one foot away from the end of the vent, cursing herself violently at every second, every punch, every blow which the red fox — her fox, her partner — took because she wasn’t there to help him.

Finnick pushed into Nick with a heavy shove and freed himself from the larger fox’s grasp. He dove under the table, while Nick's paws came arching forwards to try and catch the smaller fox in a fox-hug as to hold him in place, but Nick's paw flew fruitlessly through the empty air. With the table between them, Nick moved to circle around the left, and to catch the smaller fox but Finnick moved to the right and would have ran away if Nick hadn’t shot back in response. Finnick moved, Nick copied. Nick moved, Finnick copied. It was a classic Mexican standoff.

Finnick smiled at this realization... but that smile dropped as Judy at long last dropped from the vent to rush to Nick's aid. Realizing Judy could go one way and Nick the other — trapping him in the middle — Finnick rapidly searched through his dwindling bag of tricks and found only one left. He didn't like it at all. He didn't really want to hurt one of his oldest friends and long-term business partner too bad, he didn't want to risk permanent damage to him and he certainly didn't want to risk killing him... but the thing was, he wanted to go to jail even less!

He had only one option. Quick as a flash, his paw had gone to his pocket and he took out a packet of white powder.

Judy realized with horror, instantly, what Finnick was planning as the smaller fox tore open the plastic with his teeth and made to shove the white powder into Nick's face across the table.

Nick too knew he was about to be on the receiving end of a drug overdose if he wasn't careful and so, shooting his paw forwards, he clutched Finnick's paw by the wrist in his own. They stood utterly still for a few moments — Judy frozen in fear, worried that moving would somehow tip the balance and allow Finnick to do the deed — Nick and Finnick's paws trembled because of the energy being pushed into them, shaking from the tension as each pushed into the other.

When you have that much tension in one place... something has to always give.

The forces collapsed on themselves. Chaos theory was proved. Their paws shot without control in directionlessness, thus the part of the kitchen they occupied erupted in a clamor of noise as the objects on the table flew about the room, colliding with other objects.

Finnick stumbled over the table and landed on his feet, instantly making his way to run for an exit... and Nick fell back, his face arctic-white with powder.

Judy cried out in terror as the small fox darted away, rushing to kneel by Nick's side as Nick sat up, coughing and retching to try and clear the substance from his face and lungs, while Finnick rushed out of the front door.

Too caught up with the moment to check for traffic, Finnick ran out blind into the busy road... "Good luck getting out of rehab this time, Nick. Looks like I'm about as good as outta h—" ... and was promptly hit by a car and sent flying through the air to come crashing down into a fruit cart... "s-s-son o-of a—" ...and then the fruit cart collapsed on top of him.

Judy ignored all as she did her best to aid her friend. "Nick, Nick! Oh God, I—"

"C-Carrots," he stuttered, hacking white powder from his mouth, "don't worry, I'm fine."

"Nick, you're not fine, I'm calling in—"

"Hopps," he spluttered, "it's flour!"

"Flour?" She blinked at him and then rubbed her paw over his cheek, examined the white powder on her finger, and licked it. "Flour," she repeated again, tears starting to well in her eyes. Without warning, she threw her arms around Nick's chest and held him tight. Nick returned her hug with equal relief. "... Flour," she affirmed in vitalized finality.

They sat together — Finnick unconscious beneath a pile of apples — kneeling on the floor in the kitchen, held reassuringly in each other’s arms and content to stay there for as long as they could.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

From the depths of nothing, the fox’s vision started to clear. He made to rub his eyes, hoping to rid them of the lingering spots in his vision, but found himself unable to move his arm. The anxiety kicked in and Finnick's vision cleared. Grunting, he tugged at his arm but found that the pawcuffs holding it to the streetlamp, he was sat against, were as sturdy as they looked.

Sat against the metal lamppost, Finnick twisted his waist around at an awkward angle to look at the metal hoop around his wrist — growling as he tugged again and again at the chain in a vain effort to break it open. It was never going to happen. His snarling face turning to a wry smile, the small fox extended a black claw and put it into the keyhole, sticking his tongue out in concentration as he twisted it this way and that.

"That's not gonna get you anywhere," said a voice in front of him. Finnick's head snapped back, snarling, to look at the smug figure of the red fox looming over him — Nick — showing his teeth in a broad grin with his arm resting loosely over the shoulder of Judy, who was leaning against the fox with a smile no less smug, her arms folded against her chest and eyes glancing between Finnick with a look of smugness, and Nick with a look of pride.

"So..." the rabbit continued for Nick, leaning forwards and bending over, her paws resting on her knees as she brought her head down to his level, a quaint little smile on her teasing face... "Are you ready to answer our questions now?" Showing his teeth, Finnick lurched his fist forwards to punch the annoying rabbit squarely in the nose... but his paw snapped to a stop as the pawcuffs pulled taut around his wrist, mere centimeters away from her unflinching and now-grinning face.

"Look, Finn," began Nick as Judy's smile grew in size, having successfully judged the distance and dragged Finnick's self-esteem, as a prize fighter, through the mud, "it's gonna be a lot easier for all of us if you just tell us what we want to know."

The small fox spat at Nick, who leaped back to avoid the mouthful of goz. "Go jump in the lake, copper."

"Thanks, but no thanks," Nick answered without missing a beat, slowly bending over slightly, while Judy stood back upright. "I'm warning you now — Finn — I am not in a playful mood. I am stood before you: My uniform tarnished and torn, my fur matted and wretched, I am covered in sweat, soot, charcoal, burnt-up dead-guy, and now — thanks to you — flour, just to top it off."

"I don't care if you iz cored head to foot in yer own piss; I ain't never gonna talk!"

"Finnick," Nick warned, raising a finger to point down at him with, "if you don't start being a bit more helpful—"

"Whad you gonna do, Nickey, tell me? Whad?"

Nick chuckled, then answered, "Then, my old friend, I drag your butt down to a cell, hurl you in, and melt down the key."

The small fox lurched forwards — Nick did not back down — bringing their sneering faces inches apart. "You put me in lockdown, Nick— and I'll tell them everything. You hear me? Everything. Every single con, crime and scam that 'we' ever pulled." Nick's expression did not change, yet somehow, the way his face froze up said everything. Finnick sat back, crossing his legs at the ankles to give Nick a disregarding gaze. "Face it, Nickey, I could 'ave you arrested jus' as quick az you could me." Eventually — after some uncomfortable silence — a smile broke upon Nick's face. Neither Finnick nor Judy liked it very much. It was a sad little smile, full of acceptance, but acceptance and resolve.

"And then true justice will be served."

"What!" Both cried in unison, each looking to the red fox with eyes, which were wide with both panic and concern... though, while one harbored those feelings for themselves, the other harbored them for Nick.

"B-b-but, Nick!" Judy stammered, "I—"

"Whad the hell has-zis bunny done to ya?" Finnick yelled, "you seriously putting 'the law' before yer own self?"

Nick looked between the rabbit and the small fox; two conversations were waiting for him, but he only cared for one. "Finnick," he said, "me and Hopps are just going for a little chat... you won't 'go' anywhere will you?" The fennec fox rolled his eyes and muttered a number of expletives under his breath, tugging again on the pawcuffs, which could easily have restrained a horse.

Judy was too concerned to really take in Nick's (rather cliché) gag as she stared up at him. Her mouth opened to speak, as he put his blue-uniform-clad arm around her shoulders to lead her away — bringing his index finger to his mouth in a gesture of silence. They walked, turned a corner, and stood in the darkness of the overhanging wall of a skanky, run down hotel.

"Nick, what’re you thinking?" Judy shouted, but keeping her volume down, as she reached behind her head and threw his arm off her shoulders, turning to face him as she spoke.

"Finnick's right—" Nick said "—I'm a crook just as much as he is; the best thing I could do is own up and take my just deserts."

"No! No, you are not just 'some crook', Nick. And to hell with 'just deserves'; are you out of your mind!?"

"I used to make two-hundred and fifty bucks a day, Fluff, and not a penny was acquired honestly."

"Well that was the past you, Nick, the new you is—"

"Judy, a mammal cannot make good all his past sins by saying, 'you know what? I've been really bad up till now, I'll start a new life, and hallelujah, all my past sins are cured'. His arms, which he had raised on either side as he spoke, dropped dejected to his side. "Face it, Hopps, in the eyes of the law, I'm really no less of a crook than Finn is. Do'y think I'd ever have gotten a job there if I had told them about all the stuff I've pulled? No, no I would not have."

"To hell with 'the law', Nick," Judy shouted, "the ZPD need you!"

The ZPD needs me... how nice. Well, looks like I'm gonna have to do this the hard way. "The ZPD ain't gonna miss me when I'm gone, Hopps. They managed long before I came around: They'll survive."

"Well," Judy fumbled with her words, "it... it's not just ZPD who need... you—" slowly, like the dying embers of a fire, she faded off.

Hmm... nearly. But not quite.

"Well who? Bogo certainly doesn't. McHorn? Clawhauser? Leopold? Little Jim the Toymaker’s son?"

Judy looked up and her eyes met his, the hurt clearly visible in her amethysts and overshadowing the normal cheery ring of her voice, "I need you, Nick. Me."

His expression softened... and there it is.

"I mean..." she added quickly, beating down the blush, which tried to form. "You're a very efficient policemammal. You know the city, you know how to talk to people, you have a number of connections, which have come useful in the past. You can keep yourself above the general stresses of the job, and my efficiency would be severely affected if you went away and..." Judy carried on listing all the reason why she thought he made a good copper... not at all what he wanted her to say.

Don't you dare, Hopps, don't you dare try and 'rationalize' what you just said into the cold, hard logic your mind normally works in...

"Carrots," he said, pacing around the corner and towards the cuffed Finnick. "I'm not all that good'a cop— I mean, really— I was one of the bad-guys for about twenty years." She moved her paw to take his arm, but Nick gently tugged his sleeve away. "Look, keep how you feel out of this..." Nick said, intentionally telling the rabbit to do the exact opposite of what he wanted her to, "... you would do better without me."

"But, I have to have a partner! You can't leave me without a partner!"

Not good enough, Judy. He thought as the small fox came into view. Sorry to keep pushing you like this. I know it must be hurting you as much as it's hurting me. But I want to hear it.

"Don't worry, Carrots, the next batch of recruits'll be coming along soon. You might even get assigned a rabbit! Now wouldn't that be better?"

"But I don't want a rabbit!" she called after him, "I want to go out with you!"

The words hung in the air. For a long time; silence. He turned to her, the small fox still out of ear-shot over the sound of traffic, and looked into her face. A small blush was working its way over it, as Judy tried to hide it behind the ear that she brought around the side of her face and across her mouth and cheeks, saying nothing as she looked up at the motionless fox.

Well, what do you know... Nick thought after a long pause... I spend all this time thinking of how I'm gonna tell her, and she does it for me.

"You want to... waht?"

"Uh— I…”

No one expected what happened next. Nick was surprised — Nick was very surprised. Finnick, who had been watching the two, since they re-emerged from around the corner, was surprised. The driver of a black cab and his fare were both surprised. The CCTV camera operative — casually watching the mildly interesting arrest as it unfolded — was surprised. The advanced interdenominational race of super-aliens hovering above the planet’s surface – half-heartedly deciding whether they wanted to invade Zoophon and enslave all mammalkind or not, and deciding it probably wasn't really worth it) — were surprised. Ethel Morris, an elderly spinster having her fifteenth cup of coffee since lunch, was surprised. All the mammals, who later heard the rumour of what had happened, were surprised. The rabbit who was the cause of what happened, Judy, was surprised... come to mention it, she was the most surprised of the lot.

All in all, the general reaction to what happened next was: Surprise.

Judy opened her mouth. She tried — she really tried — to force a word, or at the very least a sound, out of her mouth but found it utterly unresponsive. Judy shut her mouth again and closed her eyes, at least she tried to, but her gaze as it was — locked firmly with Nick's — all she could do was stare into the twinkle in his amazingly-wonderful emeralds, which twinkled with what, worry? Bewilderment? Desire?... Hope? A little of all perhaps.

She stepped forwards, without consciously sending the message to do so from her brain to her foot — as it moved on its own accord — like it was some kind of 'instinct'. A sort of dizziness took over her — blurring her vision and dulling the surrounding sounds — while bringing other things into crystal clarity and perfect attunement... like the sound of her heartbeat, her slow, shallow breaths. She turned her ears towards the fox, whose eyes were glowing a brighter and more vibrant green than she had ever seen in them before, and picked up on every sound of his body.

His heartbeat was rapid — incredibly so — and his breaths were as quick and as shallow as hers. She spotted he was trembling — almost indeterminably — but her eyes appeared suddenly able to take in every feature of his body at once... while all the rest of the world faded into a dull haze. Judy reached out her arm — at least, she was quite sure it was her arm — but if felt sort of numb, and seemed to move on its own accord. The rabbit watched quite motionlessly as the arm attached to her shoulder moved towards Nick and up towards his face.

The arm she thought was hers reached out and clasped the knot of the red fox’s tie. The arm pulled, but it was as though someone else had done it — and that was another strange thing; she didn't feel like she had any weight behind the tug, yet his face shot towards hers with such speed that she must have put her whole weight into it — and she knew it wasn't 'he' who had done it to 'her'... just by how surprised and how wide his eyes shot as he — as she — as they...

Their lips pressed together. That simple soft touch, that tiny little contact, that inconsequential little anatomical juxtaposition of their two orbicularis oris muscles during a state of contraction... which gave cause for shrouded emotions — hither held down, held back, by both mammals for fear the other did not share in such feelings — to rupture and bleed into each of their minds. The kiss that sealed their fate. The kiss that, for the second it lasted at least, was the only thing — the only thing — either Nick or Judy could think about. The kiss that they had both wanted so much for so long. And the kiss...

... The kiss which became the object of forbidden desire for both forever after.

"I'm sorry, Nick, I... I don't want a rabbit," Judy said, trembling, a tear gracing the soft fur of her cheek, her paw still holding his face close to hers. "I want a..." her gaze fell from his to the floor, "... I want a fox."

"And don't you know it."

"Jerk..." a fist thumped into his side, "... And yes, yes I do." Nick shrugged off the soft punch with a light chuckle before sobering and looking back to the rabbit, her lips temptingly close to his own. A temptation which was a little more than what Nick could handle.

Lurching forwards, their lips met a second time. At this, a feeling of security and comfort — along with the burning emotion, which had flamed up inside both at the first union — grew within Judy for now that Nick had actually kissed her back, she knew; thou feeling... was mutual.

Nick reached forwards with a single delicate finger and took the single tear, she had shed, as it dangled from the bottom of her chin. He rubbed it into his fur, with thumb and forefinger, before looking back into the rabbit’s eyes and licking his lips — savoring the taste of 'Judy' which still lingered on them. "So, Judy," he said after a second, "does... this make us—"

"Possibly," she returned, a playful grin on her face, "I guess you'll just have to find out. Assuming you ever get the guts to ask, that is."

"Hey, gimme credit where it's due, Hopps," he chuckled nervously, "I've been thinking up ways of telling you for months now."

"Well, maybe," she whispered on tiptoe into his ear, "you shouldn’t be 'thinking' about asking, but should actually 'ask' someday... You never know, my answer might surprise you."

Closing his eyes, Nick moved his head forwards for a third kiss — quite unable to bereave he had gone, from none in a year, to two in the space of a few seconds — desiring to 'just check' to make sure fox-kissing-rabbit was something she really was okay with; but his eyes opened with surprise as her small paw clamped over his muzzle, keeping it at bay barely a millimeter off her lips.

"Arh— Nick—" she said with a stubbornly-playful edge to her words, "— that's enough for now... we're on duty, remember?" All Nick could do was stare at her shining eyes and cheekily grin, as she lowered off her toes and closed one eye in a wink — a wink that set his heart thumping even louder (if that was even possible) in his chest — before turning back to Finnick — who had been watching both with captivated interest, not saying a word. At seeing Judy turning to face him, he hid his surprise and interest behind a mask mild lethargy.

To the rabbit, the blush on her face: Painful.

Smoothly, Finnick slipped his free paw into his pocket and brought out a small bag of tobacco. He unwrapped it and let it fall open, a few of the leaves falling into his lap. He reached into his pocket again and brought out a scrunched-up piece of cigarette paper, and flattened it on his knee. The small, rectangular piece of paper flattened, Finnick picked up a sizable pinch of the tobacco between thumb and index finger, and let it drop from his grasp, as he moved his paw along the cigarette paper — distributing it evenly along the length.

He tucked the packet back into his pocket and carefully rolled the paper into a tube shape, being careful to keep the line of tobacco within — not an easy task to manage with just one paw — but Finnick managed with a practiced ease. Bringing it carefully to his mouth, side on, he licked his tongue against the edge of the paper and rolled that last bit of it into the end. Popping it into the corner of his mouth, he reached into his pocket a third time and took out a lighter, flipped up the lid, sparked the end into light, and put the flame to the end.

Moving the lighter back in his pocket, sucking a long drag, he turned to the rabbit, and spoke.

"So... wha'do you wanna know?"

...

Somewhere just beyond the edge of the city of Zootopia — about three miles or so — far past the last of the houses and into the deep forest, which lay all around, stood a shack. It was clearly old and somewhat shabby — once acting as a home to a lumberjack many years ago — which sat among the many old oaks and ferns, the floor laden with sweet-smelling flowers and the birds singing harmoniously in the trees, which glowed warmly in the sunlight.

Within this small wooden shack lay two mammals — a male and a female. One was a wolf, the other… was not. They lay against one another upon a simple bed with four wooden bedposts. The room was mostly empty but for the bed — except for a single wooden cabinet with a phone upon it, a number of mislaid woodworking tools, two sets of discarded cloths and some very basic versions of life's most bare necessities.

The male of the two groaned happily as he lay back, his legs and arms around the smaller female. He was the wolf. The wolf put his paw to her cheek and kissed her only ear. He rubbed his claws affectionately into the fur, at the back of her neck, and her breath hitched in return.

The wolf was albino. His silken fur was whiter than snow — head to foot white, neither blemish nor mark of any kind, other than the soft snow delight. His eyes glinted silvery-white like the moon... and his heart…

His eyes closed, the wolf pressed his muzzle to the female's face, causing her to jolt. The wolf expected as much. Having only just met one another, it was understandable that she would be 'apprehensive' towards doing what they had just done and were about to do again. She was not of the same species as him — other wolves had never interested him — and her heartbeat became yet more rapid, as the white wolf rubbed a possessive paw across her bare chest. Her breath baited — gasping to a stop — at his next action, her heart leaped yet further into her throat, and she started to tremble with the anticipation of what was to come.

An adoring smile on his lips, he brought his muzzle close to hers. He opened his jaw, his teeth shimmering, and pushed his tongue into her mouth. Her eyes shut tight and her trembling increased. The wolf slid his paw from her neck, slipping it down to caress the smooth fur of her back. His arousal growing, his paw moved to hold her rump. Pulling with his paw and pushing with his hips, he impaled the whole of his length firmly within her.

The female's scream at his entry was lost to the tongue the wolf pushed deeper into her mouth... not that anyone would have come if she had screamed out; the nearest possible 'help' being three miles away, far away from this unoccupied part of the forest. He started to work at her. She pushed against him, but had neither the strength nor the will to resist. He licked at her face. He growled as his speed increased, but then... his phone started to ring. He grunted, heavily.

Whoever it was could wait... he was busy.

He loved everything about her small body. He loved the smooth slopes of her hips, he loved her creamy-tan fur. He loved all the small moaning sounds she made at every movement he made within her. He loved her scent, her warmth, her cooperativeness...

She moved a little — trying to shift away from him — and so the wolf shot out his arm and held her beneath him, keeping the small mammal pinned exactly where she was supposed to be…

He loved the way her body shivered against him, adored the small sobs that escaped her lips. He wallowed in the scent of her fear and her pain, and hungrily lapped up all the blood, which dripped from the many cuts he had etched all across her face.

Her black eye. Her torn face. Her slashed arms. Her crumpled legs. The blood which ran in a steady stream from the nose he had broken. The ear he had bitten and torn off during his last climax. The bruises forming all across her body. The rope tying her to the bed, cutting deep into her wrists and ankles, as she writhed to get away from him.

His silken fur was whiter than snow — cold and remorseless. His silver eyes glinted more distant than the moon — without compassion or emotion — a pale, soulless void... and his heart? His heart was blacker than the darkest pits of Hell.

The wolf rushed to a climax, wanting to relieve himself unto the crying, terrified body which was pinned beneath him — causing a horse wail to escape her in an exhausted cry from the pain. He wanted to finish her properly, but in a few more seconds the call would end automatically... and 'He' wouldn't like it if he missed 'His' call. The wolf knew it was Him calling — no one else did — and He would not be at all happy if the wolf ignored his phone. The wolf climaxed. The female sobbed, begged, "No more, no more!"

The wolf bit hard into her neck.

A final, sickening whimper escaped her lips as her dying breath gurgled out of her, her mouth filling with glistening, crimson blood. The sound was like music to the white wolf, and he made a deep happy noise with the back of his throat, as he withdrew himself from her naked, dead body... which now lay tortured and defiled, tied to bed, bleeding from wounds across all her body. Bite marks, cuts, bruises and tares. Her wrists bleeding from hence the thin rope had cut into her.

The wolf sank his teeth deeper and tore out her throat. He would eat the rest later, but coney never tasted as nice when cold. He stood — sucking up the juices of the raw meat in his mouth — and picked up his impatient phone.

It was a video call. It was from Him.

The white wolf pressed 'answer'.

"Ahh, Wulf," said the image of the mammal, which appeared in front of him, "there you are, I was starting to wonder." The wolf grunted. 'He' smiled. "Have you been enjoying the rabbit I sent you?" The wolf grinned — a trickle of the rabbit’s still-warm blood running down his chin — and the eyes of the face on the screen flicked to look past the wolf and onto the bed, looking at the motionless body — with its arms and legs tied to the four bed posts — the bed-sheets soaked red with her blood.

A twitch of a smile came onto His muzzle, and a cold light lit up in his eyes. "I see you have. Good." His eyes flicking back to Wulf, His mouth broke into a grin as corrupt and wretched as the wolf’s. Leaning forwards, the face on the screen spoke again.

"... Would you like… another?"

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

Judy Hopps leaned forwards, cleared her throat, and flicked on the tape recorder.

"Officers Judy Hopps and Nicholas Wilde recording. Interrogation of the fennec fox, Finnick, commencing at..." Realizing she had no means with which to tell the time, she looked over to Nick for support.

Nick glanced at his watch. "Well gosh darn it, Hopps," he drew out with a jesting voice of surprise, "would you believe it, my watch has been stolen!"

"Nick," she replied coldly, "you don't wear a watch; this is official now, no mucking about."

"Sorry, Carrots," he shrugged.

"What did I just say?"

Nick was genuinely perplexed. "... What?"

"Don't call me Carrots, Nick, this is going on file! Call me Officer Hopps."

"Yes, Sir! Time is quarter past eleven, Officer Hopps, Sir!" Judy made a low grumbling sound with the back of her throat, sat back with a huff, and then documented the time into the tape recorder. Okay, the interrogation room was the inside of a ZPD cruiser with Judy in the driver’s seat, Nick in the front passenger seat and Finnick in pawcuffs in the back — parked in the confines of a blind alley for privacy — and okay, the tape recorder resembled a carrot in appearance, and its primary function was transferring ink onto paper... but that didn't mean they could just forget about the formalities.

"Interrogation begins: eleven-fifteen. Finnick," Judy asked, her voice as calm as it was professional. "For the purposes of legal procedure, will you please divulge your full name?"

"Finnick Doghouse Marlowe," grinned Finnick from his place in the back seat... his smile dropped, however, at Nick's correction.

"It's Finnegan Viola Dipesto."

"Well— well Nickey's middle name's Piberius!" Finnick shot back.

"I know," Judy replied coolly, "and mine is Laverne; so can we all please stop with this pointless argument and get back to the matter at paw...?" She looked to Nick, asking him more than she was Finnick.

"What, don't look at me, he started it!" said Nick, indignant.

"And I'm ending it, sweetie." Nick's reply to her unordinary one was a simple casual shrug and a lazy smile... accompanied with a build-up of heat around his neck that made him want to tug at his collar from being called sweetie by someone who, not ten minutes ago, he had actually kissed at very long last. "So, Finnegan Viola Depesdo," she failed to contain the snort that escaped her, "first question: For what reason were you at the condemned factory Ladders and Ladders and Co.?"

"I wuz never at dat place, an’ you can't say that I wuz!"

"Well, Officer Wilde seems to think you were, and seeing how he is a fox of exceptional nasal capacity, and also a close friend of yours—" Finnick made a spitting sound, and Nick threw her a sharp look. "... Seeing how Wilde was a close friend of yours," she corrected, "we can take it for granted that you were, in fact, there." Finnick still seemed reluctant.

"I know you scent better than anyone," Nick said, "and that fact that you bolted as soon as we mentioned 'Ladders' suggests to me you have something to do with the murder."

"Wait," Finnick said as he sat up on the seat, "there really iz a murder?"

"Yes," affirmed Judy, "why do you think we'd say so if there wasn't?"

"Wh— what species?"

"A fennec fox."

"A fenn... no!" From shouting and angry in one second, Finnick fell to quiet and remorseful the next. "Oh, godz no." He gazed out of the window, his face a mix of both disdain and sadness.

Nick and Judy shared a concerned glance. Did they imagine the small sniffling sound?

"Was— an— an how did he die?"

"Execution," answered Nick, watching with interest as the 'thought-to-be infallible' fox ears dropped and his eyes shut tight, pounding a small dejected fist into the upholstery. "The victim was shot through the back of the head at close range by small arms. Most likely a pistol. And then they were buried beneath a pile of wood before being set in flames along with the rest of the factory.”

Finnick was silent for a long time — both Nick and Judy listening with fascination at the hitching of his breath.

"Finnick," Judy said at length, "were you close to the victim?"

"He— he was my brother." A stunned silence smothered the air. But after a moment, Nick reached with his paw and touched the metal grate in an attempt to try and reach Finnick physically in comfort, despite the impossibility of the attempt, yet Finnick caught sight of his gesture and bared his teeth with a flinch back. "Screw ya, Copper," he snapped, the sense of betrayal clear in his slightly tremulous voice.

The red fox slowly withdrew his paw. "Finnick," he said, "you need to answer our questions. If the victim really is your brother, isn't it in your interest to help us find his murderer?"

"Yeah," Finnick gave in, "I get you."

"Thank you." Nick sat back in his seat. "I realize this must be distressing for you, Finnick, but you never mentioned you had any other family relations. Did you get on well with... I'm sorry, what was his name?"

"... Frank," Finnick replied airily, regaining control over his emotions, visibly at least, "and nah, we never really got on. He was about az much of a brother to me as your dad was to you before he overdo—"

"Finnick!" Nick's firm gaze held Finnick's for a moment, then the small fox glanced to the rabbit, back to Nick, and carried on as before.

"... Before your dad passed on," he paused for a few seconds in thought, then continued, "I haven't seen Frankfurt for nearly four years. He wuz jus' az crooked as I remembered him. He turned up out of the blue a couple of dayz ago, drunk out of his skull, high on drugz, an asking if he could borrow a couple'a grand to get his paw in major a drugs-trafficking operation going down."

"At Ladders?" Nick asked.

"Yeah, at Ladders s'why I bolted when I heard the name, I thought he'd been caught and blabbed my name. So anyway, when he asked me for cash, I guessed I could kinda trust him. We've never been on 'good terms' per say, but we've always helped each other out when we really needed it."

"But still, handing out over a thousand pounds?" Judy asked, disbelieving what she was hearing, "from what Officer Wilde has told me, that's not like you. What was your motive?" The fox grunted, crossing his cuffed paws over his chest to stare at the brick wall, which surrounded the front, left and right of the car, keeping them mostly from the eyes of the public, as he answered, an air of annoyance about his voice, as he knew what he was admitting to could get him into legal trouble if handled incorrectly.

"Frank said to me: There's a huge shipment of puff commin' in, crates of the stuff, and not just cocaine: ketamine, heroine, speed and even a few really rare kinds that you never really come across, apart from in the Far East."

"God," Judy breathed, unable to hold in the shocked comment, even if this was going on official records, "you mean that's the scale of this drug spree? A whole warehouse of the stuff?"

"Das it exactly— you know, you're not as dumb as you look, being a rabbit. Deez guyz, whoever they are, ain't interested in selling by the gram, making a little cash here and there on the street. They be treating this like a major operation, selling it cheap by the crate to dealers like my brother, who then sells it off 'emselves. They keep their paws cleaner too. Just a little, but it makes 'em just a little more untouchable."

Both officers listened in stunned silence, never even having considered the problem was so extensive, until now.

"Anyway," Finnick continued, "he said dat he was broke — well that was no surprise, I've never known him not to be broke — but dat if he could borrow two or three thousand, he could buy a heap of puff on the cheap and sell it for something like eighty percent profit... and that I, in return, could share in that profit."

"So the dealers selling loose eighty percent of their revenue?" Judy asked, "how can that work? Surely that can't be profitable in any way."

"Unless..." Nick answered, half turning to Judy as he spoke, "... unless these drugs are made outside of these parts, not just out of Zootopia but, like, out of the country: in foreign places where the climate is much higher and illegal drugs will grow naturally without all the expensive equipment, which makes it hard to do here in Zootopia. I think," he continued, his voice rising as the pieces fell into place, turning fully to Judy with a touch of satisfaction from figuring it out.

"I think these drugs must be grown real cheap in another country and then shipped over into Zootopia where it's far more expensive. Usually it's not profitable because of the expense of fuel for the boat and for hiring a crew and shipping rights and stuff, but if it was shipped in large enough quantities. Say, one of those massive tankards, probably unmarked so it couldn't be tracked even if they were found out. Then we are talking a serious amount of illegal substance."

"How much?" Came Judy's exasperated reply.

"Carrots," Nick said, his voice edged with concern, "one of those things could carry two hundred thousand tons easy, possibly even more, right into our docks… and we wouldn't even know."

After a moment, the rabbit opened her mouth, "Oh shi—"

"Ship?" Nick corrected before Judy could swear on tape.

"Nick, we have to tell Bogo!" Doing all in seconds, she clicked her seatbelt on, revved the car into life and reversed out of the blind alley.

"Hey, hay, hay!" Finn yelled, tugging at the handle of the locked door in the now-moving car, "we had a deal remember? I tell you what I know and you let me off scot-free!"

"I'm sorry, Finnick," Judy said sincerely, "but this is way bigger than—"

"Nick," Finnick interrupted, shouting, "stop her and let me go, or I tell Hopps here about you an' Scarlett!"

Nick's eyes, wide with horror, shot around to look at Finnick. "You wouldn't."

"I would."

"Finn, you swore!"

"And your piece of fluff," he muttered, "promised to let me go if I answered your questions! Anyway, there are plenty of other interesting stories that Hoppsey here might be interested to hear— I don't even need to mention Scarlett." Nick turned to face the rabbit — Judy glancing at Nick out of the corner of her eye whilst driving — and then turned back to Finnick, a stoic expression on his face. The red fox appeared indicative about what to do, so Finnick helped him decide.

"When Nick was seventeen," he let his speech pour out in a hurried rush of information without pauses, making it nice and clear to Nick that he had no intention of stopping unless the car did, "he came back from a party late one night, and found his dad dead on the kitchen floor from a drug overdose an' foaming from the mouth wit—"

"Shut UP!" Nick yelled, "Judy, STOP the car!"

"Nick," Judy said, "I—"

"Stop this car. Now!" After a moment, Judy slowed the car to a stop. She glanced at Nick as the last of the forwards momentum subsided, and the vehicle became motionless. He was sat in his seat, staring straight ahead, his ears were neither up nor really down, his expression was impassive and statue-like, he acknowledged neither Judy nor Finnick as he continued to sit there, motionless, like he had been petrified... only the heavy rise and fall of his chest, and clenched knuckles portrayed any signs of his true ire.

When Nick didn't speak, Judy spoke for him.

"Okay, Finnick, you're free to go." She clicked a button on the dashboard, and the auto-locks clicked off.

"Err, hey," Finnick said mockingly, "dumb bunny? You forgot der keys!"

"I didn't forget, dumber fox. But if you want the key, you have to answer a few more questions... particularly after the mean stunt you just pulled on my friend and partner." Finnick made an angry noise in the back of his throat... a response Judy smugly took to mean 'yes'. "Okay, just to get things clear, why was your scent caught at Ladders and Ladders when me and Nick—"

"It wasn't my scent," Finnick interrupted, "it was the scent of my brother. I thought that wuz obvious, but I forgot how dumb your kind are. Look, rabbit, foxes of the same litter always smell very alike, understand, capiche?"

Judy's face twitched at the 'your kind' comment, just like she had at 'you’re not as dumb as you look being a rabbit'. And, had she and Nick not been in dire need of his information, Finnick would have currently found himself face-down on the floor with a foot pressing into the back of his neck, and his arms held in a lock behind him... Judy didn't care how much of a good fighter he was, she could take him in a second! Instead, she turned to Nick, hoping to have Finnick's claim either confirmed or denied. "What do you think, Nick, could the scent have been Finnick's brother?"

His gaze didn't move, his ear didn't flick, his muzzle didn't twitch; Judy turned back to Finnick.

"Right... we'll take that as a given truth for now. Next question, why do you think this, Frank, was killed by the people wanting to sell their wares to him?"

"How do I know? Could have been an argument about the price, they could have been attacked by a rival gang, could have been the whole thing was a set-up done by someone with a grudge against Frank personally. I, don't, know."

Judy took in this information, considering — this information was all good, but they didn't have any leads to follow — so she asked a third question, hoping to attain one, "What address was the deceased living at most recently."

"He don't live anywhere," Finnick answered, just a little too quickly to be the truth.

He and Nick had one thing very much in common, Judy realized — they were both good liars — but, having learnt how to lie from one another, they both lied in exactly the same way. Because of this, Judy found she could read Finnick almost as easily as she could read Nick, and she knew he was lying. It was because of how quick he had answered that had given it away — she had spotted the lie about Nick's booking of a table at Joe's Place in the same way — because he had preempted the question before it had came, and formulated an answer in advance... stating the answer before a natural, truthful, answer would have had time to form.

"I don't believe that for a second, Finnick," Judy said, "you're not seriously telling me that your brother was planning to conceal and sell a crate of illegal substances, while living on the street. He must have lived somewhere, otherwise he would surely have—"

"Okay!" The tan fox snapped at her, "sure, fine, yeah whatever. He lives at twenty-two Richter Street. It's on the southeast side of Zootopia. Room seven."

"Thank you, Viola Depesto," she said, chucking the pawcuff keys through the cage and onto the cushioned seat, "your help has been most useful."

"Viola Depesto," he muttered, bitterly, under his breath, probably too quiet for Nick to hear, but just on the verge of hearing for the rabbit. "I'll give you Viola-bloody-Depesto, you slutty little bitc—"

"Finnish that sentence, Finn, and I'll taser you." The car was silent for a second, while Judy and Finnick stared at the still-motionless form of Nick who had spoken. Then — a look of panic and surprise across his muzzle — Finnick rushed to undo the second cuff, open the door, mutter a goodbye to Nick, slam the door and rush away. Judy watched Finnick as he made his way off. The air hung heavy with deafness. Judy could feel the dark mood of her partner beside her, while Finnick disappeared around a corner.

Judy looked to him, licked her lips nervously, and spoke, "Thanks." He didn't so much as blink in reply. She took in a slow lungful of air, reached out to her carrot pen, which had worked as a tape recorder for the interview, and picked it up quietly. "Interrogation terminated at..."

"Twenty-two minutes past," came his hollow reply.

"... At eleven twenty-two…" She sat back, flicked off the record button and put the device in her pocket before speaking again. "We don't have to put the bit about your dad on file. We can wipe it out with a few seconds of static if you like. No one would suspect. And even if they did, there’d be no way of getting it back." Impassive silence was his only response. "Nick?"

Judy looked at the fox beside her — the moody, motionless form. She gazed at his blank expression, expecting his eyes to at least flicker towards her for a moment, but they didn't, Nick merely stared out at the street. Judy raised a paw from the gear stick and slid it across to Nick's paw. She had hoped that when her 'small soft paw' (which she knew her partner liked the feel of a great deal) took Nick's that he would hold hers in return... but he did no such thing.

She didn't let go of his paw, however, as she spoke next.

"Nick?"

"Twenty-two Richter Street, South East Zootopia. Drive on." His voice was cold, distant. It frightened Judy to hear Nick sounding so icy, and a part of her wanted to drop the subject and drive on — it was what Nick wanted, after all — but Judy knew she had to press on. It may not have been what Nick wanted, but it was what he needed. This was Nick's emotional pain-barrier, and like the pain-barrier in exercise, the only way to beat it, was to press on through it.

"Not yet," she said softly, keeping his unmoving paw in hers, "soon, but first I think we should talk about this, this is far more important."

"Drive on."

"I've said to you before 'what happened in the past shouldn't affect your future.' That was dumb of me, of course what happened in the past affects you, you'd have to be a robot to go through what you've been through without coming out scarred."

"Judy, drive on."

"But trying to ignore it and pretend it never happened isn't gonna fix it! I know you don't like talking about this kind of things, but believe me, talking about it will help. If you carry on ignoring it like you have been, it'll just eat away inside you, but if you open up about it, if you let me in rather than lock me out, then I can help you. I want to help you."

"Please, drive on."

"No," she persisted, determination building within her. "This is important. This is about you moving on from the horrors of your old life, so you can enjoy what we have now." She took his other paw in hers, leaning closer to him, both of his paws held in both hers.

"This is about enjoying the future we have together. You and me: us. We have the whole of the rest of our lives to live, Nick..." Judy's eyes sparkled with what she was trying to convey in her next words "... and, if you like, I'd be more than happy to spend it all of it with you. Together"

Nick glanced at Judy — his ears high and his eyes wide with pleasant surprise — at the subtle implication of marriage, which he must of picked up on, but if Nick allowed the dizzy kind of bliss, which shot through his veins at the thought, to show on his face for too long... then the pain he was feeling beneath would show through as well and so — though he hated himself for it deeply — Nick made the glance fleeting, forced his face back into a neutral expression and, as he spoke again, kept his voice a tone darker than it had been.

"Drop it. Drive on."

She sat in silence for a moment — Nick was becoming moody. She had to talk him down, calm him, make him see that she only wanted to help him. From holding his paw, Judy moved her paws up — rubbing them softly on his chest as they moved up — to slip around Nick's neck. Her paws enclosing Nick's neck in what she hoped was a soothing motion, she stood and pressed her head against his, her nose rubbing softly against Nick's cheek, while Nick continued to stare blankly out of the front window just as he had been.

"What I'm trying to say to you, Nick, is that I'm here for you. I've always been here for you and I always will be. That's what it means to be partners. Let me help you, I want to help you, because if we're going to fix this, we need to do it together, like we do everything together." He still made no reaction. Judy started to lose heart. She sighed and then pulled herself away, standing up on the driver’s seat to watch him as she spoke.

"Nick," she asked, her speech as patient and caring as it had been from the start, "are you listening to me?" Her voice rose in pitch as she spoke — pleading in the dark confines of the car, "Nick...? Nick? Nic—"

"Drive, on!"

Her expression turned ashamed, but then grew into an angry glower. "Fine," she gave in, sitting and restarting the engine, "if you want to be like that Mr ‘Don't let them see that they get to you’ then be like that!" With an aggressive thunk, she pulled the car into gear, before pulling away down the road.

"... Just don't expect any offers of help from me in the future," she blabbed, her words slurred with emotion and tears stinging her eyes, before bitterly shouting, "because you won't get it!"

She revved the engine high and tore away down the street in angry silence beckoned. Nothing more was said between the two as Judy drove on.

Slowly, Nick turned his head away from the window. He stared out at the passing buildings and public, and then, after a moment, brought his paw up to his face. Judy was staring fixedly at the road; Nick was glad of this, because if Judy did glance over at him — she might have noticed the deft tears that were streaking his face... tears of his past and, more painfully, tears of what a terrible mammal he was being to the wonderful rabbit he never in a million years deserved.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

Richter Street was part of the old side of Zootopia. This place was different from Soho in some ways, the same in others. While it was far less sleazy (every third femammle you met wasn't a prostitute and every fifth building wasn't a casino) this had the knock-on effect that the people inhabiting this place lived in far more poverty. Without the same income that the sex and gambling industry brought to Soho, the residents of Richter Street were seen thus rarely — either working long hours for low pay or preserving their heat and energy at home — so the pavement of Richter Street — rather than packed like the streets of Soho — was devoid of all life, until a ZPD police car came driving down the road.

The car pulled to a stop by the edge of the cracked pavement on the tarmac road, which was in dire need of resurfacing. The car stopped on what was technically a no-parking zone... but the paint which designated it as such was so faded as to be illegible. The rabbit driving turned off the engine and got out briskly, letting the door slam behind her, shaking the car a little as she marched away. From inside the car — which had been silent since the rabbit’s final outburst of emotion — the fox watched forlornly, as she continued her speeded walk towards number twenty-two which was an apartment block: tall, thin and wedged between two other likewise buildings, while knowing that she wouldn't wait for him as it was just too much to expect her to.

"Well, Nick," he muttered, as she moved further and further away, "that's the end of this relationship." However, after climbing the small flight of concrete steps to number twenty-two, Judy came to a stop by the blue door with frosted glass windows. She didn't turn away from the door — didn't look over to Nick still in the car — but she did wait for him... if anything, it made him feel worse as her words floated up through his mind.

‘Nick, you are my partner. Everything we do, we do together Nick, the good and the bad. To be the best we can be, we need to take and give everything we have to each other. If that means being late for you? It doesn't matter in the least, so long as we do it together.’

‘Sometimes, Carrots, I really love you.’

‘... Only sometimes?’

He had really believed in her as she had said that — but moreover, he believed in himself — that he was finally ready to share himself with another person after so many years shut off, locked away. It was not the first time Nick had sourly mislaid his trust in himself, so he should not have been surprised when he raised his emotional walls against Judy, shutting himself off from the rabbit who he loved dearly, and she quite possibly liked him in sort of that way in return. He looked over to Judy — quite a way off from him, stock still, staring at the blue door, waiting for him to join her.

He wanted to believe he was ready to love again — he wanted to let himself love Judy so badly — but, as he had just seen: he still needed only a slight push for raising his walls against Judy, cutting himself off from her in a dreadful lack of trust.

You only hurt the people you love... you should know that by now.

"Damn it," he muttered under his breath, "damn it all to hell."

...

Across the street, Judy had counted off nearly a whole three minutes in her head. That was two minutes longer than she had intended to allow him — and yet, when it came to he time she had told herself she would leave the stubborn fox to his own fate — she found she could not pull herself away from him just yet. She waited longer regardless.

But, at length, the truth came upon her. Nick was never coming. Judy, biting her bottom lip to hold a tear at bay, reached her paw out to the door handle, but as her soft paw touched the cold metal, her ears swiveled at a sound behind her. She turned with a start, something like relief filling her as Nick, at long last, emerged from the dark confines of the ZPD cruiser. As quickly as the joy at his coming came, however, it was again relapsed by the sense of betrayal that he had struck within her when he blanked her — completely blanked her — while she threw herself emotionally upon him, hoping to make him open up and face his demons. Emotion, which cascaded off him like water around a stone, leaving him no different than before, yet leaving Judy an emotional wreck.

The rabbit kept silent — staring at the blue door, motionless — as the fox moved to stand beside her. As much as she regretted the fact, she was already finding it hard to be mad at him. "We just gonna stand here all day," she said, venomously, "or were you planning on opening the door sometime."

The fox made no reply of the rabbit’s remark, though a number of cutting retorts came to his mind. He kept them all down; she didn't deserve insults, not at all. Silently, Nick reached out and pushed the blue door open. Without a word, Judy stepped in and Nick closed the door as he followed. The inside was grey and dimly lit — yet clean — and not as run-down as some of the buildings on that street. The floor was imitation wood, scratched but well-polished. The wallpaper was old and peeling at the corners. Together, yet somehow, apart — they walked down the corridor and to a speaker in the wall where Judy found and pressed a buzzer.

The male voice which crackled over the speaker in reply asked for their names and room number, but Judy reported she was an officer investigating a murder, and was then let into the main complex, which was exactly what happened. There was a notable lack of banter between the two partners as they walked to room seven on the first floor — the rabbit ignoring the fox and the fox making no attempt to be noticed by the rabbit as he walked — a little further than usual — behind her.

Entering through the metal gate, sectioned off the porch of the block of flats, which was guarded tirelessly by the unblinking eye of a security camera. Wilde and Hopps walked down a long narrow corridor. The floor of this corridor was carpeted — a rough, old, industrial carpet, meant for durability and cost efficiency rather than comfort — blue in color, yet stained in many places and pulling up from the corners, with the carpet tacks bare to the room.

The walls were grey and lifeless, the ceiling was of cheap panel with a number of the mentioned panels missing, the lights — long beams which ran down the length of the corridor at intervals of around twenty feet — were too few and far between, and did not put up enough light to illuminate the corridor properly, so darkness hung in abundance, separated only by the dull yellow put off by the weak vision, along with the faded blue of the carpet, the dull grey of the walls and the creamy yellow of the thin plywood doors.

Judy paced on down the lengthy corridor — ignoring the fact her partner had fallen quite some way behind — and marched on towards a door, which was clearly marked '7’ by a brass number screwed below the peep-hole. The number appeared to be in brass but, on closer inspection, was actually plastic — tarnished and brittle with age. Judy stopped just before the door and waited for the fox to catch up — again, not looking at him, but staring blankly at the door as he approached with words following, his voice soft with legs stopping to stand beside her.

"Hopps, look, I—" unbolting the lock with the key she had been given, Judy opened the barrier and stepped inside, letting it close on the fox as he spoke, cutting him off whatever apology he was about to try and make, to which his paw shot out to stop the door from closing and locking him out.

Nick sighed, pushed the door open again, and then followed silently, scanning the room he had entered into. It matched much of what they had seen of the building so far — mostly blue in color, percolated with dull yellow of off-white, dimly lit by an old ceiling beam, grimy, smelly, moldy, rotten. It was a square room — about four times the size of Judy's — and had two closed doors which led off to other rooms (as well as the third door they entered into) and this room, apparently, was the living room.

Against the far wall was a sofa, creamy blue, with old and torn upholstery which revealed the firm, uncomfortable padding of the cushions beneath, and with a number of burn marks — apparently cigarette burns — upon the arms of the chair. Against the corner of the wall was a small television with a smashed screen. Against another wall was a window which looked directly upon another brick house across the street. There was little else in the living room apartment but for a low cabinet of old junk and a few books, some miscellaneous litter scattered here and there, and a clothes-hook upon the door with a heavy black coat of fleece material — fennec-fox sized.

This coat was spotted by Nick as he closed the door and, on a spur of moment thought, he rooted through its pockets and found a small piece of metal in the inner breast pocket. He took it out and looked up at the rabbit who was taking a slow pace around the room, to which he proffered what he had found towards her.

"Hey, I've found a key." Judy glanced up at him — actually she looked at the key, avoiding direct eye contact with the fox — and then went back to her investigation. "... What do you think this opens?" She didn't even glance up at him this time, walking to one of the two doors and opening it to reveal an airing cupboard containing a mop, bucket and a few cardboard boxes of junk. "See anything?" Nick asked as she passed him, crossing the room towards the other door which she opened without comment peeled at the fox. It revealed a kitchen which she stepped into, and closed the door behind her shortly after.

Nick stared up at the ceiling for a moment, then looked down at the small key he held — it wasn't a 'real' key (not any doorkey Nick had ever seen at any rate) it looked more like the key to a jewelry box, or a small safe, rather than anything truly important like a door. He slipped it into his pocket, walked across the room and entered into the kitchen. Judy had turned the light on in the eyes of the small, narrow kitchen. The kitchen consisted of little more than a fridge, a cooker and a line of drawers and cabinets which encompassed two-thirds of the room.

The chipped, tile floor was hard beneath Nick's feet...

"Look, Hopps, I'm sorry I ignored you. Can you forgive me?" It sounded as pathetic as Nick thought it would, and he wasn't surprised when Judy carried on as though nothing had been said, not even turning an ear towards him.

... Almost as hard as Judy's shoulder, in fact.

"Carrots, please." He placed a paw on her back from behind her. She walked immediately away from him, knelt down, opened another cabinet and started searching through that. "Hopps, I know I was wrong to ignore you like that. I fully deserve this treatment from you, but—" Judy pushed Nick aside a little to access the drawer he was stood in front of... moving him as though he was just an object.

"Judy," Nick said from his place just beside her, "Judy. Judy!"

She stood, turning to him sharply. "Oh, talking to me now, are you?"

"Come on, Carrots, don't be like that."

Reaching out, Nick moved to touch her shoulder, but Judy slapped his paw harshly away before it even got half way between them. "Don't you dare tell me how not to behave; you're the one who's acting like a jerk!" Storming away from the drawer she was searching, Judy opened a cabinet across the other side of the kitchen and started looking there.

"I can't do this with you if you're going to keep switching off your emotions like that!" she shouted across her shoulder, shifting through the contents of the drawer. "If we're going to be lovers — which is something I want, badly — then you're gonna have to show me that you trust me enough to talk to me about these things!"

Nick crossed the room, standing just behind her with his paws on either side of her, while fully resting them against the cabinet's surface. "It's not a matter of trust— Judy— it's just, it's painful."

She turned and shoved into his chest, bracing herself against the cabinet and sending Nick stumbling back to the center of the room. "But we share that pain, that's what being a team means!"

"This is my burden to carry, not yours," he retorted, pacing back towards her. "I will not be the reason for—"

"What, making me cry?" she mocked, side-stepping his advance and moving back into the living room. "You think I can't handle a little heartache when it's for your benefit?"

"You were nearly in tears back at the factory just at the mention of my family’s involvement with drugs!"

Judy walked over to the wall to glare out of the window with her back to the room, her voice just a touch softer, "I wasn't prepared for it then. But I am now, and we—"

"Hopps, just shut up and listen," he demanded, his voice almost a growl, as he approached her from behind— "now, I'm not gonna apologize for how I acted, but I will make ame—"

Persuaded still, Judy span on her heals, brought her arm around in a wide ark and smacked the fox heavily across the side of the face with the back of her paw.

...

Nick blinked at her. Slowly, not quite sure what had just happened, he raised a paw to soothe the hot pain in his cheek. Blinking again, squinting as his mind processed what had just happened, Nick's berating became heavy at the realization of what had just transpired, his dread kicked in in the form of heavy lungs. Time — which had apparently slowed — returned to normal and Nick took a small clumsy step away from Judy, holding his cheek with his paw, his expressive eyes filled with the etch of hurt, as he gawked into Judy's eyes, which suddenly filled with the drownings of regret to Nick’s withdrawal backwards.

... At his second step Judy's trembling became visible, and her paw, which had done the deed, shot to her gasping mouth, and she moved towards the fox, her other paw reaching out to touch him — make him see she hadn’t meant it — with her voice high and trembling with worry, "Oh God, Nick, please! No, I— I didn't mean that! I'm sorry!" She rushed forwards to close the distance Nick had put between them, putting a paw out to touch his arm in what she hoped would be an affectionate gesture. It wasn't. Nick hurriedly pulled his arm away, gasping from the touch, stepping back again, a look of agony — emotional hurt — written across his face as he withdrew himself physically and mentally in a way he had hoped he would never have to do again.

"Nick, please," she begged, softer as he backed off to the door, "please, I didn't mean to do that, I—" Her ears pricked up with realization of what Nick was about to do when he opened the door to the apartment, and he — his eyes wide and his ears high with emotional pain — stepped out. "No. No!"

She leaped at him — actually throwing herself across the room at him — and flung her arms and legs around his neck and waist just as he was about to disappear. Her weight overbalanced him and Nick fell to the floor, instantly struggling to push the rabbit off himself, shoving her head and her body to rid himself of the arms and legs which were wrapped so tightly around him.

"Let me go!" He snapped at her after a moment of unsuccessful pushing.

"Let go of the best thing that ever came into my life?" she shouted. "Never!"

"Judy, let me go!"

"Nick, I'm sorry I slapped you. I—"

"Shut up, just, shut up!" Snarling, he continued to push at her, trying to untangle himself from Judy's small but strong frame. "The people you're close to always hurt you in the end. I should have known that by know."

"I would never harm—..." The statement, which Judy's mind had pushed forwards in the heat of the conversation, trailed off. How could she even think she would never harm him? She just did! She still couldn't believe she had actually struck Nick — sure, she had delivered many playful punches to the arm — but there was nothing playful about the slap she had delivered across the side of his face in an ire of worry, betrayal and concern.

Unable to complete her sentence, there was only one thing her mind thought fit to say... and she said it in a whimper into Nick's red ear, "Nick, I love you."

"No," he murmured. "Don't say that."

The color drained from Judy's face as an overwhelming feeling of sickness took her. "Why... why not? D-Don't you love me?"

"I can't let myself!" he shouted at her in a sudden burst of fury, his whole body trembling. With a sudden rush of terrifying dawning, Judy knew, knew that this was the result of a ghost of his past. The fear Nick was feeling — the hurt, the pain — went far, far deeper than just the slap she had put across the side of his face, though the slap doubtlessly was the inciting event for the resurfacing of this past pain. The rabbit was slightly relieved at this knowledge, yet at the same time started feeling even worse for having done it.

"Why not?" she asked, trying to discover what it was that was coming between herself, Nick and the love they should be allowing to pass freely between them.

"Judy, everyone I've ever cared about is dead." The words sent a shock through her small body, freezing it. Nick's body, on the other paw, started to convulse slightly, his eyes falling shut to stop the tears, his breath coming and going with uneven snorts between stifled sobs, and his voice weak and trembling from emotion. "Everyone: Mom, Dad, Scarlett; everyone, apart from you." Nick forced his eyes to open, though this allowed the tears to run down his cheeks and his voice to become yet weaker as he spoke. "A-and I can't let myself l-love you or... or something might happen and I'll l-lose you too."

"It... it's okay, Nick," Judy said, at a loss, doing all she could to offer her support. "I'm here for you. I'm here for you and—"

"I know you're here for me, no one else is. That's why I can't bare the thought of losing you."

"Nick," Judy said, lowering her head to rest on his chest, feeling the rapid beating of his heart, "we can make it through this, you and I, just so long as we can trust each other enough and to—"

"Judy," Nick said with a slow voice... "Will you please, let me up."

...

Silently, Judy took her paws away from around Nick and rested them against his shoulders. She uncoupled her hooked legs and withdrew them from around his back. She sat up, gazing down at the fox below her who lay on the floor, the fox who was gazing back up at her with eyes, which could have made statues weep from the sadness that drowned within them.  Judy pressed her lips against his, her eyes falling closed. Nick didn't return the kiss, though it set his blood racing with a spike of pleasure — a pleasure which, for the brief second it lasted, banished all feelings of grief and torment from his body.

But when she stood, the misery flooded his mind like a broken dam.

Nick took the paw Judy offered towards him, standing silently and keeping his gaze and his expression vague, while his mind retained nothingness. Judy stood silently behind him. Stepping out into the corridor which was long and narrow, dimly lit and of a lifeless grey-blue color... Nick, slowly, started pacing his way down the corridor. Judy remained at the doorway, tears trickling down her face as her life walked away from her. When he reached the door at the end of the corridor — the door which would take him away forever — Judy called out.

"I love you."

... Her voice echoed dully down the corridor. Nick stopped and half-turned to her, his ears raising a notch before he forced them back down, turned his back to her, turned his back on the world, and then resumed on the path lain before him... the front door opened, then shut with a soft click behind him.

"I love you too, Judy," the red fox muttered to the lonely silence that now surrounded him, "and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I couldn't have been a better mammal for you."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Rain fell on the roofs of the just and the unjust, the saints and the sinners, those who once knew peace and those who know peace no longer. The great black clouds, which once hung so heavily above the city, had finally befell and shrouded all light from the sun with their vastness and their blacktitude. Now, the world was but shadow, encased in the early darkness of a long cold night, enwrapped in the gloom of dusk, though it was barely past two o'clock.

So it goes in life — all memmle have their exits and their entrances, and one mammle in his time plays many parts — and when it is one’s time to leave it, who’s right is it to judge? As one thing goes, so another thing comes. History likes circles. In addition, the end of one tragedy is merely a marker to signal the start of another, the ceasing of one storm but a moment of calm before another breaks upon the world, to turn all to ruin once more.

Fate is not without a sense of justice, however, and for all trespasses it enacts, so it shall make good that which it has done. No storm — no matter how long, no matter how bitter, no matter how endless it may appear — must, sooner or later come to a close, and so justice be done in time with respite and with a blessing of good fortune — so shall Fate make amends for its sins.

The storm that hung above Zootopia was no different. It started to show signs of waning, as the winds of chance were high and gusting, and the clouds which had blackened the sky started to part and clear. But this storm... was not, over, yet.

...

Upon a blue sofa, in a shabby apartment in the bad side of the wrong side of Zootopia, in the seventh room of the ground floor, in the twenty-second block of flats on Richter Street: A small paw reached deftly out from a crumpled pile of something once resembling Judy Hopps — which lay in a disheartened heap upon the coarse padding of the torn and burnt sofa.

The paw clutched weakly at the corner of a dull blue cushion — it was moldy, damp, probably teaming with spores best not breathed in — and yet, for the rabbit who clutched onto it, all it was a means to stifle the bitter whimpers that tremulated up from the very depths of her lost spirit, something to catch and wipe away the tears, which slowly ebbed down the — once soft and silken, now roughed and matted — fur on her cheek and more so something to cling to, hold to, for lack of anyone or anything else left to cling to.

She had a fox she could hold onto once — she knew, she had a clear memory of him in the shredded wreckage of a mind she now possessed — red, kind, gentle. Charming and passionate, clever and cheeky, strong and handsome, tender, thoughtful, brave, caring, romantic and in every way — loving.

But, that was all gone now, all lost, and the rabbit was paralyzed by a comatose of emotion, her mind and body unable to function from the prospect that she had lost him, that she had lost him and would never get him back. Judy — no longer aware if this was her own home or the home of somebody else — could do nothing but clutch to her pillow, and the simple memory of the fox she loved, grinding herself deeper into the black places of her mind in par the knowledge that it was all lost... and it was all her fault.

When Nick had left her — banishing himself from her life — she had ambled back to the inner confines of room seven, as bitter a reminder to what had just passed between them, despite the failing hope for her wanting to not have, and had started, again to search the premises.

First, she went back to the kitchen — but the memories in there were painful beyond the ability to linger within there — and she had slunk back into the living room. She opened the airing cupboard, gazed for quite a time at the many boxes of junk within, and closed it with a sigh. She had no enthusiasm for rooting through boxes for clues... come to think of it, she didn't have enthusiasm for anything anymore.

So... she shuffled her way back into the living room and plopped herself down upon the firm sofa against the far wall. She sat there, motionless, as her mind started playing it all back to her in a cruel montage, a tragedy, of all that had passed since entering that room.

As the memory of how venomously she had shouted came back, tears started to well in her eyes. As she remembered storming away from him and into the living room, they started trickling freely down her face. It was with the memory of the harsh slap she had put so heartlessly across his face, thus those silent tears had turned to sobs... and it was the memory of Nick taking those last steps away from her, her last words to him 'I love you', and how slight and subtle the click had been after the door had shut behind him... which finally made the truth of the matter sink in — that she might never see the fox again — and she had collapsed into the fetal position, curling up within herself and crying in unrest.

It was all gone to damnation — and so she lay there, weeping, comatose, upon the sofa of a murdered fennec fox, unaware of the passing of time, where she was and, to some extent, who she was.

"Nick..." was the only word the rabbit was able to huff, weekly, between tears as her clutch on the cushion deepened and her brain continued to shrivel in on itself, "... please, come back."

...

"Hopps, this is Bogo: Come in." Judy's crying ceased as the sound of Bogo's voice startled her from her coma. 

Was that actually real? Or was that just—

"Repeat, this is Bogo. Come in, Hopps." She sat up, pulling the two-way-radio out of its place from her utility belt and adjusted it to her mouth. She did not press to respond however, taking in several deep and long breaths, as she forced herself to recover from the trauma she was suffering inside. Bogo's call could not have come at a better time. 

Maybe if I ignore him and wait he'll just—

"Hopps? Hopps! Hopps, do you read me?" Who was she kidding — Bogo never gave up on calling an officer — he would keep calling until he became angry, then he would start shouting, then he would grow concerned and the shouting would get louder, then he'd report her and Wilde missing in action and order every ZPD officer to abandon their posts and start an emergency search of the city to find them... whereupon she would have to call Bogo to belay the search — revealing she had been there all along — and would probably be 'rewarded' for her insubordination with several weeks suspension to boot.

Groaning, she pressed the respond button... but the moment she opened her mouth to talk her voice cracked and her throat became dry, and she had to release the respond button, so Bogo didn't hear her wailing on the other end.

"Hopps— I control your wages remember. Answer me!"

She pressed the respond button. This time, she held it. "T-th— Th— This is Hopps."

"And about bloody time to," he said, apparently missing the strain to her voice as he continued, "Leopolde and Jefferson have finished their report on the murder at 'Ladders'; I want you and Wilde back at HQ, pronto."

"N— Nick...?"

"Yes, Hopps… Officer Wilde, the fox?" came his sour reply, sarcastically followed by, "is that a problem?"

"Nick's, erm... Nick's not here, Sir…"

A brooding silence was her only reply for a moment, then, "What do you mean 'Nick's not here'?"

"He… he's not here, Sir."

"I know!" he bellowed, "you just said that! Now answer the bloody question! Whhyyy is Nick not there?" No, she couldn't tell Bogo what just had happened between them! He'd probably suspend both of them, or fire Nick, or try to find him or... What could she say? 

Think like Nick, what would Nick do? 

He'd lie. But, he would lie... clearly, bending the lie around the truth so it’d be almost true anyway. "He's attending to a family emergency, Sir." Which was, in a way, true... sure, for all Judy knew they were all dead and he was the only living 'Wilde' left, but it was still closely related to them.

"Why wasn't I informed?" Bogo replied, his voice growing softer.

"It was urgent, and, he didn't have time to tell you before he left."

"And why didn't you inform me?"

"It… erm, I've been busy investigating a strong lead. Actually, that's something we need to tell you about, or rather," she trailed off, adding, "I need to tell you about..." she released the 'respond' button to stop Bogo hearing her as a fresh wave of emotion took her, and she rubbed her eyes carefully to try and clear the tears which started forming there again.

"I see... I wish to speak with him later. There have been... developments, in the murder case, and Leopolde and myself have some questions we would like to ask him."

She took in a slow, long breath, reasserted her self-control, and spoke. "Yes, Sir, I am currently searching the apartment of the murder victim, but there doesn't appear to be much here, so I'll head back to base now."

"Roger that, Hopps. Out." The radio crackled into silence. Judy stared blankly at the device, shut her eyes, lay back against the cushions, groaned, and set about re-constructing her psyche.

...

With a click, the door to Nick's apartment was unlocked and the door swung slowly open. The red fox gazed at the interior of the room, though he wasn't really looking at anything. His emotional palate blank, he pulled his key out of the door, stepped in and shut the door behind him before pacing his way, automatically, towards the kitchen.

Nick's apartment was nicer than Judy's, but in the three years he had lived there, it had never felt like home — heck, he had felt more at home at Judy's after one night’s sleep on the floor — but, in hindsight, that was probably more to do with the company than the location. He failed in his effort to make himself a drink from the kettle as thoughts of her filled his mind, overwhelming him with sorrow beyond the point of sadness; leaving him like a soulless void, without emotion, as he paced into his bedroom and fell blankly onto his bed.

The lights were off and the room was dark, unlit by the lowering sun outside with the thick black clouds which still hung so very heavily in the air, the light rain pattering against his window. Usually, Nick found this sound soothing and could quickly fall into restful sleep listening to it — now, however — he found it irritating... just like everything else. Nick was tired — tired of it all. His eyes fell slowly closed, as he lay atop the rumpled sheets of the unmade bed. He felt cold, uncomfortable, smelly and dirty, hungry and thirsty... and he couldn't care less, because above all of the mundane pains of daily life, overshadowing all the usual emotions of the drudgery of life, above all of that — Nick felt...

Broken.

...

Later, Judy Hopps rounded the corridor in the main building of the ZPD, coming to a stand before a door. It was a very large door — the brass door handles almost out of reach — and, upon its front, on a likewise brass plaque, was a name: Chief Bogo. Judy steeled herself, pushed all remnants of her emotional stresses away, checked her appearance in the half-reflection of herself in the glass panel of the door and decided she looked, apart from a little redness around the eye, much like her normal self.

Stretching up, she knocked on the door. "Enter," called a voice, Chief Bogo, from within. Judy reached up a little higher and pulled down the handle of the door, which swung open a second later. "Hopps, good of you to join us," said Bogo with a professional, but polite, nod. "These are Officers Henry Leopolde and George Jefferson — you've met before."

"Officers," said Judy. Officer Leopolde was a lion, older than Jefferson by many years, and his — once golden, now gray — mane hung around his head like the clouds that’d hang around the tallest mountain peaks’. He stood as straight as a broom handle, his expression stoic and surly.

"Good to see you again, Officer Hopps," Leopolde said. Officer Jefferson, in comparison, was a different story entirely. He leaned upon the edge of a desk, his arms folded across his chest in an informal manner, while his tail swished slowly back and forth behind him.

"How are you? Alright, Hopps?"

"I'm... fine, thank you, Officer Jefferson."

"Jeffers, please."

"Okay," said Bogo, sat behind his large desk, "enough with the pleasantries, let’s get this done, shall we?" With that, Leopolde crossed to the center of the room, back straight, paws by his sides, while Jefferson moved aside and propped against the wall with his arms crossed in front of him. Bogo motioned for Judy to come forth, and she moved towards Bogo's desk, sitting on her chair, facing away from her chief who was sat impassively behind his desk, with both of them facing Leopolde. Judy beat down all outwards appearances of distress... but her apparent good-mood only resembled being at ease. Leopolde cleared his throat and then started his report.

"In the following verbal report I shall cover the basic principles found in conjuncture of the murder of an unidentified fennec fox, found on the premises of Ladders and Ladders and Co at ten twenty-seven, by Officers Judith L. Hopps and Nicholas P. Wilde."

"Yeah," Leopolde interjected, "and by that he means hello."

"A-hem... thank you for that input, Officer Jefferson. Now, shall I continue? Good," he said before the tiger could reply. "By close examination of the entry wound of the remains of the corpse — that being little more than a skeleton — we managed to determine that the fennec fox was unquestionably shot in the back of the head through the upper right temple by a taller mammal."

"Or the fox could have been kneeling at the time," added Jefferson.

"Indeed. Now, the entry wound clearly denoted that the weapon was some form of small-arms, but without the bullet it was impossible to ascertain anything further. It was first assumed that the bullet entered the skull and became lodged within the brain — to fall out during the fulmination of the body and, subsequently, lost among the rubble — but, after close examination of the walls, Officer Jefferson identified the bullet implanted within the wall."

Leopolde stopped talking, reached into a pocket and produced a photograph of the wall where the bullet hole was. He pawed it to Judy who looked at it politely — though couldn't see the point of him showing her — as he returned to the exact same stance as before, continuing.

"Our guess now is that the bullet entered the skull through the upper right temple, but then made egress through either the right or left eye. We finally managed to extract this bullet." Stopping a second time, Leopolde produced another photograph, which Judy again took and looked at politely, despite the fact it didn't really mean a lot to her. "This confirmed our assumption the weapon used was a pawgun. It is a point-four caliber round, ACP, from a single-action weapon of short recoil, and I gave the task of identifying this bullet to Officer Jefferson — while I continued my search of the warehouse, which was to little or no avail, I might add."

The lion nodded his head and backed away to the wall, swapping places with the much younger and more jovial Jefferson, whose expression was far less surly, speaking with gesticulations and pacing from side to side a little also; quite a contrast to the stony demeanour of the lion.

"So," he said, "I ran up to a couple'a gun experts, but no one seemed to know much about it. They said whatever it was, it must have been pretty rare, but eventually I found this rich collector of rare arms… Thomas I think his name was, and he told me it looked a lot like something the gun manufactures, Sturm and Ruger and Co. would make. Well, he put me onto this old guy up in Tundratown, who was retired but used to work for Sturm and Ruger, an' he told me it was a round from the old Ruger SR1911 he used to make at back at the factory. He said it was a quite outdated gun, inven'ed by John Moses Browning nearly a hundred years ago. But that the design has lasted very well and the gun's still widely used today."

The tiger patted down his pockets as he finished, searching for a photograph which he took out a moment later. He flattened the photo — which was very creased — against his raised knee, standing on one leg to do so, and pawed it to Judy who looked at the photograph of the Ruger SR1911 upon it.

"Now this old guy," he continued, "he didn't know the ident number or anything, but he gave me the number of an old colleague of his who still works up at Sturm and Ruger. Well, I gave him a call, an' he said he remembered the gun and could access the files for the weapon, and to come on over to Ruger and see him. So, I did." He then proceeded to take out of photo of himself stood in the car park of Sturm and Ruger, turning to Leopolde as he rooted it out, "Seriously, gramps, what's the deal with all this frigging photographing everything you had me do? We have all the info, y' can hardly see anything on them anyway and it takes frigging ages too."

"Photographic evidence of the procedures of an investigation," Leopolde replied sternly to his junior, "can be invaluable if it goes to the courts. It's far better to have the evidence on paw and ready when it's needed than to rush around looking for proof after the investigation is over... and don't call me 'gramps'," he bellowed, the fact he had been called such only now sinking into his older, slower mind. "I may be old enough to be your grandfather, but I am your Superior also!"

"Right," smirked Jefferson, "so, booper de boo, I found myself at Ruger with this cute leopardess chick called Sally. At least, I think it was Sally, something' like that… and, well, what can I say? She was hot for me and I thought she was pretty, so when she started hittin' on me I asked her out and we got a dinner-date this evening... round her place if ya' catch my meaning..." Leopolde cleared his throat meaningfully. "But anyway, before that she took me round the back and shot me a look at a bunch'a old files, we found a match between this bullet and the gun it was shot from eventually and-err, Leo?— Here's a photocopy of the paperwork."

As Jefferson reached out to the lion, Leopolde leaned over towards him, holding a single page, formal, A4 document in his paw. Jefferson took the page and then passed that to the rabbit who, by this point, was running out of paws.

"This gun," the tiger said, "is a custom-made, heavily modified, updated and modernized version of the original Ruger SR1911, semi-automatic. Its stainless steel barrel bushing has been replaced with a medium-weight, titanium alloy. Its caliber has actually been reduced from point four five to just point four. And its magazine slot has been extended, increasing its capacity from eight plus one to twelve plus one. To counterbalance the weight of this larger magazine, the barrel has been extended an extra inch, giving it a barrel length of six inches and pushing the muzzle velocity up, as well as increasing its effective-range too. And the extra weight of the longer barrel and magazine has already been compensated for by the titanium alloy, making it just the right weight so it's maneuverable without it getting too much recoil when shot."

He pawed the A4 sheet over, winking to Judy as she took it. "This is one mean gun," he said, "from what cutesy the leopardess told me, the Ruger SR was already a pretty perfect gun. But this thing's got twice the stopping power, and something like three times the lethality of the original. So, it's powerful, it's effective, it's expensive and it's incredibly rare. They called it, the 'Ruger SR, Master Edition."

Judy looked up from the page, blinking at the amount of information she was trying to take in. "Expensive?" was all she could think to say.

"To buy one of the original would cost you about seven, eight hundred. To have one made new would cost you at least a grand, but God only knows how much this baby cost. The scrap metal alone would be more than I get in a month."

"You said this was custom made."

"That's right, yes."

"How many were made and who commissioned it?"

"Actually, just the one. So, you'd think it should be easy enough to find. Unfortunately, the files were inconclusive as to who actually had it built."

"Oh."

"Yeah... you see, for information on the actual gun ownership, I had to see some other guy. He was a rabbit actually like you, except he had these odd black stripes all over him. His name was Jock or Jake… or, something like— and when I asked him for the relevant information, he couldn't find it! They’re still looking, but unless they can find it, we've hit a dead end."

"Thank you, Officer Leopolde," said Bogo, "and thank you as well, Jefferson."

"Not a problem, Sir." The Officers of the Murder Investigation Bureau finished their report, and Judy smiled as she thought about their relationship, while Bogo chatted to them about some of the finer points. Leopolde the Lion and Jefferson the Tiger had a good partnership — Judy realized — for, while Jefferson, young and brash, provided the energy for the two of them, dashing around the city, getting into fights with criminals and following every lead like a hound. It was Leopolde who provided the intelligence, studying and studiously checking every fact, and not chasing after every lead, but cross-referencing every possible lead with every fact, and following only one lead... but with the knowledge it was genuinely the right one.

But, moreover, Leopold's advanced years meant he was no longer able to chase after every lead as Jefferson could, which was entirely necessary sometimes, and could get results when no amount of slow, studious pondering could, and Jefferson didn't quite have the patience or experience to work out every case in his head, so he had to rely on his brawn and his quick wits instead. The weaknesses of one were the strengths of the other... and that was what made them such a good team, and this level of great teamwork, the proper 'by-the-book' style of Leopolde, and the inability to respect the rules and regulations he was working to sustain by Jefferson. They could only remind Judy of Nick and herself.

And it was that revelation which made the tears return... oh, Nick!

Judy bit down on the well of emotion that followed, but it came all too late and — by the way Bogo and the two other officers peeled from their conversation to turn to Judy with a kind of intrigued concern on their faces — this was the first time they had seen a fellow ZPD officer break into tears. Bogo recovered, pointing to the door and looking towards Leopolde and Jefferson. "Out." It was the only instruction he gave, yet it was followed instantly and silently by both... the door to his office opening, and then shutting softly behind them.

...

Bogo had dealt with many things in his time: he had single-hoofedly wrestled an elephant to the floor; he had been in gunfights numbering over twenty mammals aside; he had spent two months deep undercover in a high-operating organized-crime mob, and he had once spent three hours held as a hostage by a mass murderer, who had kept the officers outside at bay by threatening to kill the Chief... Bogo got out unscathed from the encounter, while the murderer wounded up in incentive care — followed eventually by — prison... and yet from all this he could never remember having had to deal with anything quite like 'this'...

Another sob escaped Judy's lips, and the rabbit wiped away yet another tear, staring dejectedly down at the floor in shame for letting her emotions affect her so.

... Yes, he had dealt with the grieving mothers of murdered children — which was never nice — but at least then he knew what the matter was... not like now. Bogo walked pass the little dejected officer and towards the door. Checking up the length of the corridor outside, Bogo assured himself that it was clear. With a click, he locked the door, using the built-in lock which only worked from the inside, and lowered the blind.

In the privacy of his office — now completely detached from the rest of the building — Bogo turned. The massive mammal walked back to stand in front of the smallest, bravest little officer of the ZPD, who appeared to be quite unaware of his presence. He stood before her and lowered himself to the floor, speaking with a voice laden with concern from her diminutive height, while crossing his legs on the ground before her.

"Judy..." That alone was enough to stop the tears, making the small rabbit look up from her observation of the floor by her feet, to realize with a start how the Chief had lowered himself so. Being called Judy by Bogo was even rarer than being called so by Nick — Bogo never spoke to an officer by their first name. She looked slowly up to him. The rabbit was surprised yet-further at seeing Bogo, Chief Bogo, sat, hunched down, on the floor before her, his head near-enough level with hers, and his voice softer and lower than ever before heard.

"Is this...? This is about Nick, isn't it?" A nod. A sniff. "What exactly... happened?" Silence. No reaction. Bogo looked off to the side apprehensively at his next words. "Has something happened between Officer Wilde and yourself? Something that's made the two of you fall out?"

Judy's reply was instant, "I..." but faulted after the first syllable. Her face fell back to the floor as she teased her paws pathetically before her. "Yes. I guess. Kinda."

Bogo chuckled. "Hopps, you and Wilde are always falling out; you'll be friends again by tomorrow, you'll see."

"It, it's not like that… this time. It's, I-I..." Raising her paw to her mouth, Judy bit down upon her finger so she can hold back the tears, triggered by the all-too-vivid memory of her slap across Nick's face. "I hurt him. I hurt Nick and now I don't know how to make him better."

"Judy," Bogo said, honestly, "Nick Wilde is incredibly fond of you. I think, with all certainty, that if you just go right now and see him, and apologize for whatever it is you have done, if you treat him with respect and speak truly. That will be more than enough for him to forgive you."

Judy sniffed up another tear, but there was a smile on her face now. "Thanks, Bogo, but... it's not all from me, the hurt, I mean. Nick's past, just from what little I know, is just riddled with horrible, horrible things."

"Well," he said, distantly, "I had figured as much. It explains why Wilde doesn't talk about his past much. Come to think of it, I've never even heard him mention so much as his own mother."

"Well," Judy said, a hint of pride at the trust the red fox had in her, "he has told me a little of his past. I hardly know anything, but what little I know is more than anyone else does. And I know that, even though all I have's a fuzzy outline, his hurt is born from the pain of Nick's past."

"Is this something you can help him with?"

"I— I don't know. That's why I'm in this state I'm in now. I can't help him if he doesn't open himself up to me, and opening himself up is what brought back all this pain in the first place, I..." Bogo watched as the rabbit started breaking down further into tears — what little aid he had provided by making her smile quickly eroding beneath the trouble which had clearly passed between Wilde and herself.

"... I just feel like if I hadn't pushed him so hard… if I didn't stick my neck in where it didn't belong… that he'd still be— you know— Nick."

"Is there anything I can do?" asked Bogo after a long pause, at a complete loss for the first time since being made chief. "I can't help you socially, but I am well connected among my own circles, and—"

"Sir, that's… that's really sweet of you, but, Nick—"

"I know, Hopps. I know Wilde can be hard to reach, emotionally, but one thing I do know for sure is, he needs you." Judy's eyes slowly rose to meet Bogo's, a questioning expression on her face.

"Officer Hopps, I am the chief of police, in Precinct One, working in the center of the largest city on the continent. I rose up the ranks much like I suspect yourself and Wilde will do, and I spent a great many years as a detective. I am more than a little proficient at reading people, and I know that you have made more of an impact on Officer Wilde's life than anything or anyone else before. Remember that Hopps, if there's anyone who can motivate him, push him to go further, run faster, jump higher: it's you. And you can help him get through this to."

"Thanks, Chief," she smiled warmly, "but—"

"And remember... the two of you alone make fair coppers, but I can't say either of you are the best officers I've ever had because, bluntly, you're not. But what I can say, and with all truth, is that You and Wilde make the best damn team I have ever seen." Judy's smile was different now. It was full of resolve and hope, beaming with life and joy towards her chief. Bogo smiled too, the smile was wrong somehow, though Judy couldn't tell as he spoke, "Hopps, if you know where Nick is, go to him. Take as much time off as you need, just, please, find Nick."

"Thank you, Sir! I will, and thank you!" The room full with the brightness of her smile, the rabbit rushed for the door, leaving all pains and troubles behind her as she turned and flicked the lock off, opened the door and flashed with a smile to Bogo. "Thank you, Bogo, for being so understanding. There aren't many bosses who would let a worker leave work just to find their friend."

Bogo looked at Judy, his somehow 'wrong' smile still on his face as she shut the door behind her and rushed off down the corridor.

...

Bogo stood motionless for some time. The 'false' smile he had been wearing fell. He grunted and stood to his full height, a stern expression on his face as he crossed the room to the large window, hoofs behind his back, gazing out at the city beneath him.

He stood there for some time, looking down at the city with his brow furrowed in thought, his lips raised in a slight grimace. His voice was low and troubled, unsure, lacking all warmth as he spoke to the empty room without turning. "You can come out now, Jack." Behind him, the door to the cupboard opened. Bogo spoke again as he heard the figure approach, "You hear all that?"

"Yes, Sir."

The male's reply was soft, smooth, untroubled and unhurried. Which was more than could be said for Bogo's voice which was edged with concern as he asked, "Did you believe her?"

"It's... her to tell, Sir. The emotion was genuine, if that's what you're asking, but it could be she doesn't know herself."

Bogo released a long, low grumble. "Could well be. That fox is a tricky one."

"... Did you believe her, Sir?"

Bogo glanced to the side, though did not turn. "I... want to, but we can't know how much of an influence that fox has over her."

"The two are incredibly close," Jack said matter-of-factly, "his emotional control over her must be astounding."

"No," Bogo muttered to himself, "no, this is all wrong. You're making Wilde sound like some kind of manipulative psychopath."

"We can't know for certain that he isn't, Sir." The smaller mammal joined Bogo by the window, gazing down at the streets below in a similar fashion, with his paws shoved into his black trouser pockets. "You're not telling her about Scarlett?" Jack asked, carefully.

"No. If things are as I hope, and Wilde is innocent, it's better for Hopps to not know a thing."

"But if Wilde isn't innocent," the smaller mammal said, "shouldn't we make sure Hopps has her guard up? Surely we should have her keep an eye on him for any signs of sudden aggregation or mood swings, or the likes."

Bogo's head shot around, shouting his response down at the smaller mammal, "I will not plant the seeds of mistrust in, quite truthfully, the finest team I have ever seen, in or out of the ZPD. We do not know of Nick's standing in these murders, and I will not risk affecting their relationship when Wilde may only be an innocent victim in all of this."

"May, Sir. Only may."

Bogo stared down at the smaller mammal who was still staring up at him with a face, which hadn't so much as flinched at the outburst. Bogo turned back to the window, stress written across his face as he raised a hoof and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I still say this is all wrong," Bogo muttered, "none of this feels right. I don't see Nick as a murderer, and I despise the fact I have to count him as a suspect."

"Which is why you called for me, Sir," Jack sighed airily. “You asked for me because this is a delicate matter. If this was easy to prove or disprove, if it didn't have massive implications not only to the ZPD and Officer Hopps, but to the reputation of all foxes in Zootopia. And if this didn't concern one of your most promising officers, two murders and a vast shipment of illegal substance entering this city, then you would have put one of your simple-minded lackeys on the case, and not me."

Bogo lowered his hoof slightly, grimacing down at the smaller mammal. "Are you calling my officers simple-minded?"

The smaller mammal realized his mistake. Everyone made them sometimes. It was never a good idea to insult the capabilities of Bogo's own memmle in front of him. "I—" was all he could manage before…

"My officers are not simple-minded! Just because you infiltrated Ruger before Officer Jefferson did, broke into their paperwork, impersonated one of their workers and withheld the fact that two such weapons were made, and that Nichols Wilde is the owner of one of them... that does not make you a more intelligent individual!"

The gray and black-striped rabbit stared blankly up at him, his arms folded against his chest. "You were the one who wanted that kept quiet, Sir," he replied, only a hint of respect left in his voice. "You were the one who suggested tricking Judy into finding Wilde, while I followed and kept an eye on both of them."

"Yes, okay!" Bogo grunted heavily, turning away from the rabbit and pressing a hoof against his head in an attempt to sooth the building stress-headache. "Look, Jack, I'm sorry. You're right. I am in need of your help and I shouldn't chastise you like that, it's just this, this, is getting on my damn nerves." Bogo took in a sharp breath of air and became 'Chief' Bogo once again, turning on his heels to face the rabbit beside him. "Agent Savage?"

"Yes, Chief?"

"You know your target; follow her."

A lazy smirk grew on the stripped rabbit’s face. "Sir, it would be my pleasure." Jack Savage turned, walking back to the door which Judy had unlocked. He had a car waiting in the drive with the key in the ignition — ready and waiting to follow Judy when she’d drive away. He opened the door and was about to step out when Bogo's voice stopped him.

"And Savage... good luck."

The rabbit froze, his voice slow and colluding as he spoke without turning. "Luck, is the enemy of chance. Chance, is the enemy of fate and Fate, is the enemy of destiny. And I rely, Sir, on none of these things — they are all of them far too irregular for a mammal of my profession. I rely on something, far more dependable. I rely on one thing only..."

"... And what's that," asked Bogo after a moment’s pause.

Agent Savage turned, his mouth parted in a wry, self-assured smile. "Myself, Sir." He threw a casual salute to the Chief as he backed out of the room, winking to the smirking buffalo as the door swung shut behind him. He turned, half-striding and half-swaggering down the corridor and towards his anticipating destination.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

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Thus share that belovable review!

  • "Ohhhhhh my goodness where has this story been all of my life! I need this story to continue on! What will happen!? What will become of Nick and Judy!? Who was that mystery wolf and who will his next rabbit victim be? And what of the case? Will Wilde and Hopps be able to solve it? I NEED THE ANSWERS! Please continue on with this story! You have cast out the line and gotten me hook, line, and sinker!
  • You have really built something here and I love what you are doing, not only with the plot line here but with the characters as well as Nick and Judy's relationship, you are creating such layers there especially with Nick, I mean WOW! I am interested to see more of his past and your take on it, there really seems to be a darkness and heaviness there that a lot have not done, so I would enjoy your take. So please come back and continue on this story! Because you are sitting on a gold mine." batbinmyheart91.
  • Now that's a review and I thank you for it more than I can say.

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Chapter Text

The rain had abated. The clouds, however, still encased the world in gloom, while Nick Wilde lay upon his unmade bed, gazing blankly up at the ceiling and remaining motionless, thoughtless... soulless…

Nick was sick of it — just sick of it. Sick of the constant bland dullness which hung about the cold gray room, sick of the sinking feeling in his chest and the cold chill of his heart, sick of the continual lack of energy or motivation he recognized as depression, sick of the memories rolling through his head, sick of his past, his mistakes and himself... and, as to his life? He was sick of it.

Motivation came out of no ware. Nick sat up, a grim light in his eyes. He swung his legs off the end of the bed and stood. He reached under his bed, pulled a couple of cardboard boxes out of the way and reached further under it. He came back out, holding a sturdy metal tin in both paws. With care, he stood, keeping his eyes fixed on the metal tin, holding it firmly but attentively in both paws as he walked steadily to his desk. He put the metal tin down, entered a combination into the lock and steadied himself at the click of the latch undoing.

Nick took in a breath, and then let it out slowly. He raised the lid, twitched aside the protective cloth covering it and gazed down at the shining, metal pawgun within. The pawgun he had not seen for over three years. The pawgun he had not seen... since Scarlett died.

A moment of grief for something other than himself washed over him, Nick's expression filling with remorse as he tenderly rubbed the pad of his paw across an inscription embossed just above the ident' number. His remorseful expression becoming firmer, Nick reached out a paw and picked up the metal device which shone with a dull grey light, and had a wood decal upon the handle. This was his key to ridding himself of his bad mood. He checked the barrel — empty — and then removed the divider from the tin. The upper third of the tin contained the gun and the lower two thirds contained a number of magazines for the gun, a thin cover dividing them in a secretive manner alike that of smugglers who’d fabricate their bags when going through checkpoints.

Through the thick black clouds, a beam of sunlight forced its way down, in through the bedroom window behind Nick's bed, and onto the metallic purple foil of a wrapped parcel on Nick's desk. Reaching out to the gun, his paw stopped. Nick's face turned as a change befell the room which was suddenly filled with a vibrant amber color. The color reminded Nick only of Judy and it made his mood brightened at the thought of her — even while it impassioned the bitterness of his spirit also.

Nick gazed at it for a time — it was a pity Judy would never get to see it — at the present he had bought for her some days ago, wrapped in the metallic purple foil which resembled her eyes, the main reason he had chosen the specific wrapping in the first place. His mind clicked, and Nick remembered Judy's present to him was still in his back pocket. He blinked at the gun still in his paws. His curiosity overpowered his desire to end the pain his life was filled with, Nick decided he owed it to Judy to at least have a look, and reached into his back pocket, letting the gun down upon the desk.

The fox smiled at the small packet, three inches across, two inches wide and quite thin, then slit the packet open with the claw of his thumb, letting the leather wallet slip out and into the pads of his paw. He smiled fondly at the gift. It was clearly an expensive wallet, made from real leather which was soft to the touch yet firm enough to hold its shape. He opened it, admiring the various pockets and compartments for change, ID cards and notes — it was very well made, Nick considered, and could last him a lifetime if he looked after it which — of course — he would... even if he’d never see the rabbit again.

What really struck Nick, though, was the ID photo. It was a simple photo of a very attractive rabbit, smiling towards the shot, her ears high, her eyes wide — in casual cloths and in among a lush, green surrounding. She wasn't pouting, she wasn't trying to look cheeky or seductive — it was just her normal, beautiful smile, and it set Nick's heart aglow.

"Thanks for the gift, Hopps," Nick murmured quietly to the photo. Whatever happened in his future — no matter how bad things got — Nick told himself in that moment he must never let himself throw that photo away — no matter how dark his mood would be at the time. Then, Nick checked around the rest of the wallet. He looked in each of the card slots and the compartment for loose change. He opened the compartment for notes and found...

"Judy, you sly, sly rabbit."

... It was her half of the money for their meal back at Joe's Place. The money he had refused multiple times, the money she had tried to sneak into his pocket twice, and the money she had sworn to pay him back for. Nick looked to the photo of Judy, her smile full of joy towards him. A smile which filled his heart with a golden glow which lifted it high above the sense of guilt and hurt, a smile which lightened his spirits, making them dance through his soul, a smile which almost made him forget about the way he had stormed out, leaving Judy alone when she needed him most — no, when he needed her most — to leave the best thing that had ever happened to his life behind him for a future unknown...

A single tear fell from the edge of Nick's eye. It trickled down his muzzle and dangled off the end of his nose. It fell, and landed with a damp drip on the beaming photo of Judy.

... And then the sun returned behind the clouds, the heaviness of his heart returned, his spirits turned to lead, the truth of what had passed came back and the vibrant amber faded from the room just as all light faded from Nick's life — leaving only the cold gray, the empty husk of a broken fox, and the harsh silver of the gun which glinted at him over the table. Nick was sick of it — sick of everything. He wanted to put an end to all of the foul feelings driving him mad, and knew only one surefire way of making that happen.

Nick slowly put down the wallet and picked up the gun, yet his body put a motion of stop as he gave linger to doubts that coated his mind aloud within, tho such persisted in a timeframe of small with the result of him forging on to his chosen path. His legs carried him in approach to the window, which he raised with the meeting of soothness against his fur, and then… well, he just stepped out into the air.

Judy pulled up to a stop on the street just outside Nick's apartment. Despite what had passed between them, her spirits were high — she knew exactly how she felt about the fox, and it was about damn time she showed him just how much she cared — not just subtle hints, not alluding to his feelings or trying to lead Nick into admitting it himself — and not just shy kisses and whispered I love you's either — real, passionate emotion.

She got out of the car and was about to shut the door when something, she didn't know what, made her stop. This same something made Judy look up and she gasped as she saw the red figure of a fox climbing the exterior fire-exit that was bolted to the side of Nick's apartment and towards the roof of the ten-storeyed building. And she didn't miss the most important piece of the in-motion picture. The gun.

For all the reasons Nick could have been going to the roof with a gun in his paw, only one appeared to fit in the rabbit’s mind. And it screamed for her to push her body to its very limits to get there before Nick did the unthinkable and went too far... a scream which her body and mind both followed instantly. She called to him, frantic, as she rushed out of the ZPD cruiser, with the engine still running and the doors open, but her shout came a moment too late as the red fox disappeared onto the flat roof of the very tall building. She all but kicked in the door to the block of flats he lived in and hurriedly made her way to his apartment by the quickest means she knew possible.

The steps appeared steep and sharp like canyons tall, the speed she was sprinting at felt insufficient, frail and withering, despite her best efforts in combination with the adrenaline spiking the blood everywhere within her pipelines of life. She couldn’t believe what was happening at this very moment, she didn’t want to, even if the proof was instilled in the deepest pits of her eyes. The object of death having given her fur a few years of age, with her heart having squeezed into itself to the realization of what was to happen very soon if she didn’t increase her efforts, if she didn’t give not-only her best, but… everything.

Dashing down the corridor towards Nick's room, she forced the locked-but-thin plywood door open with one powerful kick without slowing down. She scrutinized the empty room, while the thin curtains blew up from the breeze the open window was letting in, and she was instantly filled with a sense of foreboding, thus she leapt out and onto the exterior fire-exit where she quickly caught sight of her patrol car and the familiarity of where she exactly was, hence her head shot up and her legs began climbing her up the steps in skips and grunts.

The stairs clanked and creaked in dread, she rounded a corner and sprinted up the next set with this monotonous and draining tiredness, nevertheless, she continued this process at a furious rate without allowing herself to falter the speed of her ascension, her heart thumping in her mouth, her veins running hot with this itchy consternation with every whip of breath. There was no telling how much more stairs she had to go through, due to not wanting to waste a single second that stopping would give failure to.

The feeling of losing control and trying to desperately take it back: repulsingly bitter and degrading. Who was to be blamed for such an insane set of events coming to a close? What did it matter, they weren’t finished and time was still of the essence that-which gave her the hope to increase her struggle on this mountainous exercise of salvation.

Her mind readied her body for another set of climb, but she was met with gloomy-grey ceiling of the world, therefor, as she reached the roof, she threw herself from the staircase and onto the flat-top, dashing around the side of a ventilation shaft.

There he was — gun in paw and raised. He didn’t evidently spot her, until it was too late, until the trigger was nightmarishly-loudly…

"Niiiiiiick!"

Pulled…

...

Author’s notes:

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Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

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Chapter Text

Death. In Tarot reading, the Death card represents an ending. All things come to an end, but keep in mind, this is not just referring to life. The worst part of Death is the struggle of acceptance. Yet Death, like Birth, is completely natural. In this day and age we attach ourselves to a potential level of immortality; we like to think that we never leave this space and time. We don't like to think that all the time and money we've invested into our lives has gone to waste. But the Death card reminds us that it is time for us to confront our fear at the end of the chapter. Death is a journey; the only constant is change. This is undeniably true. We must not fight Death, only practice acceptance.

If the Death card is prominent in our reading, we will find that there is a large amount of change coming our way and we should not fight or resist it. Death is transition — we have a higher power guiding our way that knows more than we do in this moment — and that is a fact that must be accepted for the road before us to clear. Think of it as the Death of the phoenix.

There are aspects to our life that are ending or changing dramatically, and these changes may even be exceptionally hard to deal with. Like the phoenix, these transitions in our life are leading to a glorious rebirth or something new and better. Often, we like to hold on to aspects of our life even after they serve no more purpose for, as they say, it is better to face the known evil than the unknown... but now is the time to let go of that which is not aiding us or bettering our life in some way.

Allow these things to fall away from your life. Let go of your past. Make room for all the new, fantastic prospects in life and allow these things to bring you...

Joy.

"Niiiiiiick!"

A loud and piercing explosion rippled through the air, despite the wishes and wants of the wickedness-stricken rabbit whose entire life flashed through her eyes in the span of a second in which her legs kicked her primordially to the urge of self-preservation. The sound separated the air above her head and in between her erect ears, while her whole body fell desperately to the cold ground of the roof.

"Err, Judy? Are you—" Nick tried to articulate amidst his slack-jawness, but Judy was quick to retort due to her furiously raging heart and adrenal-infused focus the prospect of death had created without consent.

"W-what the h-hell, Nick? W-what t-the hell?! You almost shot me!"

"Sorry Hopps, I—"

She wasn’t having it, rows of questions and doubts had replaced her rationality, with the most important coming to materialism before her mouth, "W-what the fluff are you doing? Are you trying to kill me?"

"No! Hopps, it's a shooting gallery." Stunned beyond fury, yet still bound to the sensation of trust, Judy took in her surroundings. The roof of Nick's apartment was a wide, long, square platform with a parapet about two feet high on all sides. On three of the four sides, the roof overlooked the rather unlively city, which was lit in a dull grey light from the clouds that were still in the process of parting — though the rain had abated and the wind had died down. The fourth side, however, was connected to a much higher block of flats. This wall — which Judy had stepped in front of when she had rounded the ventilation shaft — had a kind of shelving system nailed to it. These shelves were populated with a number of beer cans, bottles and flower pots... a number of which were smashed and disgruntled.

Stood in the center of the roof was Nick. When Judy had first seen him, he had been stood with his gun out before him at arm’s length, aiming down the sights, towards the wall she had leapt in front of. She had believed that she was about to be on the receiving end of a small but very fast piece of murderous led, thus she had thrown herself on the ground as the bullet whizzed past, and into a flower pot less than a foot away from where her head would have been smashed into pieces.

Reminiscing onto the moment that had flashed through time so quickly, she found herself kinda amused by the surprise and worry on Nick's face as he started towards her. At that moment, however, she was too startled to even notice the fox closing in the distance.

"Hopps," Nick said, softly. Having crossed the roof, the remorseful red fox stood before the rabbit still on the floor and leaned towards her, offering his paw — palm up — towards her. "Hopps, I'm sorry."

"Oh, don't be," replied Judy in the calming aftereffects, taking his paw and standing. "It was just an accident, could've happened to anyone."

"No, you misunderstand, Judy. I-I'm sorry. I am so sorry for walking out on you, I, I... I'm a coward, Hopps, I always have been. I run away from everything that hurts when I should be pushing through it like you said I should and I knew I should." The fox started to tremble slightly, "Judy, when I was walking away from you back in that apartment, I knew, knew, I was just running away from the best thing that ever came into my life, but," he continued, hot tears stinging his eyes.

"B-but I just carried on walking and walking— I crossed half the city and didn't even realize… until I was back here, alone, with nothing but myself and my memories. I—" the fox raised a paw to wipe away a tear as it crossed the length of his cheek, the rabbit watching in stunned fascination. "I, I—" Nick took in a long breath, then a painful gulp. "But, you came back. You came back to me, Judy, even after I deserted you."

Judy stood motionless as Nick's powerful green gaze penetrated her soul with emotion. She opened her mouth but no sound came out, and so, she hugged him instead. Stepping forwards, Judy's eyes fell tightly shut as she put her arms around his waist — holding him so tight that he couldn't have gotten away from her even if he wanted...

He didn't.

No, Nick didn't want to get away from her and, the moment she had stepped forwards, he had thrown his arms around the rabbit, grasping her with as much urgency as though he needed her like oxygen itself. His eyes fell closed also as he breathed lungfuls of her sweet, reassuring scent, his warm tears wetting the top of Judy's head. "Why? Why did you come back? For me, of all mammals."

"I already told you, Nick," Judy sighed, "because you're my partner. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Nickey, and I hope someday you'll come to realize that truly."

"Oh, God," Nick huffed, surprising Judy as he was still sobbing just a little, "I— I don't deserve you, Judy. Never in a million years do I deserve you." Judy opened her eyes slightly, her cheek pressing against Nick's warm chest in the coldness of the roof air. She wiped a tear of happiness against Nick with a smile, her gaze falling towards Nick's paw... the fact wasn’t missed that the gun Nick was holding was a Ruger SR1911. Her brow furrowed, but she knew she had to play it safe, thus said nothing at this time. Her gaze shifted at the gun’s six inch barrel. A thought crossed her mind, one nasty and awful thought... 

What if Nick is the murderer?... This thought lasted for substantially less than a second and then the rabbit cursed herself for being so untrusting and cast that doubt into the wind, deciding questions could wait for later as she pressed her head back into the reassuring warmth of his chest, her eyes falling closed a second time. "You seriously think you don't deserve me, Nick? Why?"

"Because you’re perfect. And you're wonderful and intelligent and beautiful and kind and thoughtful and driven and brave and—" Judy reached up and placed her paw gently over Nick's mouth.

"Well so are you, sweetheart," she replied softly, turning her head to gaze up at him, her paw slipping from his mouth to caress his warm red cheek. "You're wonderful. You're intelligent and thoughtful. You're driven and brave, and so very beautiful." She reached her other paw up to Nick's handsome face — a stretch though it was — as she held his head in her tender paws. And then, as slow as the changing of the seasons, Judy started to draw Nick's head down towards hers. Nick's eyes were full of surprise and anticipation as they drew level with Judy's.

Judy pressed her lips against the fox’s deep purple nose in a gesture enjoyed by both of them. She gave him a second, quicker kiss on the nose and then edged her mouth forwards down his muzzle slightly, for a third kiss — a kiss — which would have been on the lips if Nick hadn't interrupted her by apologizing again.

"I'm sorry."

Judy drew back from the closeness she was about to place on the fox’s lips, her voice as sweet as her smile. "No. It's me who should be sorry. If I hadn't kept pushing you—"

"No," he snapped. The air around Judy's body suddenly turned cold as the fox stepped away, his voice sharp as Judy's head turned to face him.

"Nick?"

"No, you have nothing to apologize for." With that he raised a single claw and pointed it at himself. "I do," he drawled — his voice hot with accusation — then turned his claw to point at her — his voice far softer, pained almost. "You don't." He lowered his paw. It dropped loosely to his side. "I left you when I needed you the most. You opened yourself up, left yourself emotionally defenseless, threw yourself upon me emotionally — then physically — to try get to me and to get me to stay.“

“You risked everything we had, our friendship, for my benefit. And I left you without so much as a word of goodbye in return. I, do not, deserve, you." Nick stood silent for a moment, then continued. "You said, on the drive over, not to expect any offers of help in the future, because I wouldn't get it."

"Ooh— come on, Nick… I was in a mood! I didn't really mean—"

"But," he interrupted... "that doesn't mean I can't 'ask' for help." The rabbit fell silent, staring at the red fox as he slowly lowered himself to the ground. "I'm asking for your help now, Judy. I'm begging for it." It's true, he was. On his knees in front of the rabbit, Nick leaned forwards until his head was below Judy's own eye line. Looking down at the fox for the first time in living memory, Judy didn't know what to think as his paws reached out and took hers in his, clutching them before him as he, almost begged for her help.

"I've been running from this for the past three years of my life. But if I keep running now, I'll lose you, too. I don't want to lose you— I couldn't bare lose you. I have to fight it… there's no other way. But I can't do it alone... will you help me?"

"Of course I'll help you," Judy breathed in reply the moment she regained the ability to speak. "I'm here, Nick. Whatever you need, I'll help you."

"Then hear me. Listen to my past. Let me tell you everything, help me with my burden— I can't..." On the edge of tears, the fox fell lower to the ground. "... I can't bare it on my own anymore."

Judy stared for several seconds, lost for what to do. Then, putting her arms around the fox’s neck, she lifted his head until his wet, emeralds met hers — both rabbit and fox on the very edge of emotional wreckage. "Then tell me. Tell me all you can bare to tell and let me do everything I can to help."

Nick breathed, a smile for an instant crossing his muzzle — revealed for her help — but fearful of what he now had to say. Slowly, eventually, Nick stood. Judy stepped back from the fox, making sure to appear calmly-attentive while all she wanted to do was hug the fox, kiss him, and tell him he didn't have to do a thing which, while it was what they both would have preferred, would not have helped either in the long run.

Nick had asked for her help. That was something Judy could never refuse.

Nick looked away, out towards the edge of the city, and then walked over to the edge of the roof. Judy followed behind. The fox climbed up onto the low parapet of the building and Judy's heart leapt into her mouth as the image of Nick jumping off took her mind, but her fear settled as he mearly sat down on the edge, his feet dangling over the ten storeyed drop.

Taking in several long breaths, Nick slowly started to push his mind back through the years, forcing control over his emotions in the way he had learned to over his long and unhappy life. Judy's ears quivered as she joined him on the parapet, not touching him, but close enough to offer her support.

"It all started," he began slowly, "a very long time ago. You thought the Ranger Scouts was an old story? Well, I wasn't even born when this stuff started," Nick paused, considering how best to go about this, and then continued. "My Dad was always an abusive bastard to my Mom. I mean, she was strong, almost as strong as you. There wasn't anyone in Zootopia she couldn't stand up to... but Dad screwed with her, mentally. I was too young to see it at the time, but looking back, god it makes me sick."

Nick leaned forwards, his elbows resting on his lap, while gazing down the many feet he could fall before reaching the ground. Judy couldn't handle the fact that Nick could jump or fall off at any second, thus she shifted closer to him and locked her arms around his chest, knowing she was putting herself at risk if Nick jumped, thus certain that he would never do so if it risked her life as well.

"In public," he continued, leaning into Judy just a little, "he would find fault with everything she did, shouting at her for her mistakes and then storm away whenever she tried to apologize. Alone, he would hold her to his chest, stroking her head and telling her how wonderful he thought she was. Some days he'd stand by her side, hold her, love her. Other days he'd leave her deserted, piling blame and guilt on her, 'till she broke down in tears on the floor. He didn't even need to be there, a text from him was enough to give her a breakdown." Nick's voice started to rise with anger. "He'd walk into the room telling her he loved her more than life itself, and then storm out of the room thirty seconds later saying he wished she was dead. His mood towards her changed at the tip of a hat. And it wasn't because he had some kind of personality disorder. He knew exactly what he was doing, and every time he beat her, it only made her love him more when he hugged her again."

Nick fell silent for some seconds. The red anger which had raised the volume in his words to almost a shout, fading. "She didn't have a chance. She was brainwashed, literally, and that—" Nick growled, then spat of the edge of the building, spiting at the memory of the mammle he once mockingly called 'father'.

"But this one night," Nick continued, his voice strained, "this one night he was so drunk he could hardly tell the ceiling from the floor. Well the stupid bastard got it into his pissed head to go out to the lake. Mom… she tried to stop him, terrified he'd wind up dead in it or something. She tried to stop him, so, he hit her." Nick's body started to convulse slightly, rocking with the suppressed tears.

"He hit her and he hit her and there was blood and she was on the floor, he broke her nose and cracked a rib and I was only five-but I ran at him and hit him, trying to stop him hurting Mom, and then he hit me and..."

A dull whine escaped Nick as his head dropped into his lap. He remained motionless for a time, but when he looked up again, his voice was steadier, firmer and not so laden with pain. "Next thing I knew, it was three months later. I was in incentive care, just out of a coma from a severe concussion. My Mom was there, all better, and my Dad was serving nine years jail time." A smile crossed his muzzle then — a grin — as he carried on speaking with a voice which was rather warmer. "Those years, when it was just Mom and me… they were probably the best years of my life. No offence to you, Carrots."

"None taken," she breathed, glad to see Nick could still joke — even a little.

"And, apart from the little incident with the Scouts which you already know about, life was pretty good. We weren't 'wealthy' and things were a little stretched at times, but we pulled through okay. I went from being bottom of my class to the top because of the support Mom gave me in revising and, best of all, my Mom seemed to recover and turned back into a good vixen again. Not the brainwashed, soulless fox my dad left her as."

He breathed happily for a moment — sucking in the 'good' memories while they lasted — knowing them to be short lived.

"Life was pretty good for a while. No crime, no cons, no abusive dad... no drugs. But then, a few months after my fourteenth birthday, when my 'dad' was let out of jail... it's a day I'll never forget. I remember there was a knock at the door and Mom opened it, and there was dad with flowers and chocolates and a clean face and a new suit. He embraced Mom and begged her to take him back. She did. She had sworn to me she would never talk to that creep again, but the moment he walked in through that door, like the bastard owned the place and swearing he was a new mammal and that his nine years in jail had shown him how important… Mom was— she fell right back into his arms." Nick grunted heavily, his head despondent.

"But it was the same old shit in the end," he muttered, "I love you, I hate you, come here I miss you, go away I'm tired of you. I'll hug you, I'll smack you. I'll kiss you, I'll..." Nick turned further away, his voice lower still, "...I'll beat you." Nick's gaze fell, biting down on his bottom lip until he tasted blood.

He did this until the physical volume of a cut lip equaled the pain in his heart, or masked it… at least, and then continued, "His time in prison didn't make him any better. If anything it made him worse. Rather than just being the abusive bastard of before, in jail, he got 'connected'. Even after all that time, he still had total power over Mom. She was still a brainwashed slave to him and still couldn't see him for what he was. I tried to tell her, help her, stop her. God is my witness I tried—  but, it was no good. It was like I wasn't there."

The red fox — the greatest friend Judy had — fell silent into deep brooding for a long time. So long that Judy thought it must have been the end of it, thus she opened her mouth to speak, only to be cut off with, "I thought for a long time about running away from home. But Mom needed me so I stayed. I hated to think of the control dad would have had over Mom if I wasn't there. And dad… if I can call him that… He was always too nervous to so much as to touch me, knowing that I was the only thing that could make Mom see him what he was again."

"Everything was back to how it used to be. My grades fell. I felt sick and lonely every day. I couldn't speak to my Mom, didn't want to speak with my dad and didn't dare leave Mom alone for longer than necessary, because I was afraid he'd start beating her again."

A moment of more gloom fell, and then Nick chuckled, dryly.

"But, in the end, my dad's corruption was his own undoing. Now, you've heard this bit from Finnick, but I was out partying one night, came back late, and he was just dead on the floor. I knew it was a drug overdose for two reasons. One, a number of the friends he had made in prison were heavily connected with the drugs-triad. And two, he was still foaming from the mouth, white powder all across his muzzle. I woke Mom up like it was Christmas. She reacted like it was Doomsday. The police came with an ambulance, and declared it death by drug-overdose and not a murder. Mom was in tears for weeks. She couldn't walk, couldn't eat, couldn't do sod all. It was no surprise when she had a breakdown. They took her to a mental hospital and pumped corrective drugs into her until she didn't know who she was or what she was doing. And— and then..."

Nick broke into trembling whimpers, anger and heartbreak welling up in his soul. It overpowered his ability to speak for a moment but then he forced the emotion down, speaking on through the cacophony of stress, his voice hot with overwhelming emotion.

"By— by the time I was eighteen, Mom was in intensive care. The doctors tried and tried, but she wasn't responding to anything or anyone. She wasn't eating, speaking, moving— She died before my twentieth birthday… fun birthday that was… still a teenager, and already I'd gone through enough shit to last me a lifetime… That was just the start. After that I ran to Tundratown. A guy can get himself lost there, easy. And it's there I got connected with mammals of… well, shall we say: the more unselective social class of mammals."

"Mister Big, you mean?"

"No," Nick chuckled. "I wish it was, but no. Big wasn't in power then. A different mob ran Tundratown in those days. You're probably too young to remember the Kray Twins, believe me, you're lucky. But, fortunately for everyone, The Firm, ran by the nefarious Ronnie and Reggie Kray brothers, has long-since been dismantled. But, back in the day, the Kray Twins practically owned Tundratown. And I mean, literally, owned it. They didn't just rule the crime in that area like Mister Big, they had every officer serving there bribed and scared into turning a blind eye to anything they saw, including murder without so much as a second glance."

"What happened to them?"

"Chief Bogo happened. When Bogo was put in charge, the first thing he did was replace every officer working in Tundratown with new untainted officers. He combed that part of the city, ratting out every last member of The Firm, until there was just the Krey Twins left, who apparently killed themselves shortly before the last of their power was taken from them."

"Wow, I never knew that about Bogo!"

"Well, the 'governance' want him to keep it quiet. It's a stain on Zootopia's otherwise spotless record and they just gave him a raise and a pat on the back, while any decent government would have given him a medal and declare him a hero of the people— but anyway, let’s just say I had to do some pretty bad stuff to survive. I've never killed," he added with a tone of assurance which Judy believed wholeheartedly, "but I worked very closely with mammals who did."

"How come Bogo never found you out?" Judy asked.

"Cause I'm a fox, Hopps. I don't care how many times you've heard a fox complaining that it’s speciest to call them 'shifty' or 'sly', but it's damn true. Just like it’s damn true you're the cutest officer in the whole ZPD."

"Well," she said lightly, glad for the opportunity to raise Nick's spirits with some playful banter, "I wouldn't say I'm theee cutest." She caressed a paw across his forearm.

"Me? Oh, come on, Hopps. Handsome yes, but not cute."

"No, just cute."

"I am not the cute one, Hopps, you are." Silence fell again. They both knew that was the end of the banter and were sad to see it go, as they knew that they now had to face again the darker and more imminent threat to the red fox’s life: his past.

"I really don't want to go into detail with what I had to do, but I ended up in a pretty bad way. I was a lackey to any order the Krey Twins gave me— I even went to dinner with them once, I was surprised to get out of that place alive. But, worst of all, I ended up on the drugs. In fact, the only good thing that came of my time with The Firm was meeting Scarlett." Nick trailed off, his expression almost dreamy as he thought back to her.

Judy realized after a while that Nick had forgotten about what was going on around him, and so, though it pained her to take him back from what was obviously such a nice memory, she pulled him into the real world, "And who was Scarlett?"

"Hmm? Oh! Er, a red fox. Very beautiful and very clever. She was a dangerous piece of work… but, you know, sexy dangerous. For all the heartache I'd lived through by that point, and she'd been through some tough times too, that's what brought us together. She was on the drugs too, and working for the Krey Twins just as I was. But with her, somehow, everything just became more bearable. Life with her was always on-the-edge. A few years went by like this, and we wanted to move in together and we wanted to get away from the Krey Twins too.”

Slowly, then, Nick's words started to shake. His voice trembled more and more until he could hardly speak. This, truly, was the freshest stain, which pierced the sharpest of all the rest of experiences disastrous.

"Scarlett, on one job, managed to steal the income of an entire shipment of drugs and used the money to buy us a beautiful little house in the North of Tundratown. The Krey Twins didn't like that though, and they— they... ah fuck, god I'm sorry Judy, I didn't want to tell you this. I-I got back one day, back to our house with flowers, and the door was broken open. The windows were all smashed in, the furniture was all destroyed and there was— there was... just blood! There was blood everywhere. The Twins had found out about Scarlett's theft and had killed her for it and, I went to the police, and— an... and they thought it was me!"

Nick screamed, his voice harsh. He stood rapidly and rushed towards the wall, leveling his gun and emptying shot after shot into it. Even as tears blurred the vision of his eyes, he shot. His fury and his heartache weighed his head down with lead. Even as his gasped breaths came in sobs from his mouth, bullet after bullet cracked out of his gun. Nick hardly spared half a second to aim each shot — and yet — every single ill-aimed bullet met its mark.

Nick shot and shot until all twelve bullets were spat. Then he just stood there, the empty gun clicking as the fox continued to pull the trigger. It was just click after click inside the compartment of the deadly equipment of death.

Judy stood and walked slowly towards him. "Nick?" The trigger kept on being pulled and more clicks continued emptily trying to find one more casing to smash upon in combustion.

She stood behind him and touched his back. "Nick…" But no reaction came to be but the fruitless chantings of the empty pawgun meant to strike intimidation and horror, yet its emptiness was actually striking this sense of misery and desperation.

Judy moved and stood in front of the fox, despite the small chance of there actually being a bullet in there stuck — the gun level with her head. Empty though the barrel was, Nick still couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger and lowered the gun, breathing deeply. The hateful-voidful clicking ceasing to be.

"They thought it was me," Nick breathed, his gaze hard on the wall. "They thought, it, was me: an act of passion or revenge or something, and questioned me to hell, wanting to know if I was seeing someone else, if she was. They went through every possible reason I could ever have for... for killing her, but it wasn't enough. They knew about our addiction to drugs, and suspected our connection to the Kray's, but couldn't prove anything, and Scarlett's body was never found, they kept asking me what I did with it."

Gently, Judy took the gun from Nick's paws. Taking his arm, she lead him back to the parapet and he continued talking as he sat, Judy beside him. "Eventually, they had to let me go due to lack of evidence. But the Chief of police at the time swore I was the culprit and kept cops on my tail at every step. But then, Bogo came onto the scene, the old chief retired and the Krey Twins lost all their power and their influence. I took the compensation money form the cops and got myself a flat here. I did everything I could to forget my past and, eventually, the pain dulled enough for me to get back on with daily life. I started doing low-level conning, somehow managed to convince myself I was happy, met you, tried to crush your dreams, got hustled... and the rest you know."

His emotions numbed like they had been for years, Nick sat, in silence, upon the parapet of the building, gazing down the hundred foot-plus drop to the ground with Judy silent beside him. Some time passed and still Judy made no reply, so he glanced to her, his eyebrow quirked. Nick thought he had been sad, but Judy was distort. Fear quickly grew on Nick's face at seeing Judy — with tears streaking down her face in a steady stream, her silent sobs kept quiet only by the finger which she had bitten down hard on. Her whole body shook as the sobs continued and Nick pulled her closer, soothing her, pushing his own sadness aside while he focused his attention fully on Judy’s.

"Hey, hey, come on, Hopps. Come on, it's okay. Shh, shh, shhhh."

"Nick... I—"

"I know, Judy. But please, don't cry. I need you strong."

"But, just, everything! Everything in your life is just..."

"Shhhh, shh, sh. Honestly, Jules, I'm just glad I have you after fluffing up once more. I was scared, worried, terrified that I'd messed up so bad you were gone forever!"

"Huh," Judy's voice cracked, "You were worried? I was the one who was worried, Nick. When I saw you climbing those steps to the roof—"

"Suicide ain't my style, Hopps. You don't have to worry about a thing."

Silence came to be once more between the pair a second time — a more natural, safer silence however. The vast black clouds which hung over the city were high and breadthy but on the very edge there was a slither of blue, where the ceiling and the ground did not quite meet. It was for this reason that, as the sun set in those last few minutes before sunset — that the golden light appeared in the world, lighting up the previously grey landscape with pure, golden light.

"I opened your present, by the way," said Nick as he leered at the now-glorious sight. "I love it."

"And I opened your past," she quipped, and for a third time deafness fell. This silence, however, was from the material of normality — reassuringly simple — without deeper meaning or darker implications. Both mammals leapt upon this opportunity for some mundane ordinariness. With time, Judy reached across to Nick and took his paw in hers. It took him a moment to realize Judy had done so — lost in thought somewhere — but when he did, he considered down at the paw holding his.

"... That's the paw you slapped me with, isn't it."

Judy froze... "Yeah… it is," she sighed heavily, then leaned into Nick's side, her voice deeply pained. "I—I am so sorry, Nick. I can never apologize enough for doing that. You never deserved it. I hate myself for it, you know. I'd rather take a bullet for you than know I hurt you."

Nick couldn't listen to Judy's pained voice a moment longer. Pulling his paw away, he turned himself as he sat. Reaching out to the startled rabbit and wrapping both his arms around Judy's smaller frame, he pulled her into his lap — a gesture, which Judy accepted more than readily as she put her arms around Nick's — returning his tender hug with equal warmth — and buried her head into his side, breathing deeply his appealing musk. Nick found the contact of the wonderful rabbit amazingly comforting, so he put an arm around her, sitting on the parapet of the high building and watching the setting sun. Nick's ear twitched; realization came. Here in his arms was the rabbit he loved, there behind him were the hurtful memories of his past, already fading away in the back of his mind. Before him was a view of the city, lit in the glorious rays of the setting sun, lain out before them in picturesque beauty.

He turned to Judy. He had never seen her look so happy, so content to just sit and do nothing. Yes, there was more than a little residual sadness there, but he knew by the weak smile of simple pleasure on her face: there was nowhere she would rather be. There had already been a lot of admissions that night. So, he decided in the wonderful golden glow of the setting sun, why not another? Now, he realized, was the time.

"Come sei bella, più bella stasera. How beautiful you are, the more beautiful tonight." Judy's head rose, her glistening eyes meeting Nick's, his words spoken softly into her ear."I brillare un sorriso di stella, nei tuoi occhi viola. I shine a star smile, in your violet eyes. Anche se avverso il destino domani fermarci, oggi mi fermo per voi. Even if the fates stop tomorrow, today I will stop for you...”

"Tell me about love,
My whole life is you,
Your lovely eyes shine,
Flames, dream, sparkle.

"Tell me that I am not alone,
Tell me you are mine,
Here in your arms, I suffer no more,
For all the world is put right.

"I know that you are an enchantress,
I know I'm lost in your violet eyes,
But what do I care if the world makes fun of me?
I only care if the world makes fun of you.

"... Dimmi di più sul nostro amore,
L'amore che abbiamo tra il Coniglio e la Volpe,
L'amore condividiamo. Me, e tu.

"Tell me more about our love,
The love that we have between The Rabbit and The Fox,
The love we share. Me, and you."

Judy Hopps gawked at Nick Wilde — her eyes leering, shining, as the golden sun fell those last slow inches towards dusk. And then, moving slowly, carefully, Judy raised her paw and touched it upon Nick's cheek. Her eyelids fell closed, then opened again, her pupils dilated with intense emotion before she started to edge her head forwards, tentatively. She still wasn't sure if this was what Nick wanted, and so the fox reassured her that it was.

Nick slipped a warm, red arm around Judy's back, helping to pull her body close as he leaned forwards also, letting his nose brush up against Judy's quivering one in a gesture, which Judy found almost as sweet and tender as the kiss itself when it came a moment later — Nick's lips, and Judy's, pressing together in a sign of devoted affection which was so mundane and uncomplicated on the face of it — yet held countless implications of the true emotions beneath the surface — and of what they both hoped they could become, later.

And this, was their first real kiss.

This was not a heat of the moment kiss delivered through fear or pain, this was not Judy kissing Nick or just Nick kissing Judy, and this was not done with outside influence, like a certain alcohol adventure. This kiss was considered and intentional by both The Fox and The Rabbit — who loved one another most deeply — who had hungered for the kiss as they had both for so long hungered for the love and affection of the other.

When the closeness started it was daytime. When the closeness ended, it was dusk.

Nick broke the affection — but only to press his long snout beneath Judy's chin, rubbing his fur against her cheek, neck and chin; marking her with his deep, musky scent. It was not usual for such gestures to be allowed so very soon in a relationship — like sex — but Judy had no intention of stopping him, wallowing as she always had in every inch, every millimeter of fur-on-fur contact shared between them - and loving the fact she was coming to smell more and more like 'Nick' with every passing second.

At any rate, she wanted to be marked with Nick's scent. Judy wanted to be his.

The sun set, the clouds parting, a chill wind set up through the air, sharp and cutting, high up on the roof of Nick's block of flats. The chill cut into Judy, shivering up the length of her spine and making her quiver with the sudden cold. Nick noticed this reaction and reacted, holding her just a little firmer into his blooming hearth and pressing his lips against her ear, his voice when it came as sweet and soft and gentle as it ever could be.

"There's frost in the air, Miss Hopps. We'd best get you inside before you catch a chill."

"I don't think I could ever catch a chill if I'm in your arms, Nickey." Nick smiled, a happy sound escaping from the back of his throat. Then, the red fox kissed Judy on the side of her neck. Regardless of Judy's words, however, Nick then stood up, hooking one arm beneath the smaller rabbit’s knees and the other around her back. Then he stood up, holding her close to his chest and carrying her, tenderly, towards the staircase down.

"Will," Nick began unsurely as he looked at the rabbit in his arms, her arms around his neck with her head pressing into his chest. "Will you sleep over tonight?"

"You just try and stop me, sweetheart." Judy took in a quick sniff of Nick's scent as they descended the exterior steps to his window. "I will make you have a shower, though, seeing as you still haven't cleaned yourself up since you got covered in soot at Ladders."

"I thought you loved my musky fox scent," he said, pulling the window to his apartment up with the rabbit still in his arms.

"Yes, but at the moment it’s a little... overpowering. In fact, if your scent was any more 'overpowering' at the moment, I think I'd have to quarantine you as a health hazard!"

"Judy," said Nick as he stepped in the dark confines of his room, "you sly, sly bunny."

"You know you love me, my dumb fox."

"Do I know that?" Nick asked — carrying Judy over the threshold — placing the rabbit down on the floor before treating himself to a long and loving kiss on her lips... "Yes. Yes, I, do."

Judy smiled sweetly, warmly — lovingly. She kissed him again and allowed the contact to linger for a long time, feeling out for the window and pushing it gently shut, while the union of shared intimacy deepened yet further.

Yes, he did…

...

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Chapter Text

Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps embraced with deep hunger — the result of over a year of both emotional and physical attraction — finally allowed to be consciously recognized. In the darkness of Nick's living room their mouths met — lip pressing frantically against lip — as each felt the heat of the other’s body against their own.

The tender arms of the fox slipped around the shoulders of the rabbit, holding her close, both straining — the rabbit up, the fox down — for their lips to be able to meet. Their eyes were each closed and their breaths short, their heartbeats pounding, pounding-pounding within their chests while their minds span in dizzy bliss.

Still in the act of intimacy, Judy rushed to undo the buckles of her standard-issue, ZPD combat-vest. This was nothing new as she always stripped herself off her combat armor, even if Nick was watching, but, under the circumstances, the removal of clothing, even non-sensitive clothing, just felt so much more... intense. She let it drop to the floor and returned all her attention back to the wonderfully handsome fox before her, her lips pressing against his ever firmer and ever faster, as she stretched up on tip-toe to tug the knot from around his neck.

Nick felt his tie being loosened rather than seeing it — his eyes closed to fully enjoy the sensation of his mouth pressing intimately against hers — and, when he realized the knot was gone, he tugged it sharply from around his neck and cast it aside. The fox opened his eyes and stepped back from the union as he felt Judy's paws undoing the first of his shirt buttons — realizing when the second button was undone that things might be about to become far more intimate. He had told himself he wasn't going to make Judy feel like she needed to go any further tonight than she felt comfortable to... but that didn't mean he had to stop her.

"J-Judy," the fox started, unsurely, "if... if I go too far, or too fast, tell me, and I'll ease up—"

"Nick," the rabbit interrupted, her amethysts meeting his emeralds, glistening in the dim light of the moon. "Nick, I want this: all of this..." Her paws came softly around the fox’s waist, their small claws latching onto the hem of Nick's shirt from behind and untucking it from his belt. "... And I know you'll always treat me well, respect me and my body, and that you will always put my needs before your own." She lightly chuckled as she raised the hem out of his belt fully. "And that's just one of the reasons why I love you, Sweetheart." Judy pressed her lips firmer against Nick's for a second, and then slipped one of her paws up between his shirt and his back.

This was the first truly intimate fur-on-for contact they had ever shared with the other. Oh how she loved the roughness and warmth of the fox’s beautiful russet fur... oh how he loved the sensation of her soft, gentle paws against his bare fur. Nick slipped onto one knee, making kissing far less strenuous; allowing his paws to slide down Judy's neck and back — grazing lightly over her smooth, firm rump for just an instant — to then press against the back of her thigh. As he lowed himself, he traced a line of kisses from her lips and softly down the side of her neck, where he pushed against her shoulder of fluff underneath her shirt.

The fox grazed his teeth up the length of Judy's neck, then smoothed the fur down again with a trail of affection going back down, sending a shiver through the rabbit’s body, a gasp through her lungs and a growing tingle between her vitalized legs.

When Judy noticed the itch of arousal — for arousal it was — she clutched at the foxes ears and tugged his head back to face her, pushing his lips against hers with even more intensity than before. The fox pulled back from the swirl of mouths a second time, which made her grow cross — angry that he would be teasing at such a time — at least, she thought he was just teasing. But a moment later he pushed back, pressing his cheek against hers, roughing his fur against the rabbit’s, putting his scent on her — to mark her as his. It was an action, the implications of which could never be described with just words. The emotional connection it created could never be rationalized. It was an act beyond the true understanding... something which could only be felt. 

Instinct.

Judy was ready — more than ready. Ready to give Nick everything he deserved — and take everything she wanted. In the closeness, the intimacy, the heat of the moment, Judy didn't care that she was a rabbit and Nick was a fox, she ignored the fear caused by her inexperience as to what sex might actually be like, and that made her throw her caution to 'take it steady in case it hurt' to the shrugful wind... she had even forgotten the strict 'sex after marriage' teachings of her parents.

But there was one small problem skulking that was currently out her reach.

"Nick," Judy breathed, her eyes opening.

It took him a moment to respond, his eyes still closed, his muzzle still pressing against her neck. "Yes, Judy?"

"You... you seriously need a shower." Nick stiffened. He opened his eyes and stared at the rabbit whose soft and sensually pleasured face suddenly split into something which was almost a cackle. "You absolutely stink, Nick!" was all she could manage before breaking into laughter.

The fox looked down at his body and grunted. He was still covered in soot, sweat, flour, charcoal and god knows what else. He sniffed himself and grunted again, glowering down at Judy's increasing cheerfulness. "Well laugh it up, Cottontail."

"Hey," she chuckled, "I need one too. I did just as much running as you did, and I actually 'touched' the corpse!"

"Okay, you win," he said, dryly, "you can have the first one."

Her grin instantly dropped to a look of inquisitive unsureness. This unexpected change in expression caused Nick's face to turn concerned as the rabbit gazed up at him, her voice soft but steady. "I... thought the idea was we could shower together?"

It took Nick a moment to find how to respond and, when he did, it was a fumbled response at best, "I thought you were just joking or… winding me up. You were, ughm… serious?"

"Well, yeah; why shouldn't I be?"

"We've only been, like, going out for all of five minutes. It's not right to go 'this' far this quickly."

"No. No, what’s 'not right' is to jump into something before you know you want it. It is right, however, to leap headlong into something you know you want because all too soon it might be gone! I know this, you, are what I want, Nick."

"Judy, we shouldn't."

"Why not? I love your body and I would love to feel it pressing agai—"

"I don't want you to feel like you're just a sex object, Hopps!" Silence descended on the room. A hard blush started working up the back of Nick's neck. He managed to keep it from spreading to his face enough to be viable and thanked his stars — for the hundredth time since first falling for Judy — that his russet fur was great at hiding blushes... most of the time.

"I... I wasn't suggesting we go all-out naked right away," she deflected, carefully placing a delicate paw upon his bare chest, "if you'd feel more comfortable, we'd keep our underwear on at least."

"I know, Judy. I know. But, even fully clothed, I'm still gonna get, y'know, excited".

"Okay, Nick, okay." She smiled. "We'll shower separately... for tonight at least."

"Thank you, Judy. And I'm sorry I couldn't—"

"Don't you apologize, Nick. All you've done is shown restraint; how could I be mad at you for just respecting my body?" Judy smiled sweetly at Nick. After a few seconds, his expression of concern shifted into a warm smile. Judy reached out to the kneeling fox and took his paws in hers. Paw in paw, the rabbit leaned forwards and kissed the fox’s nose gently. "Go on, Nick," she said, "you have the first shower. You need it."

"Thanks." Nick placed his delicate lips on her forehead, slipped his mouth to rest beside her ear and then muttered to her under his breath, "I love you."

She grinned. "I'll be waiting for you." Nick grinned also. He stood, winked at her and turned. Judy watched with a smile of great fondness as he opened his bathroom door, but then, and idea flashed into her mind. It was time to play a little game with her fox. "Hey, Nickey, wait a sec'."

The fox turned amidst the door frame, his eyebrow raised as the small rabbit walked towards him, the grin of the devil on her face. His expression dropped into something which was one part shock and one part excitement as a pair of soft, groping paws reached for his belt. A breath of air escaped him as Judy slipped the tip of Nick's belt from the belt loop and tugged it sharply so the punch hole came away from the prong. Judy pulled the length of the belt from around his waist boisterously, until it was all in her paws, and then she let it drop to the floor with, what she was sure must have been, a sexy thump. Fun though this was, however, Judy knew — they both knew — their relationship should not go any further just yet.

Judy started to turn the fox back towards the bathroom, enjoying both Nick's dazed expression... and the bulge in his trousers which definitely wasn't there before. The rabbit gave Nick a playful slap on the rump, and then shoved him into the bathroom before closing the door behind him.

An eager bunny ear was pressed against the door expectantly. She heard silence for a long time. Then, she heard the click of a button, the zip of a zipper, a moment of frenzied rustling, and finally — a number of long, deep, gasping, relief-filled breaths. Judy laughed. She laughed long and she laughed hard. She laughed until tears started to well in her eyes, her legs gave away beneath her and she slipped down the door to the floor — her body and soul aglow with delight — as Nick's panting slowly leveled out and the shower started to run shortly after.

"Oh, Nick," Judy heard Nick mutter from the other side of the door, "however you managed to resist the sexiest damn rabbit in Zootopia for this long, I'll never know." The flattery of the comment the fox made, surely unaware Judy could hear, sent a warm glow into her stomach. Eventually, as the sound of Nick's showering filled her ears, the rabbit stood, walked towards the light switch and reached towards it. She had to jump to flick it but, after a moment, the lights of Nick's apartment room flicked into an extinguished rest.

Nick's apartment was far nicer than Judy's and they both knew it. While Judy's apartment was but a simple rectangular room, Nick's was comprised of three rooms, one of which was divided into a secondary section. The room Judy was stood in was the living room, which had one corner sectioned off as a kitchen area. It was a fairly decent living room, not lacking a television, and the joining kitchen was mostly comprehensive. The bathroom featured no bath but a large shower cubical, a toilet with an originality pull-and-chain design, and an enamel sink. The bedroom contained a steel-frame, medium mammal, double bed with a window behind, so that the link to the outside world wouldn’t be forsaken fully.

Amusing herself, Judy started to make the unmade bed — letting her mind wonder towards what nearly happened in the living room only seconds earlier. This line of thought brought her inexorably back to the 'sex after marriage' teachings of her parents. Judy flinched while making the bed. Should she still do it with him anyway? Should she tell him about those teachings, or keep them a secret? Judy desisted in making the bed, her mind swimming with emotions and juxtaposing desires — the desire to please her parents and the desire to 'be pleased' by Nick.

Overcome with dizziness, Judy slipped down to the floor. She sat there for a time, wondering, debating, deliberating whether she should forget about her parents and do all those wonderful things with the fox she wanted... or follow the most strict teachings of her parents, wait until after she was married to him, and allow him to take her to bed after that… It took Judy quite some time to realize marriage had come up in the course of her thoughts. It had never even crossed her mind that he might not ask some day — that he might not want to marry her. She had just taken it for granted that he would, but, how could she be sure?

Well 'that' opened up a new and very long line of thoughts and feelings — not just about the wants of her, Nick and her parents — but of the laws of Zootopia themselves. Being an officer, Judy had a pretty firm grip of the ins and outs of the law, but, was marrying Nick even... legal?

Judy felt herself starting to hyperventilate. She desperately sought for something to take her mind off these torturous musings. She looked about herself on the floor and spotted two cardboard paper folders laying dusty. Usually, she would have respected Nick's belongings — especially paperwork stowed under his bed — but, in that moment, she was so desperate to change the subject of her thoughts that she grabbed the closest without second thought. She undid the flap, opened it, and was instantly presented with an image of a red-furred vixen with a more than generous-size bosom, without any cloths on, apart from a very small bra which was apparently of only ornamental value, and a thin pare of knickers which hid her lower intimate area and precisely 'what' she was doing with the middle finger of the paw she had shoved down there...

Judy's ears sprang upright. She had the urge to slam the folder shut, hurtle it under the bed and sprint back into the living room, pretending nothing had ever happened. But something — dreadful curiosity — made her flick through the first pages. These foxes had even less clothing. They were in a variety of 'strange' positions and doing a number of 'strange' things. She shut it and flipped it over to stare down at a second magazine of much the same content. It shocked Judy, to start with, to see female foxes like this and to know Nick had not only bought these but had looked at them.

Eventually, however, the rabbit started snickering at the various titles, flicking through the nearly-steaming pages. It wasn't that she was enjoying looking at scantily-clad, big bosomed vixens - it was just that she was finding it amazing to see the kind of thing her newly-romantic-partner liked to see. It all started quite amusingly and amiably with a dozen-or-so such titles as 'Foxy Ladies', 'Sly and Sexy' and 'Voluptuous Vixens'. But then the titles started to change. It took effort for Judy to notice the difference — oblivious though it was — as she skimmed through the titles: 'Cotton Muffs', 'Bushy Tails', and finally, 'Rabbits Like it Rough'.

Judy's eyes bulged as they traced down the page, from skim-reading the titles, to examining the pictures. Her eyes bulged yet further at the tan-yellow rabbit breasts which were clearly enhanced, with nothing but a black, leather bra on and nothing at all below the waist. The rabbit was lying on her back, a very satisfied expression on her face, with her knees up towards whoever took the photo and with a small yellow star superimposed over her 'sex' — just large enough to cover the bare minimum... if only just.

But sharply and out of nowhere, the door of doors opened. "The shower’s all your—"

"Nick! Nick, there you are, I was just, erm—" Working with all possible haste, Judy shoved all the magazines back into the box, pushed it away, pulled the other towards her and opened it. She knew there was just as much chance this could have been a second box of porn, but she had to try. Judy pulled out the thick, leather-bound book and flipped to a random page. She was just glad the lights were off as the darkness meant Nick would not have been able to see it from that distance.

"Judy, close it. Close it now!"

Instinctively, her head turned to the words and started to skim them. "Storm starts at seven fifteen so meet Carrots with serenade at five to allow two hours for food and fifteen minutes for trail—"

"Hey, Hopps, that's personal!"

He strode the room towards her and snatched it from view. Huffing and grumbling under his breath as he smacked it back into its box and shoved it under the bed. "What..." Judy said at last, dazed at what she had read. "What is this?"

Nick stared for a long moment. There was no point in trying to avoid the question, however, Judy had seen too much and Nick knew it. He sighed, the anger fading, as he slipped down onto the bed. "It's my 'Husselers Gernal'."

"Your 'Hustler’s Journal'?"

"Yeah!" He turned, reached back under the bed and showed her the cover and the words 'Husselers Gernal' badly penned on the fount."

"Erm... that's not how you spell 'Hustler’s Journal', Nick."

"I know, I know. But, I wrote that when I was about ten, Carrots. It's pretty much every con I've ever pulled within that book, alongside ideas, thoughts, drafts of early plans. Everything. Stuff that's never been used, stuff that wouldn't be financially viable, even stupid stuff that'd never work, like— you know this one time, me and Finnick were both drunk and we wrote up a plan to take over all Zootopia! God, it was foolproof. But, obviously it'd never have worked, and I woke up the next morning and couldn't remember a thing of it. I took a look for the right page but it'd been cut out."

"What happened to it?"

"Well, I asked Finn that and he just told me it was too dangerous to keep with me and that he was keeping it for safety… well, that was the plan, anyway. But he had dropped it in the canal and it was ruined."

"Ooh…"

"But, there's other things in here too." With the excitement a child has when showing a new toy to a friend, Nick sat, patted the bed beside himself until Judy came to sit beside him, and then opened it to a page. "Take a look at this one," he said, proudly."

"... Wilde Times?" she read.

"Yeah, it's a themepark I was gonna start!"

"... A themepark, are you serious?"

"I am so. I had even found this old place I was gonna rent out to set it up in. The idea of the place was that it was for predators who were tired of having to act so... civil all the time. Now, I'm not saying we'd have served raw rabbit or anything like that, just someplace you could make a little noise without having to worry about scaring anyone."

"So," she said, excitedly, "why didn't you do it?"

"Well... I met you."

Judy was silent and still for a beat, then she put her arms around him, pressing her nose into his neck and kissing him in a sweet-spot just below the ear. "Thank you, Nickey. You're a great guy, you know that?"

"Am I?" he grinned. "Yes, yes I am."

"Har-hah. Jerk."

"Go on, Hopps, go on. Go have your shower."

Judy stood. In payback for the 'belt' move Judy had pulled on him, and just because he wanted to, Nick slapped Judy's tokus as she went. The brief touch was more than pleasurable, and the ooph? of surprise Judy gave him, before rushing out of the door with a bright red blush on her ears, sent a wide, toothy grin right across his face.

Nick looked down. His grin fell as he saw the box of porn on the floor. Nick had seen what Judy was first looking at — he was a fox, of course he'd seen, he could see in the dark for heaven’s sake — and he pulled the box back towards him, opened it up, and flicked his way through the magazines. 'This' was the one Judy was on — and he was very glad he had come in when he had because, if he had come in a moment later, she would have flipped that magazine over and would have reached the 'last' one...

Nick lifted it out. It was bondage and dominance and not at all what Nick wanted from Judy or how he thought of her... but it was the only one of its kind in Zootopia for, as it had turned out, there was no real market for dirty magazines with foxes and rabbits without a lot of weird, screwed up stuff too. He set down the illegal print of 'Pred-Prey Monthly — Foxes and Rabbits Edition', placed the other magazines over it and shut the lid... sliding it beneath the bed with the others before standing, reaching up to the curtains, and pulling them...

Shut.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

In the confines of Nick's bathroom — which were still warm and steamy from recent use with the strong but-still sweet scent of masculine fox enticing — Judy slipped out of her black, carrot-print underwear and let it drop to the floor slightly self-consciously, while moving her paws in front of her puffy-furred, silver chest. Naked and vulnerable, she turned the knob in the shower cubical and, a moment later, hot water started gushing out, to which a contented sigh filled the noise with Judy stepping in the stream of sanitation.

This was by no means the first time Judy had showered around Nick's place for, even though her apartment had communal showers, she had always preferred to cleanse herself privately. Judy had decided, the first time she had used his shower, she wouldn't lock the door. It was not a decision she had taken lightly, mind you, as she had stood just inside and in front the bathroom door with her paw on the lock for quite a period of considerations. Eventually, she had come to this consistent conclusion:

Nick was fully aware that she was in the shower and, because of this, he wouldn't come in. Because of this, the only function the lock had would be to stop him from doing something he wasn't going to do anyway. This, and the fact Nick would be able to hear if the lock was clicked, meant that locking it would only serve to show Nick that she didn't trust him not to come in — which she did, of course — and so, within the first week of meeting the fox, Judy had displayed Nick just how much she trusted him, by stripping naked in his house out of sight and leaving the bathroom door unlocked. This show of trust was never mentioned by the fox — but it was one which Nick was always grateful for.

Now, however, things were different. Stood beneath the heat of the shower, her paws rubbing all across her body, Judy tried to picture what life would be like right now if the bathroom door opened and Nick sauntered in, bare to the fur; tried to imagine what she would do when the fox would slid the shower cubical open, and his large, red paws would reach out towards her craving body... She was still deliberating whether to follow the teachings of her parents or her own wants and desires — but, she knew, if Nick came in through that door, wearing nothing but the lazy, charming smile she had fallen in love with — there would be nothing she could do to resist him...

And Nick, who was stood just outside the bathroom door with his paw on the handle, wanted nothing more than to join her. The fox took another deep breath as he tried to steady his mind. As each moment passed, Nick tried to force himself to step away from the door and to go about his business like the gentlemammle he should be — but bare and basic desire prevented it. Nick wanted her — wanted her body — and had done now for almost a year; as much as his mind tried to steer him away, his body, driven half-mad with desire, pulled him on and his mind was starting to give in to the cupidity of inevitability sinful.

After all, we came close just now, and the only reason she stopped it was because I stank. Well, I'm clean now, and so is she. So, why can't we?

Because it's just wrong! You told yourself you wouldn't let your animalistic desires overrule your judgment. Well, that's what’s happening right now.

Surely just a look wouldn't hurt. It's not like Judy's gonna want to break up with me for just taking a look.

And if she does?

No... she—

Look! It's possible, it is entirely possible — heck, it's more than likely — that Judy is going to want a romantic partner who can 'control' himself, who can respect her privacy and—

"Alright! Holy Vixen, is my mind always this whiny?" The fox started back with surprise as he realized his thoughts had come aloud. He turned and looked self-consciously about the room, then turned back to the door. Nick agreed with himself fully — going in was a bad idea. Not only might he upset Judy and make her think he was just a sex-driven creep, but she might also feel as though he was taking advantage of the fact she was a 'rabbit', and expecting her to 'behave' in a certain way just because of the common beliefs about 'rabbits' and their 'multiplying'. It was decided. Nick would not go in. He should walk away now and—

His body acted without seeking permission from the mind. It raised a paw and tapped on the wood sharply half a second before Nick could stop it.

Inside, Judy was rubbing her paws across her chest to work the suds in deep. She didn't know when she had started to, but in the course of washing, the rabbit had closed her eyes and had initiated imagining as if it was Nick's paws doing the rubbing around the areas of her flat breasts and underbelly sensitive. It wasn't a very good impression because her paws were half the size of Nick's, they were unpadded and didn't smell of fox — but just thinking of Nick as she fondled her body was enough to fill her with blissful, sensual excitement.

Lost in the thoughts of how Nick might embrace her, how it might feel for his body to press against hers, the sound of knocking startled her and she replied automatically, "Come in."

Outside, the fox grinned. Inside, a paw shot over the rabbit’s mouth as a deep red blush worked right across her face and down her back. Before Judy's mind had time to shift through the shock and rectify her answer to an instruction of wait, while she covered herself, the door was already opening.

Covered in suds, Judy rushed to grab a towel before Nick could come in, as one of his large paws appeared around the slowly opening door, but she overtook his own haste, and was about to step out and cross the room, when the cold air hit her. The chill sharpened her senses and it made everything more real. She was naked and Nick-Nick— was about to join her... in fear and excitement, Judy backed against the wall and beneath the shower head. Unfortunately, therefor, allowing all the suds to drain away, leaving her without even a blanket of soap to cover herself with.

Judy shrank back as a large, red tail swept into the room for an instant, legs and paws moving to try and cover all the most intimate of areas unconquered.

It was one thing to fantasize about Nick... and it sure was quite another for those fantasies to come true.

A black snout appeared and the door edged forwards a further inch. Judy's mouth moved, forming the start of a thought of an attempt of the first syllable of a potential word, "N-n— nn-Ni…" And then the door stopped, and the casual calm of Nick's voice cut clean through her tremulation.

"Hey Carrots, I'm putting some food on, you want some?..." When Nick didn't get a reply, he decided he should try a little teasing, "Hopps? You in there? Hopps?" Briskly, the door opened another inch and Judy's reply — a hurried and garbled string of words — rushed out of the rabbit with all possible impatience.

"Arrgh wait! I would, yes, yes please, Nick, yes I would like some, some— some 'food' I mean! Not... please, Nick, thank you..."

Judy could hear the grin when Nick, again, spoke, "Alright then. One 'Carrot' stew coming right up." And then, with a click, the door was shut. Judy slowly slipped down the wall as the anticipation left her body — the adrenaline rush leaving her drained — and, outside, Nick snickered before pacing towards the kitchen awaiting.

Turning the dial on the oven, Nick started to heat the main compartment. He took out an imitation-stake pasty for himself, he could get real chicken and fish, but things like bacon, lamb and beef were mostly imitation... or those that weren’t were illegally bought from the black market due to obvious of reasons. Then he took out a carrot stew for Judy for which he knew for sure that at least the carrots were still real, despite doubts of possible augmentations of fakeness technology was able to produce in this day of age. He added a few other odds and ends to build up a decent-sized meal. The bathroom door clicked behind him, he turned and the love of his life stepped into view.

"Hey, little Bunbun," he teased, "good shower?"

Briskly, Judy crossed the room. She had no change of cloths with her, and putting her stinking and sweaty cloths back on after a shower would have just been foolish. So, she slipped into Nick's dressing gown. The gown was black and hung several feet below her feet, thus dragged on the floor behind her. The band was too long, so the rabbit had wrapped it around herself twice before doing up the knot. The sleeves had been folded up to suit her arms-length so many times that it was torso thick. There was also too much material overall and so it flapped off her body loosely, and Nick deceptively hoped it didn't slip and reveal anything in particular-risqué interest to his sharp eyes.

In this state, Judy crossed the room towards the fox and smartly smit him on the chest. "That's for coming into the bathroom while I was showering!" It wasn't a hard punch, and Nick only bent over in pain to be playful. His mouth at an irresistible level, Judy shot her paws out to grasp around his neck before she pushed her lips up against Nick's. "... And that's for coming into my life."

The jolt caused by the surprise of the affection had Nick's arms slip around Judy's waist. His mild pain forgotten, a smile broke upon his muzzle. Leaning forwards, their mouths joined a second time, then a third. The fourth moment tho was sweetest of all, lingering on long after all the rest had died off into the catharsis of this final seal.

After that, the fox pushed himself forwards, cupping Judy in his arms and falling ahead slowly, steadily, to the floor, using a knee and an arm to keep the movement slow. He lay her down upon the floor, tucking his warm tail beneath her to protect her from the cold of the tiled floor, while his head lowered towards her, stopping a mean inch above her tender fleshy lips. Emeralds gazed upon sparkly amethyst.

"Well, Hopps, you did it."

"What did I do, Nick?" she breathed in question.

"You broke it— my past I mean. I don't know why I held on so tightly to what’s already gone by, I nearly missed what I have now. I can't ever thank you enough for showing me what really mattered: You."

"Nick, I—"

"But I promise, Hopps. Now I have you, I'm not ever letting go." Judy smiled. Beneath the red fox who smelled so clean and whose fur was so vibrantly red and smooth, she had never felt more content, more elated, more loved. The warmth of his body, the softness of his touch, the scent in the air and the unusual but appealing taste of his lips as they pressed against hers yet again — Judy knew…

Life, was good.

Pale eyes gazed upon the cityscape of Zootopia. It was nighttime now — safe to enter. Having left the refuge of the old lumber-shack he had called his home, the albino white wolf stepped yet further towards the city. His stomach was full with the sweet and tender fresh meat of coney; his groin still tingling with warmth and carnal satisfaction of her heat. His head was alight with the brisk memories of her moans and cries, her begs and sobs... and his white coat still sanguine with her essence.

Stripped naked, the wolf's gleaming, muscular, snow-like body paced to the edge of the bank, where the river which surrounded the city of Zootopia lay. The now parted clouds allowed the weak moonlight to shine down upon the glistening waters, which the white wolf walked towards, and then — with the grace and delicacy of baptism — slipped into. The coldness that surrounded the albino wolf both sharpened and stimulated his senses, just as it washed the blood of his food-cum-sextoy from his tarnished fur. He walked until the water was around his shoulders — detached to the freezing temperature — and then, submerged his head.

Raising a moment later, he dragged his claws through his fur and across his ears, roughing it with more water, until the red which coated him drained off his temple and into the unclue'd water beneath. Ducking his head again, he pushed himself through the cleanness of the icy stream, roughing and smoothing all his body, until he was pure once more.

He stepped out shortly after, dripping, allowing his fur to dry naturally in the chill, night air, his fur now as untarnished as the soul within. His heart, though black, was light in his chest; his soul was free of guilt and his mind unburdened from remorse. No regrets. No conscience.

His mind was like none other, it was... different. The white wolf who stepped out of the crystal-water was not only ignoring the painful coldness that surrounded him, but incapable of feeling it. All emotions — love, guilt, empathy, all of them — arise from a complex combination of chemicals released into the brain, and yet — in his case — the wolf’s mind was not able to make these connections, these reactions. Only base emotions — anger, envy, lust — were known to him. Remorse, love, even physical pain were fruits unseen and hidden, foreign and nameless.

His body was like none other, it was... wrong. Counting for appearances only, the wolf might only have appeared to be an unnaturally athletic predator — with muscles which looked as though they could out-wrestle a bull, and a body a clear foot taller than any wolf one would ever come face to face with — but the sense of wrongness went far deeper. His body and muscles were all vast and cumbersome-looking, yet the wolf's white frame moved with a deft delicacy — a graceful and deadly swiftness — the culmination of perfect balance, precise moments and practiced efficiency.

And his eyes... his eyes were like none other, they were piercing, cold, shriveled, slit — savage.

The savage wolf pulled some city-cloths from an old crate by the water side and pulled them on. The savage wolf dressed hurriedly and then dragged a tarpaulin off from covering an old, one mammal rowing boat, which he dragged towards the edge of the river.

It was a heavy craft, and the bow dug deep into the dirt. The weight of the boat and the drag of the bow in the earth would have made it impossible for a lone mammal of the wolf's size to yank on his own... yet there was not even a twitch of strain on his snow-white, sharp features — or a flicker of unease in his pale, slit eyes — as he dragged it effortlessly towards the water's edge.

He set the boat into the water, slipped in, took up an oar and started to row towards the city of Zootopia, the city of wonders and limitless possibilities... while, within a shack not far from the river, flies buzzed around the rotting, half-devoured corpse of a of a young, female rabbit defiled.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Pots of boiling water bubbled upon the hob. From the rising steam, a red fox pulled his head and turned to face the room, beaming to the rabbit who was sat upon a sofa in the adjoining living room.

"Hopps darlin', you want me to fix you up some of that spiced 'carrot' gravy you liked?"

"You know the recipe? Yeah, great!"

In the sectioned off area of the living room which worked as the kitchen in Nick's apartment, the fox grinned as he swished his back on the rabbit and reached into his fridge. He took out a packet of chicken cubes and pulled open the seal.

"Oh, I know all sorts of secret recipes, Carrots. For instance, want to know how to make Gold Soup?"

"Put twenty-four carats in it?"

"Arh, shucks. You've heard it."

"No, silly fox, just figured it out." Judy watched the fox in something of a daze — he looked mellifluous just by making dinner, so fluent and graceful — but for all the attention she had on him, she failed to notice that what Nick was actually pouring into the pot was anything but carrots.

"So," Nick asked, more than a little suggestively, "is there anything you wanted to do... later."

"Hmmhm, one or two things. But there's this one really important thing that I can't decide on."

"And what's that?"

"Nick," she muttered, "you know the one."

"To pluck your flower?" Nick answered in a graceful manner, turning his head half towards her with a sly grin upon his face. She nodded once, blushing, and he chuckled before turning back to his preparations. "Don't worry so much about it, Hopps. I'll be gentle, it'll be great. And if you're not ready to go that far, pfft, you think I care?"

He turned to face the rabbit who was listening intently, leaning his back on the cabinet as he continued. "Look, Judy, our relationship has gone further and moved faster tonight than I ever dared to hope to think that it could be outside of a dream. So don't you ever feel like you have to do something you're not ready to do just to please me. I'm already happier than I ever thought I could be. Just to see you sitting there. You don't even have to do anything… to see you sitting here and to know who you are to me and what I am to you, is just... so— beyond… anything I thought I was worthy of in this life."

She held his gaze for a moment, smiling, but then she sagged. "Actually, Nick," she floatingly interjected, her gaze dropping to her lap, "the, err, 'one or two things' I wanted to do was to talk to you about our future together. Kids, marriage and... 'so on'."

"... Wow, are all bunnies this forward when it comes to relationships, or is it just you?"

She snickered lightly and would have called him 'jerk' if her mood wasn't so fixated on the conversation to come. "This time, it's all rabbits." She patted the seat beside her. "Come, sit down."

Nick stood in motionless silence for a moment, then he gave mind to the simmering pots of food and adjusted them down to a low heat — if his assumption was right, this conversation could go on for quite a while.

"There's something else I want to talk to you about too," she added honestly as he crossed the room, "other than our relationship. I know you've already told me just about everything you can about your past, but, I need to know. How did you get... this?" From her pocket Judy pulled the Ruger SR, Master Edition.

Nick sat down beside her on the old, well-worn sofa. He reached across and took it carefully but unsurely from her paws. "What do you know of this?"

"They found a bullet at Ladders. It matches the gun. They think this is the murder weapon."

"And they think I'm the murderer now?"

"No. They don't know you have it."

"Do you think I did it?"

"No! No, of course I don't."

"Well, it’s pretty suspe—"

"Yeah but you're Nick! You wouldn't kill anyone."

"Then why bring it up?"

"Because they think it's the murder weapon! Jefferson said it's only a matter of time before the people at Ruger find the paperwork that assigns this gun as belonging to you— and when that happens… they’re going to come straight over here looking for you. It'd be better to tell them right now than to let them figure it out on their own, to then come over and probably arrest you on the spot without the chance to explain yourself you'd get by telling Bogo personally."

"Well, I don't know what to say Hopps, but that gun hasn't seen the light of day for three years. I shot it for the first time since-then today and it's been beneath my bed ever since."

"They know it's definitely a gun of that model, and since it's the only one ever made, then—"

"Who told you that?" Nick interrupted, incredulously.

"... You mean, it's not the only one?"

"No, Judy. This gun has a sister."

"A sister? So... there are two? Then the other gun is the murder weapon!" In excitement, Judy leapt off the sofa and reached for her phone. "We gotta tell Bogo, Nick. We gotta tell him there's another—"

"Hopps!"

Judy faulted. Her smile fading, her gaze settled upon the fox, her finger hovering above the 'call' button. "What? What is it?"

Nick grunted slightly. He reached out to the rabbit and took her by the arm, pulling her back down onto the sofa as he spoke, "Look, let me get this straight, Officers Jefferson and Leopolde, two very well respected mammals from the M.I.B., have declared this gun the only one if its kind. Yes?"

"Erm... yeah."

"Whereas I, still a newbie to the police force by most accounts and the murder suspect no less, state that there are, in fact, two. Yes?"

"Yes... what are you saying?"

"Who is Bogo likely to believe?"

"... Oh," was the absolute dejection that came as a single exhale from the doe’s disappointed lips.

Nick sighed. "Yeah, 'oh' is right. If two of Bogo's detectives say ther—"

"But Bogo knows you, Bogo trusts you. He can't possibly think you're involved."

"Bogo also can't be seen to be treating his officers any differentially when under suspicion. If word gets about that he overlooks crime within his own ranks, he'll be tossed outta the 'Chief's' chair quicker than you can shake a fist at a blind snake!"

"Well... I know you're innocent."

Nick snorted, thinly. Reaching out to the rabbit he put an arm around her, pulling her across the sofa and against his side, putting his arm tighter around her once she was close. "Thanks, Hopps. That's a real big help."

She thumped the forearm which was wrapped around her with her fist, triflingly. "Enough with the sarcasm, Sweetheart."

In the room directly above, sat upon a cheap bed with aging steel springs, Jack Savage muttered to himself, adjusting the dials on his listening device as he leaned back from the wall.  “So she does believe him to be innocent,” he muttered, making notes upon a pad.  “I suppose she has no reason to suspect, and given these recent… proclamations…”

His brow raising, Jack flipped back a page in his notebook, which detailed the words said between the two of them since they had entered into Nick’s room — and all which he had observed of them upon the roof, wherein he had sight but not sound of their exchanges.

"I'm not being sarcastic, Judy,” Nick replied, unaware of the rabbit six feet above making notes, “I'm serious. If you have faith in me, well... you've already seen the difference that makes. From hustler to cop in a little over a month? I never thought it possible. And it wouldn't have been without you to guide me."

Judy chuckled nervously blameless — warmed in both body and spirit by the close comfort of 'Nick', but then, a frown grew. Judy rested her paw upon the muzzle of the gun Nick was holding. "I do have to ask you some questions, though."

Grunting slightly, Nick let go of it and Judy fumbled with the sudden weight as she took it. "What do you want to know?" Nick asked slightly rockily as he sat back.

"First off, do you have any idea who might own the other gun?"

"Yes," he answered bluntly, "in fact I know exactly who owned the other gun."

"Owned? Why is that the past tense?"

"Because she's dead."

Judy felt she knew the answer, but she had to ask anyway, "Who is?"

Nick sat back further, edging away from Judy slightly to turn to her in the seat. He pointed to the gun, his ears low, his breathing coming and going harshly in grunts. "There's, err, an inscription, on the side," he mumbled, "you might, wanna, take a look."

The rabbit stared blankly at the fox for a moment, then, she looked down at the gun she still held in her paws. She flipped it over, holding the unloaded device by the grip. She spotted the inscription just above the ident' number, and she read it out loud.

"To Nick – Love Scarlett." She looked up again, a questioning expression on her face, in time to see Nick had been wincing at hearing those words out loud.

"Scarlett always had this passion for guns and shooting," he began, "we used to spend hours on the shooting range after we started going out. I bought this gun, had it made for her back when we were with the Krey Twins. I was on a much higher income back then. I got it engraved, gave it to her, and a few weeks later she'd gotten an identical copy for me… except the inscription was reversed. Whatever bastard killed Scarlett stole it that day.“

“I didn't have a clue where to find it. I was too afraid to seek it out, because that would mean getting back in touch with The Firm which I had only just freed myself from, and, at the time when Bogo was tearing their ranks apart. After that, I guess it just wound up in police custody somewhere, probably stolen by a 'commander' at some point and with good reason. Those guns made us the best damn shooters in the club. We were even asked to attend an international competition once."

"Huh, yeah, I saw how accurate you were on the roof. That was pretty impressive shooting, Slick."

"Impressive? Seriously, Hopps, 'Deadeye's the word for it." Judy giggled. Nick, delighted by the sound as he had always had, carried on the tease, "What do you think? A tattoo, 'Deadeye' right across my forearm?"

"Noo!" she mock-shouted, climbing onto him and putting the fox into a clumsy headlock. "Nick," she warned, "I swear to God, if you so much as think of getting a tattoo, I'll—"

"I submit, Judy, I submit!" He cried as those small soft paws worked around his neck. "I promise, Carrots, I won't ever think of getting my fur permanently dyed ever again."

"Good..." she breathed, her head close to his ear. She did not move back. However she did loosen her grip and so the headlock became just a very intimate hug. Judy's head moved forwards and she kissed the fox on the corner of his mouth. "... Because you're perfect, just the way you are."

Nick turned his head to look at her, a smile gracing his lips. He raised his paws and touched them upon her back. He lowered them and lifted the rabbit carefully off her feet. Judy responded and, not taking her arms from around his neck, looped her legs about his waist. The rabbit off her feet, Nick raised his legs off the floor, turned, and slid his body beneath her — going from sitting to lying on his back down the length of the sofa.

Gently as ever, the fox then lowered Judy's legs from around his waist and onto the padding of the sofa. The rabbit stood over him, looking down at the fox with great fondness in her eyes as she dropped herself down — her muscular but fine legs on either side of his body with her knees level with his hips — as she kissed him most lovingly upon the lips that gave way to her tail wiggling as the contact gave buzz to her nerves... neither quite noticed, but it was a very suggestive position...

"So, Detective Inspector," Nick gave life to wording again, "what else did you want to know?"

"Ooh, I think we can belay the rest of the interrogation for now. I think we have more pressing matters—"

She leaned towards him, again sure of herself in the fact that she wanted to be close to the fox and that she knew the fox wanted to be close to her — yet unsure of herself in what she now had to say, or how to decide on the starting step. .

"Nick, there are three things that I need to talk to you about. Kids, marriage and sex. You take pick of what you want to cover first."

"Sooo, just to be clear, this kind of directness is quite common among bunnies?"

"Yeah. Usually two rabbits will know where the other stands on all of those matters before they even start thinking about each other in that way — or by the end of the first date at least — actually, most of the time it's a matter of finding a compatible mate rather than a loving one. So, which one?"

"Urrrgh," he started, pathetically, "I like sex—"

Judy snickered, a most appropriate blush working up her cheeks, a blush which she forced down with a stern paw. "I knew you were gonna pick that one," she pouted, putting heavy, alluring emphasis on the next words that made the bushy tail on the side to twitch audibly, "you dirty fox."

Nick cleared his throat uncomfortably, tugging at his collar a little as he tried to keep things professional... knowing full well that if he didn't keep his mind in that 'professional' place, he'd be rising like a skyscraper in seconds. "Well, aside from the obvious reasons," he filled, "it's probably the easiest to deal with."

"Yeah, alright. So, look, I want to have sex with you, Nick, I really do," her words, just like her thinking, halted for a moment as she felt slow movement just underneath where she sat, it was crawling just through the middle of her rump and towards the front, to which she was quick to register what was happening in a reaction of a throbbing heart and twitchy paws, yet she forced herself to continue and not look desperate in the eyes of the aroused fox, "b-but, my parents, they—"

"You're afraid of what they'll think? I understand," Nick expressed a partial truth that she was to say, his voice carrying a sort of amusement that she well-knew the source off, due to the heat underneath her now being absorbed by thine own.”

"No, it's not just that. My parents, they believe in having sex only after marriage. Now, I don't know if I believe in that myself and, if you think it'd be okay, I'd still be more than happy to share a bed with you some time… tonight, if you'd have me, but— I... I don't know. What do you think?"

"What does this relationship mean to you?" Nick asked after a moment and a slight readjustment that gave grind to her nethers because of the bulge between her legs, yet he kept a stern gaze in careful fixation on nothing. "Is this a bit of harmless fun in the daylight and a fool-around with a close friend, or is this something more serious?"

Judy stared concernedly, despite the distractions underneath that were giving her body jolts of need, while she formulated an appropriate answer. She didn't want to be so direct with this, but she knew it was imperative she told the absolute truth at this most pinnacle moment.

"I..." she began... "I would be happy— no, more than happy that I'd count myself blessed if we were to spend to rest of our lives together."

Nick's eyes went from gazing out at nothing to starring at Judy intensely, lost for words as the meaning sunk in. Judy felt his heartbeat quicken dramatically beneath her as the big source was full of sanguine nurturing, his mouth moving soundlessly before he managed to speak again.

"W-well, it's decided, then."

A cheeky grin and a flush grew on the rabbit’s face as she quietly huffed, "You mean, we can do it?"

"No. If this was just a bit of fun between two close friends, then sure, I'd take you to bed, no harm done really. But if we're going to go all the way together, to the point where we may marry and might never take on another mate in our lives. Then we have to respect your parents’ wishes."

"I... I see." Judy was disappointed, but, at the same time, she was also elated that Nick had reacted only positively towards the idea of them being together permanently and glad that he respected her as he did.

"Next thing, Nick..." Judy leaned close into his side for comfort. This was the hard part. "Nick— leaving whether we actually want to, to one side—" she looked up into his solemn face. "Do-do you think we would be allowed to marry?"

Nick's head twitched — shaking ever so slightly — then the fox brought up a tender paw and started, softly, to caress the rabbit’s drooping ears. "I don't know Hopps… I don't know. But, I'm sure there's something we could do. If it comes to the worst — if there aren't any priests willing and if we can't get the approval of your father — then we could always hold a private ceremony. That's how foxes usually do it — just you and me — no one else. Just you and me in a cottage in the woods, in a place of outstanding natural beauty. It wouldn't be legally recognized, but, so long as it matters to 'us'... what difference does it truly make?"

"You know what? I think that sounds really wonderful. I think we should do that. Even if we are allowed to marry in the traditional way, I still think we should do that."

The fox grinned as a new 'tease' came to mind. "The only problem then, of course, is that you've got the risk of spending three days alone with a shifty fox; who knows what might happen!" With a rush, the fox pushed his jaw to Judy's shoulder, putting a line of playful nips across her fur with his teeth and growling playfully as Judy giggled, until she sat forwards, twisted around and clamped her paw firmly shut over his muzzle.

"How'd you get to be such a dumb fox?" she said through the giggles of delight he was responsible for bringing forth.

He raised his paw to hers and took it off his muzzle, holding it in his paw and caressing it tenderly as he spoke, "Years of practice, Carrots. Years of practice."

"Why do you always have to spoil tender moments like this?"

Nick lowered his muzzle to Judy's neck a second time, but instead of a line of nips, he pressed his lips gently against her fur, fondly listening to the airy sight of contentment that was released by the rabbit. "You mad?" Nick asked all of a sudden.

"To fall for you? I must be."

"No, mad 'at' me."

"Nick," Judy settled back into his chest a little, "I could never be mad at you for being who you are. I'm in love with you, Slick, and I fell in love with you a long time ago; you don't need to be anyone, apart from the wonderfully charming fox I fell in love with to make me the happiest bunny on this earth."

Judy pushed her lips against Nick's and the fox kissed her back, hungrily. The kiss quickly deepened, but Judy forced herself to back out of it before she forgot all about the third point she wanted to talk to Nick about.

The look of disappointment on Nick's face, as she peeled herself away slightly to sit upon his lap, pained the rabbit deeply, so Judy chased aside the uncertainty, of whether she should be talking about this or not, away and asked her question directly in a bid to make things easier for him. "Would you like to have kits someday— not soon, maybe not even with me, just at allwith anyone, ever. Is that something you would want?"

"I can't say I've ever really thought about it. I guess after the time I had with my parents, I figured I'd never have cubs of my own, but," he added with a slight smile, "that's an opinion very liable to change. You?"

"Well, my parents certainly think I am. Since sisters of mine, who are younger than me, started to turn into grandparents, Mom and Dad can't stop asking about whether I have a boyfriend yet or not."

The fox snickered, "Let’s get to that when it comes, shall we? I think you've already got enough to think about without throwing three million other rabbits into the equation."

"Hey," she giggled, “come on, there aren’t that many, you know...”

"Still a heck of a lot of 'em, Missie."

"Yep, almost three hundred, and all of them from just two rabbits, Mom and Dad! Can you imagine?"

"Boy... remember when we first met? You only had two hundred and seventy-five back then…"

But she just continued through him amidst the sprout of excitement, "That could be us in a few... ooh—" Judy trailed off... because Nick was turning pale. "But," she added quickly as to try and plaster the instantly-deepened situation, "we wouldn't need to have that many. It's only in the country where rabbits have that many offspring. In the city, we're more likely just to have a couple'a dozen."

"Dozen!?"

"Oh don't give me that look, Nick," she teased, "that's only one litter, after all."

"Could... couldn't we haggle about this?"

"With my haggling skills against yours? I'd have to be crazy!"

"Give it a go, Hopps, and remember what I taught you."

"... Alrighttell me how many you'd want, give me a number to work from, and we'll start from there."

"Well, err, how about one?"

"How about twelve?"

"Two?"

"Twelve."

"Three?"

"Twelve!"

"Fo"

"Twelve!"

"... You really haven't got the hang of this 'haggling' lark, have you?"

Judy raised herself on her knees, pushing Nick's body slowly back with a paw, as she moved further atop him. The fox’s body leaning to a forty-five degree angle as the body of the rabbit came pushing heatedly against his.

"How about four?" Judy asked, all trepidation as to whether this was something, either Nick or herself actually wanted, lost in the dizzy excitement of the moment. "Think about it, Nickey." She pressed her lips against his, softly. "Me, you, and four little kits to call our own."

The fox pulled his arms close around the rabbit’s body. "Well now, that sounds like something I read in the Quangasa once."

"The Quangasa?" she asked in a sort of a confused tone.

"Yeah, because I'd have to be in the Holy Utopia for life to be that good." Judy snuggled herself closer into him, tucking her head in beneath his in a way that was somehow so comforting to both of them, sighing contentedly as her eyes started to fall shut and her breaths levelled out and became deeper.

"Aww, has the wittle cutesy bunny got herself all tired out?"

"Not so tired that I couldn't put you on your ass if I wanted," she stated without opening her eyes, "and yes, I never thought a conversation could be so draining. I guess it’s a different matter when you're talking about love, sex, marriage and kits."

"Yep. That's some pretty heavy conversationing to be having with the guy you've barely been dating for less than an hour."

"Is that all it's been?" she mumbled as sleep began cradling her in, "seems like longer."

"I think, Jules, in our own special way, the two of us have been dating secretly since the day we first met. Dating so secretly, that we didn't even realize it ourselves."

"Hmm, yeah, I think we have." Judy opened her eyes, meeting the fox’s lovely gaze as she spoke in a sleep-slurred mutter, "How did that line go in that song you sung? Here in your arms I suffer no more? I'm just glad, so glad things have worked out the way they have." All Nick could do was smile, as he felt the small form of the rabbit settle closer into his chest, her eyes falling closed with a beaming smile on her expression and with her breath turning to a shallow purr.

Nick found himself very glad he had turned down the heat on the hob — that he could enjoy the warmth, purring and sweet smell of his lover for half an hour more before having to rise.

Judy opened her eyes one last time, meeting the fox’s jades warmly and cherishingly as she spoke, "I love you, dumb fox."

The fox leaned forwards. He pressed his nose softly against Judy's for a moment, then kissed that delicate, pink protuberance before whispering in reply, "I love you too, sly rabbit."

The rabbit grinned sleepily, then her gaze lost focus, her eyes fluttered shut and Judy fell into a comfortable, contented, deep and happy rest...

Tho, as the rabbit slept, upon the outskirts of town, a small, wooden rowing boat made port upon the quiet earthen bank; the white figure who stepped out witnessed only by the moon and the stars, by the heaven and the earth, as the moon slowly rose over the still and silent cityscape, of Zootopia, the Idyll Mountains, and the holy spire of Mount Zoophon, which stood like an imperious father above all.

Author’s notes:

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Chapter Text

"No good. It's no bloody good." Grunting for the dozenth time that evening, Bogo sat, slumping back in his large and reinforced office chair in the study of his flat. He looked about at his gray and sparsely furnished home. True, with the money he was paid he could have bought himself a really nice house of his own, rather than renting out a comparatively shabby flat, but the reason he had chosen to live here was because it was close. If he wanted to buy an actual house, it would mean a forty-five minute walk every morning to get to work, whereas this place was practically next door.

Besides, it was hardly used anyway, as Bogo made a habit of working extra hours whenever necessary, in a city this big: it was always necessary, and rarely did anything other than eat, sleep or spend yet more time looking into leads or finishing off paperwork with the little time he really spent there. Nice houses — like relationships — were pointless when you were Chief of Police.

Grumbling, pushing back against the wall, the wheels of the chair trundled as it rolled towards Bogo's desk. Stopping, he reached out to the third drawer down and took out a bottle of expensive brandy. He poured out a generous-sized glass for himself, replaced the stopper, and raised the glass to his lips.

His gaze fell back on the large whiteboard he had the proprietors install on one wall. Five feet high and twelve feet across, it depicted a simplified map of Zootopia, but allowed for drawings to be made over it which could be rubbed out after — useful in these situations. "Damn it," Bogo spat, "there is no wretched pattern, none at all." He took back the strong glass in one gulp, breathed for a moment while it settled, and then stood again. "Guess I'll just go over the damn wretched thing again," he muttered, his voice now a little tired and slurred.

"So," he grumbled, picking up a red marker pen and drawing dots all over the city-map-depicting whiteboard, "there have been ninety-five dealings in the past seven days, and that's just the ones we know about." Taking up a green pen, Bogo drew a circle around some of red circles representing dealings. "Twenty-six of these dealings occurred in the past twenty-four hours, so that means there's a definite and sudden increase in the dealings."

With green circles drawn around the most recent dealings, Bogo took a step back. "Dots," he mumbled, "dots everywhere. No pattern, no sequence, no meaning. Where do they come from, these drugs? This spike is too high and too sudden to just be a rise in 'trend'. Clearly there is some kind of gang in operation here. But if it's a gang, where are they based?"

His gaze shifting here and there upon the map, Bogo tapped the butt of his pen against his chin. "They must have a base of operations. A disused factory, the underground sewer system, an abandoned warehouse, perh—" Bogo froze as a thought struck him; his gaze locked upon a small building in Zootopia's main industrial complex.

Bogo snorted, once. "Ladders and Ladders and CO." The slither of a smile grew on Bogo's face. "Now how did I miss that?" He had been so focused on finding 'concentrations' of dealings, he had failed to notice the definite 'lack' of dealings in that area since it burnt down. His smile growing, Bogo swept the rest of the map with his eyes. The locations of known dealings were pretty much evenly distributed through all of Zootopia. The dealings which occurred in the past twenty-four hours were distributed pretty much evenly among them... except around Ladders and Ladders.

Bogo let out a number of slow, low chuckles. "It's a hive," he realized proudly. "One of a number." The Chief of Police picked up a blue marker pen. Raising it to the board, Bogo drew a large circle around Ladders and Ladders, which encompassed all of the dealings that had occurred prior to the warehouse burning down, but without including any of the dealings suspected to take place after.

"The hive is in operation; drugs are sold and deals made. The hive burns down, however; the deals stop." Raising the pen again, he drew a dozen more identically-sized circles until every inch of the map was within the radius of a suspected 'hive'. He did this like he was playing the old computer game 'Minesweeper' — using oddities in the terrain and things like Precinct borders and built up, industrial areas to intelligently fathom where the boundaries of other such 'hives' might be. Using the radius of the circle around Ladders as a template and starting point to help mark up the others.

"Let’s say," he mused in focus when this was done, "a twenty-five percent margin for error." Picking up a yellow pen, he drew smaller circles in the center of the larger, blue ones, so twenty-five percent was on the inside, seventy-five on the outside, and smiled at the result because, if he was right, and if his margin for error was accurate enough, then he had just narrowed down a city-wide search to just fifty buildings. And when he would get back to headquarters, he would check which of these buildings were in use, and which were 'allegedly' condemned like Ladders was, and then it would likely be no more than ten.

Bogo started chuckling again, rising in volume until his laughter had filled the room. "I've got you now, bastards," he called to the whiteboard and the room in general. "You'll rule the day you ever dared to set up a drug-dealing operation in my city."

He fell back into his chair — and would have broken it if it had not been specially reinforced — still bellowing with self-satisfied laughter as he leaned back upon the seat. He picked up a marker pen and tossed it lazily towards the board, hitting the location of Ladders and Ladders square-on with the nib, splatting red ink all over the industrial complex of that area.

"Now… Ladders… what about you then?" Sitting forwards again, he pulled open another drawer and took out the arson report Judy had written for the investigation at Ladders. Flicking through, he drank in the facts like water. "Male fennec fox killed," he muttered as he read, "on knees when shot, execution probable. Fire started using incendiary device. Wood piled as flue. Clearly arson. Multiple arsonists suspected."

He set down the open file, resting his elbows on the table and placing his head on his hoofs in a state of deep thought.

"So. A warehouse full of illegal substances; a fennec fox turns up, wanting to buy drugs cheap and threatening to turn them over to the police if they don't give him a discount. What do they do? They kill him. But before they do that, the fennec tells them that a friend of his holds incriminating evidence of their presence there, and that that friend will paw it over to the police if he doesn't come back — insurance to make sure the gang don't just kill him." Bogo sat back, slowly.

"How would the gang react?" he pondered, putting himself in the mainframe of a gang boss. "Well, they can't risk being found out, yet they mustn't look like pushovers in front of their clients. So, what do they do now? They kill him, relocate the drugs, and then torch the factory to burn away all traces of evidence. If they were efficient, all of this could've happened in just one night, and all that's left for Hopps and Wilde come morning… a corpse. There..." Bogo added, an uncharacteristically childish grin growing on his face, "that should keep the press happy."

Bogo reopened the third drawer and poured himself another glass — though this time, it was a celebratory drink — he sipped at it, smiling, for it tasted all the better for the success. Upon the desk beside him, Bogo's phone buzzed. He set down the glass and picked up the phone, he read the name, and then pressed answer. "Jack," Bogo called, his spirits high, "how goes the espionage?"

"It's most informative," crackled Jack Savage's voice from the transmitter, "thank you, Sir. I'm just calling in to report like you asked."

"And what have you to report?"

The voice of the rabbit cleared its throat, then he started speaking as though reading from a list of notes. "At six minutes to dusk, the track: AKA Officer Hopps, climbed the exterior steps to the roof of The Target's: AKA Officer Wilde's, apartment. At five and four sixths to dusk, Officer Hopps narrowly avoided being shot by Officer Wilde—"

"He what? Agent, I thought I made my orders perfectly clear that you were to inform me if Nick—"

"No, Sir, it was just a matter of unfortunate timing and even more unfortunate positioning; it was not intentional by any means. Then, at five and two eights, both officers Hopps and Wilde apologized to one another. At five minutes to dusk, Officer Wilde started to recite his family history to Officer Hopps. At one minute—"

"Savage," Bogo interrupted, and Jack knew just by the way he had said his name that this was going to be a sarcastic comment, "this is all very interesting, but do you think—"

"Be patient, Sir," Jack inserted in reply, "things get more interesting from here on in. As I was saying, at one minute to dusk Officer Wilde serenaded Officer Hopps with a romantic ballad—"

"— what—"

"— And at dusk... they kissed." Silence settled for a long moment, then Savage's voice came again. "And, in so far as I could make out, it was their first time doing so." Bogo made no reply. It didn't really bother Jack if he was too stunned to comment or not — he just wanted to finish this report and get back to it — and so, he carried on.

"Ahem— at two minutes past dusk Officer Wilde carried Officer Hopps down from the roof. At three minutes past they started making out. They stopped this act around forty-seven seconds in and went on to discuss each other’s overpowering odour and their subsequent need to use the washroom. Officer Hopps offered Officer Wilde the first shower— then, at—"

"Sorry, what?"

"Pardon, Sir?"

"What did you say just then?"

"Hopps offered Wilde the first shower."

"No, just before that."

"They talked about their odour?"

"No, before that."

"They made out, Sir?"

"Erm. We'll— we'll get to that."

"What then, they kissed?" In the dark confines of the room above Nick's apartment, the line fell dead. The stripped rabbit, who was still sat upon the floor with a half-full notepad, a blunted pencil and a lot of pencil shavings beside him, sighed at Bogo's stunned silence. Jack Savage passed the phone from one tall ear to the other, muttering something along the lines of 'it's just a kiss, get over it' under his breath. "Sir, do you copy?" he asked, bluntly. "Sir, do you respond? Sir?" He knew Bogo could hear him, but he wasn't going to sit there doing nothing while the Chief gathered his thoughts back together. "Sir, I'm hanging up the phone now."

"Wait, Jack!"

"Yes, Sir?"

"... This is going to take some explaining."

...

Judy purred softly in her sleep. Upon the padded sofa in the decent-sized living room of Nick's apartment, dressed only in Nick's black dressing gown, which hung off her body loosely and with her face in a simple smile of angelic bliss — Nick had never seen a sight more adorable.

The fox gazed lovingly upon her, stood, as he was, just before the sleeping rabbit who had not stirred from slumber since settling into him a little earlier. He had been lucky then, and had managed to slip from beneath her without waking her up twenty minutes after — when he had no choice but to see to dinner. Dinner was ready now however, and, well, she couldn't eat in her sleep, could she?

Lowering himself down on his knees, his head came level with Judy's. Nick smiled as the rabbit's pinkish nose twitched at his scent as he rested his head on the couch, close to hers. He reached up with a delicate paw and stroked Judy upon the cheek with the back of his finger to wake her. Her smile grew to a beam, but she didn't wake, and then one of her paws came up to her face and her fingers wrapped softly around Nick's own.

Clutching at his melting heart with his free paw, Nick almost died of a cuteness-overload as his index finger became enwrapped in Judy's small, soft paw as she slept. The rabbit took in a long breath, then let it out slowly with a slight "hmm, Nick" as she did so.

And then, Judy turned over. Rotating to face into the darkness of the padding, the rabbit dragged Nick's arm beneath her. The fox got startled at the sudden movement, moving with her so as not to wake her up, shifting up and onto the sofa as Judy unconsciously pulled his arm, finding himself suddenly flush against Judy's back with both his arms around her small, sleeping frame.

Nick sighed with mixed emotions as to his current situation. Yes, it was very nice: very, very nice to be up this close against Judy — but it wasn't exactly aiding his original goal of waking the slumberous bunny up! He looked about at the so-called 'progress' — and immediately wished he hadn't. He wished he hadn't, because of the way Judy was lying and how Nick was positioned against her — coupled with the looseness of the gown she was wearing and the lack of any other items of clothing beneath — meant that, looking down, Nick had a near unparalleled view of Judy's... erm—

Heat started to build around his collar as he tried, and failed, to look away from the unfathomably pleasurable sight. He managed to glance away once, but then his eyes were drawn irrevocably downwards once again. It wasn't that he didn't like the view — it wasn't that at all — it was just it emasculated his dignity, to think he was peeping on his partner — romantic or no — while she slept.

Reaching out briskly with his free paw, Nick made to cover Judy's bosom with the gown she was wearing. One inch away from achieving that goal, however, Judy's paw shot out and gripped Nick's by the wrist. "And what do you think you're doing with that paw, Mister Wilde?" Her eyes opened.

Nick was too flustered to notice the light-heated playfulness in her voice as he stuttered with an answer, "No, Judy, it's, erm— your... your bathrobe was sli— slipping and your… erm— 'bust' was err—"

Judy sat up a little, her voice ringing with teasing accusation. "So, you thought you'd just have a quick grope, did you?"

"No! No, I was just going to cover it for you!"

"Oh, I know what you were planning Nick," Judy breathed as she settled back down, "you dirty fox, I know exactly what you were planning."

And then — gently, and to Nick's everlasting amazement — Judy slowly lowered Nick's paw down, slipped it between her soft gown and her smooth fur, and pressed it unflinchingly upon her flat breasts.

Nick's breaths deepened as he held her. Judy whimpered ever so slightly, her head falling back against his chest as his touch stimulated that sensitive place on her body, applying just enough pressure to satisfy her, yet leaving her aching for more. Tenderly, Nick started to massage one breast in a slow circle; Judy's whimper turned to a soft moan as he applied slightly more pressure.

Suddenly, Judy turned around to face him and to meet his lips for a passionate kiss. She moved quicker than Nick acted, and so his paw remained stationary, catching in the fabric of one arm and sliding the loose-fitting robe away from her body to slip from her shoulder — revealing yet more of the rabbit's body to the room — and reiterating to Nick just how naked Judy was underneath.

Nick turned himself over, and in another instant the fox was on top and the rabbit was on her back beneath. He pressed his lips against hers, as he twitched the material off the rabbit’s other shoulder and revealed all of Judy's fount to him. He kissed the rabbit more deeply — more passionately — as he brought both his paws up to fondle, to caress and to massage that sensitive part of Judy's soft, silken body — enjoying both the way she felt beneath him, and the wonderful sounds of pleasure that escaped her luscious lips.

...

"... and then," Jack continued, his voice still calm if a little strained, "after their in depth conversation about marriage, sex and children, Officer Hopps fell asleep in Officer Wilde's arms whilst lying upon him on the couch... clear?"

Bogo sat back in his chair, rubbing his forehead with a hoof. "And what are Wilde and Hopps doing now?" he asked.

"Well, Officer Hopps was sleeping the last I checked, and Officer Wilde was preparing stew," Jack replied, "but I've stopped listening in since to make my report."

The Chief grunted. "Let me hear them."

"Yes, Sir." There was a moment of static, a click as the transmitter was adjusted, and then a new sound filled Bogo's ears.

"Nnh, Nick… hhf— nnhhh, ah— arhh… nnnhhhn—"

"Switch it off," Bogo bellowed, standing, knocking his chair to the floor and smashing his hoof down upon the table, "switch it off now!"

...

"Nnnhh, Nick— hhf."

"Boy, you rabbits always this vocal?"

"Stop teasing, Nick," Judy huffed in reply, "I'm enjoying this too much for you to— harrhhh god."

Nick allowed things to carry on as they were for a moment longer — this was a wonderfully pleasant sensation for both of them after all — but then he leaned in close to her ear. "You know, Hopps, my darlin', unless you really want to break this vow of abstinence after only one hour, we're gonna have to stop soon."

"Arhh— I know Nick, I know. I was trying not to think about it but— aarh… but you're right, we— we will."

"Well, I didn't wanna rush you, Whiskers, but—"

"No. No, it's good that you have. It's best if we just stop now, Nick."

Nick drew his paws softly back from that sensitive part of Judy's body — both missed the touch instantly — and then proceeded to slowly close his gown back over her again, covering her dignity as he traced a line of kisses up her fount — being careful to avoid pressing against her windpipe — to then, finally, plant his most loving of kisses against her lips.

"By the way, your carrots are done, Carrots."

"Good, I'm starving."

"Me too. You know, for a moment there, I was half tempted to devour you."

"Hmm," Judy giggled, lightly, looking up to Nick, her eyes sparkling. "You know, if you had tried to take things further just now, all the way even, I wouldn't have even thought to stop you."

"I know," he replied, coolly, "s'why I didn't."

"It was all your fault though, you know."

"Me, how was it my fault? You're the one who put my paw there, I would never've—"

"Yeah, but this dressing gown I'm wearing belongs to you, and if it wasn't for your gown which slipped—"

"I see," he said, deadpan, "you're blaming me for the actions of inanimate objects now, are you?"

"Well… you definitely can't blame me for the fact you don't have anything 'rabbit' sized in this apartment of yours."

A smile crept across Nick's face. "... We'll see about that." He stood and started off towards his bedroom.

"Nick," Judy grabbed Nick's arm as he moved away. The fox stopped and turned to her, a fond smile on his lips. "Nick, that... that was the first time I've ever had anything like that done to me, ever. And I just wanted you to know, it felt... wonderful."

"Well," Nick said in reply, leaning close towards one of Judy's ears and whispering with a mischievous grin on his face. "If you think that felt 'wonderful', just you wait and see what it's like the night we get hitched!"

"Our honeymoon, you mean?" She nuzzled close to his cheek, whispering in return, "I can't wait." Nick chuckled and rolled his eyes as the rabbit started kissing him on the cheek, then started reaching out to pull him back on top of her with her arms and legs. Nick knew exactly where this was going — he may have shrugged it off when Judy mentioned it, but it took every ounce of self-control Nick had not to take Judy's body in every way, shape and form he could have on the couch just then — and, he knew, it would be impossible for him to back away from that same offer so soon after the last.

He was only mammal after all.

"Judy," he said between the rabbit’s kisses, "The food will be burnt, the kitchen will catch fire, the flat will burn down, everyone will blame me— I'll get kicked out of the ZPD. My rent'll probably be put up. I won't be able to get house insurance again, my credit rating'll be destroyed and your present too."

Judy pulled back from the kiss, crossing her arms over her chest and frowning with a playful pout that Nick should want to end to stop playing a game as fun as kissing. Nick chuckled. "Sit tight, Carrots," he said, roughing the fur on the top of Judy's head with a paw, instantly turning her playful frown into giggling as she tried to bat his paw away, "I'll be back soon."

Shaking his head and smiling, Nick walked softly away. Judy could do nothing but grin at the handsome fox — grinning, and remembering the wonderful sensations which had just passed between them — thinking on what it might be like to go further as she waited for her lover to return with her gift.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

A gentle tide lapped against the carbonized metal of Zootopia's port. A thick mist had settled upon the water — drifting down from the mountains after the heavy rainfall of the day. The mist had not extended to within the city however, but had settled heavily upon the water and shrouded all sight beyond a few feet on that most hydrous of surfaces.

A wave splashed up over the side of the port, sloshing against a few of the great many mammal-high crates which were piled atop one another, and soaking the already glistening concrete ground. A large crane was close by, its arm reaching out to the dock that extended out into the open waters, large enough for even the biggest of ships to take anchor there.

The only sign of life in this lonely dock was a small shack close to the edge of the harbour. The shack was old and slanting and looked as though it was held together by hope alone, leaning up against the strong brickwork of the discontinued boatbuilder’s yard.

A dim light glowed from within the old shack. The warm light faded as the door opened and a figure stepped out. The harbormaster — an elderly male dog with shaggy black fur which was thick and rugged — left the comparatively warm respite of his shack, carrying an old-fashioned oil lantern at arm’s length, level with his head, up close to his only eye which glinted red in the lantern clarity.

The harbormaster was old — his eye strained, his back bent slightly with years of servitude — but he had the deep-bound strength of all mammals who had spent a life of physical labor. He walked with the distinctive 'sailor’s swagger' — rocking from side to side constantly, like the to-and-fro of a swaying boat — as he wounded about the shipping container yard.

Shining his torch into all the shadows and labyrinthine pathways created between the stacks of crates, the harbormaster checked the empty yard for any intruders, squatters or other kinds of unwanted guests.

He took out a match as he walked and struck it against the edge of one of the large crates. Lighting his pipe, the old dog came to the point where dock met port. He set down his lantern upon one of the smaller crates and then sat himself on a bollard to enjoy his smoke, mumbling the words to some old shanty under his breath, his voice cracked and low.

"My truelove she is beautiful, and my truelove she is young,

Her eyes as bright as the stars at night, and silvery sounds her tongue.

And silvery sounds her tongue, my boys, but while I sing this lay,

She is doing it grand in a distant land, ten thousand miles away.”

"It was a dark and a dismal morn when last she left the strand.

She bid good-by with a tear-dimmed eye, and waved her lily-white paw.

And waved her lily-white paw, my boys, as the big ship left the bay,

Adieu, said she, and remember me ten thousand miles away."

He sat there for a time, upon the bollard, with slow plumes of smoke rising from his wooden pipe. Then, something went crack behind him. The hound stood sharply, one paw reaching for his lantern, the other to his pocket, feeling the reassuring coldness of that which laid within — an item all sailors worth their salt carried.

He squinted into the darkness, his lantern doing little to penetrate the gloom beyond a few feet. His concern mounding, he started to focus — really focus — on the atmosphere around him.

And it was then he noticed it.

Lantern held high, the harbormaster stepped out onto the dock. He didn't know what it was, but it sent his every nerve on edge. He sucked in a lungful of air, listened to the sounds of the water and felt the stillness that surrounded — it all spoke of trouble. The dog had been a sailor for many years before old age had forced him to settle on solid ground — and he knew the calm before the storm when he felt it.

He had experienced something like this a few times before out in the open ocean — this hot, itchy calm; this claustrophobic stillness — but it had never been this bad. Looking upon the river, stood on the edge of the dock, the retired shiphand's thick eyebrows furrowed. All of a sudden, the booming blare of a ship foghorn ripped through the silence. The sound started the hound back, his lantern flying form his grip and into the river with a hiss as it extinguished.

From the fog emerged the bow of a vast tanker-vessel. Its massive, iron fans cutting into the water, it ploughed on through the river, drifting to a stop in line with the dock. The iron craft which towered over the dock let out a second booming, earsplitting racket, and then fell silent. The dog picked himself up off the ground, panting, stunned, beneath the massive bulk of the vast ship. Only the bow was visible — the ship so large and the fog so thick that the stern could not be comprehended.

Overshadowed by its enormous bow, he gazed slowly up upon the two hundred thousand ton tanker, loaded with stacks of metal crates. It sat, looming over the port, in complete silence in the darkness for a moment… and then, with a heavy clank, the seven foot anchor…

Dropped.

...

"Now... which paw am I holding your present in?"

"Are you really doing this, Nick?"

"That I am, Hopps. Now, which one?

"Nick, I am not—"

"Okay, you need it explaining—"

"Nooo!"

"— so, held behind my back is a very expensive gift. One of my paws holds the gift, the other holds nothing."

"— Nick—"

"For you to win the prize, you have to guess which paw the present is held in—"

"— Nick!—"

"— and then, if you chose right, I give it to you. We clear now?"

"... I am not a child, Nick, I—"

"That's not an answer, Judy, it's left or right."

"Don't push it."

"Which will it be," he sang, "which will it be?"

"I, don't, care. If you’re gonna give it, then give it." They held gazes for a moment — Judy's stern, Nick's playful — and then the two started talking simultaneously.

"C'mon, Hopps, it's just a bit of a joke."

"Nick, Look, this may be fun for a—"

"It won't take a second and think of—"

"— three year old, but it isn't for me. I'm—"

"— all the fun we'll have! I know you want—"

"— not trying to be harsh or insensitive and I—"

"— to do it really; stop playing hard to get and—"

"— do thank you for getting me a gift, but—"

"— open up your—"

"Nick!" Judy called over the volume of the conversation, looking pleadingly up to him. "Nick, I'm tired, alright? I just want to eat and go to sleep. So much has happened today, us for one thing… And I just want to eat and go to bed. Okay?"

"... The left one then?"

"Nick, can't you just fu— The left one."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Are you, suurrrrre?"

"Yes!"

"Because, it's not too late to change your—"

"Damn it! Yes, alright, the right one."

"Nope! Guess again."

"... Seriously?" The fox's grin made Judy groan. Her shoulders slumped and her head fell into the paw she brought up to rub her forehead. Her ears fell, her spirits dulled and a number of 'choice' words escaped her lips in a mumble as she looked back to Nick — who was stood, grinning, with both his paws holding something behind his back.

Then the rabbit's paw shot out into the fox's gut; the fox spluttered, bent double; the rabbit reached around to Nick's back, picked the present from the fox's slackened grip and returned to her natural position, present in paw. "Thank you," she said, honestly.

"Y-y-you're— you're welcome." Checking behind herself, the rabbit sat down upon the sofa. Nick — having recovered from the blow — remained stood, speaking as though trying to make amends for something as Judy turned her gift, a foot wide and high, and a few inches thick and made from a flimsy, possibly fabric material, over and over in her paws.

"Hey-erm— Judy, I hope you like it," he said, carefully, "and it’s definitely your size and color, but, it's just, be, kinda, cautious when you open it. It's safe, just, don't take it too literally that bought it. It's, err— it's sort of a bit, you know..." The rabbit gave him a sideways glance as she turned the present over and ran a small claw through the metallic foil wrappings, a questioning expression on her face.

"Well, it's like buying your mom red knickers."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"I mean it's sort of like— I don't know… slutty?"

Her gaze shot to his face, her words lined with cautious, warning anger, "Nick... what the fluff have you bought me?"

"No, NO! I-I didn't mean you would look slutty in it, it's just—" the fox fumbled in his words, trying all he could to convey what he meant without giving away what it was "— it's just, like, 'not the kind of thing a friend buys a friend'... usually." The fox crossed his arms over his chest as Judy's gaze slowly returned back to the present. "Just... just open it," he muttered, his voice hot with concern, as he shifted unsurely from foot to foot. Slitting another side of the gift, she gently tore the metallic violet wrapping paper open, revealing a pile of folded cloth upon a cloths hook. She lifted the item by the cloths hanger and held it up to the light.

It was an oriental dressing gown — purple — with a multitude of patterned spirals, swirls and shapes all across it in a diverse range of crimsons, golds, emeralds, azures, ambers and hazels.

Judy gawped at it — mesmerized by its colorful — yet not overcrowded — colors and patterns. She reached out a paw and touched the delicate lilac material. It was light, thin, made from fine silk which shone — almost glowed — in the light.

"Nick," managed Judy, in a light breath, "it's—"

"I know! I know. I'm sorry."

"No, Nick… it’s beautiful." Nick started slightly, hope returning to his jades as Judy briskly got herself up off the couch, crossed the room and put her arms warmly around Nick's waist. A sense of pride at buying the right thing filled him and his expression softened at her next words, "I love it."

Nick grinned — then grinned yet more as Judy kissed him in thanks — as he spoke, "You mean, you'll try it on?"

"Try it on? I'll wear it!" Turning excitedly back to the sofa, Judy quickly started undoing the knot of Nick's black gown she was wearing, when something sparked in the back of her mind and she turned her head towards Nick with a suppressed grin. "You just gonna sit there?"

His eyes shooting wide, Nick turned away hurriedly. A few seconds passed. Judy's voice then fluttered in the air, "Okay, you can look." He turned and — not for the last time that evening — Nick was struck by the sight. The color of the material complimented her lilacs perfectly — just as Nick knew they would — and the thinness and lightness of the material pronounced the smooth curves, the trimness, the shapeliness of her body like nothing the fox had seen could.

"Wow. Judy," said Nick, quietly in amazement, "you are really something, you know that?" Tenderly, he stepped towards her, reached out and held her body. "You look amazing."

A coy smile spread on her face. "Thanks. It feels amazing too. This silk—" the doe trailed off as the fox's touch wrapped further around her body. From looking down at herself Judy gazed up as the fox's muzzle neared hers — full of basic and simple need.

They kissed, deeply, but then the rabbit drew back with stars in her eyes and spoke, her paw resting upon Nick's as it slid slowly up and down across her waist. "Nick, why… why did you warn me before I opened it?"

"Well, it's just, you know... you wear it when you go to bed and it's just not something you buy for someone, most of the time. It's just, kinda, seedy that I would buy something like that for you."

"Awww," she breathed, "always the gentlemammle."

"For you, Judy, I have to be." The affection of mouths continued on for quite some time before the two mammals returned to their supper. Their meal was simple and somewhat without taste, but Nick and Judy both were too preoccupied with the fact that they were dinning together as a 'couple' for the first time to really notice the food or — to some extent — making conversation... until Judy started on her 'carrot' gravy, that is.

They were both full with the excitement of all the things that could now pass between them in their newfound 'status'... but the hour was late and they had one more day of work before the week’s end, so the two mammals decided to retire for an early night. It had been a tiring day, with investigations, a city-chase, a lengthy report and then a suspected 'suicide' to deal with — not to mention the altogether draining recollection of Nick’s past — so the two mammals decided that they should sleep now and leave 'developments' for their weekend off.

Nick offered Judy the master bed, while he’d sleep on the couch. Judy refused, dragged the fox into the master bedroom, ordered him to strip down into his boxers and to get into bed... and that she would be there to join his momentarily… And, so it came to pass that Judy was stood in the doorframe — wearing only the thin oriental gown. The living room light was still on, and so her body was but a black silhouette to the fox. Nick watched in silence and in anticipation as Judy stretched out, slid her paw up the wall just outside the bedroom, and flicked off the light — switching her from a featureless figure to being clearly illuminated against the soft light of the moon without.

Nick did what he could to keep his breathing steady as the beautifully-illuminated bunny slowly crossed the room, standing on the other side of the bed and folding down a corner of the sheets — he couldn't do anything about his ridiculous heartbeat though, or, that... other problem his body was currently giving him.

Looking carefully at nothing by the side of the fox's bed which Nick was within — having something like a panic attack by the sound of it — Judy's paws slowly slipped down the fine smooth silk... and undid the knot which held the gown closed.

"Judy, what— what are you doing?"

Holding the thin layer of clothing about herself, the rabbit's hidden flush slowly rose to meet the fox. Judy suppressed the devilish grin that tried to form, held back the giggling and the blushing and, instead, allowed a coy smile to form on her face, keeping her voice completely and utterly innocent as she cooed, "Well, I can't wear it to bed. It'll get creased."

"Hey, err, why-why don't you let me grab one of my shirts to slip on?"

She shook her head, slightly; Nick gawked at the refusal. "No, it's okay, Nick. Thanks for the offer, but I'll be fine just, like... this." She dropped the silken gown. It fell to the floor without noise. In her bareness — her nudity — Judy shied at Nick with something like fearful trepidation — and who could blame her — she had just exposed, quite literally, everything to the male of another species, a predator at that — how could she not be nervous?

For his part, Nick looked at Judy with nothing but stunned wonderment — unable, just, unable to think, move, anything. Struck absolutely — one hundred percent — by the vision before him.

Judy smiled softly — reassured by Nick's silent, gawping approval. It was a scene, once seen, never to be unseen. It only took Judy a couple of seconds to slip into bed beside the fox and the petrifyingly beautiful sight was lost — and yet, even years after, that sight and that moment would be as clear to him in memory as they were in that very bit of time. Judy started slipping into bed beside the fox. This knocked him from his paralysis and he blurted to her in a panic as she pulled the cover back over herself.

"Hopps! Hopps, I only have so much self-control, and—" she moved yet closer, her body warming his and her scent filling his air with her arms wrapping around his chest; her face nuzzling against his neck "— a, a, and—"

"Goodnight, Sweetheart," was all she said as the fox continued to twitch and stutter agitatedly beside her. Despite her excitement, Judy Hopps fell asleep easy. She had never felt anything like she did then. Never in all her years did she ever think something so simple as lying next to a lover could just feel so damn good. It wasn't even sexual — just wonderfully intimate and full of warmth — just Nick's smooth red fur which was softer and felt even more pleasant against her fur than the gown he bought her did. It made Judy feel safer and more comforted then she could ever remember feeling before.

I finally did it, she thought as she drifted off. I finally got the fox I love.

Judy's mind faded, slipping into perfectly blissful sleep, surrounded, and penetrated by Nick's warmth and Nick's love, as a single, delicate, uncertain maroon arm slipped slowly over her shoulders, across her arm and tucked in around her body and across her back bare.

Well Nick, you did it, he thought, quite unable to drift off, don't ask me how the heck you pulled it off, but you did it. He settled back in the bed as Judy sighed and tucked herself in a little closer to his body. Honestly... I didn't think you had a chance in hell.

...

The old harbormaster remained crouched behind a wooden crate, looking upon the vast black tanker as three more workers dismounted.

After appearing from the mist and docking, the massive tanker had remained motionless in the darkness for quite a time. Then, five workmammals had been dropped off. They went together to the large crane which was soon in operation, lifting container after container onto the backs of one of the procession of trucks which had appeared from nowhere.

It was clear to the harbormaster watching from the concealment of the shadows that something was up. Not only was the boat painted full black without markings or identification, not only were the workers keeping the area in complete darkness as though trying to keep the fact of their presence unknown, not only was there no sign that the proper authorities knew this was going on — but it all seemed just too organized, too practiced for this to be a legal activity.

The black, shaggy dog watched, looking for whoever was in charge and, at last, he had spotted him. He was a coyote, thin and lanky, whose face was in the shape of a constant smirch, which spoke of an overprinted upbringing and a lack of decency or respect. The harbormaster disliked him on sight. He stood among two other mammals, practically bathing in their attention like a needy kid.

The shiphand, harbormaster, great black dog set towards the small gathering, his mind free of trepidation with his paw upon the reassuring coldness of that which laid within his pocket. "Who be you who comes to my port at such an 'our?" The gathering turned to him, startled. There were only three of them that the one-eyed dog could see — the others preoccupied with the crane or the ship. The coyote took a drag leisurely from his cigarette and stepped towards the dog with one paw in his pocket.

"Well, my name's George. What's your name, old-timer?"

"Shuck," he shot back, "but that's Mister Black to you, boyo."

The coyote smiled, thinly. "Shuck Black– Mister Black, my employer is a wealthy mammal and letting us carry on with what we're doing would be of advantage to you. Otherwise, he's a powerful mammal too, and he could make life very difficult for you if you don't play along."

"You're not gonna get to me that way, mammals have tried bribes and threats before. I know your kind, bastad, and I don't deal with lackeys."

Taking his fag out and examining it carefully, George replied, "I don't much like being talked to like that, Mister Black, so why don't you just leave us be?"

"Any number of reasons. Not least the fact your importing here is completely illegal."

"Look, mongrel, me and my pals are just here to make a delivery. Once that delivery is made we can all go home. No one has to get hurt."

"If anyone here gets hurt, boyo, it'll be you. We clear?" The coyote shot him a dirty look. "Now, you just get on and tell me what you're hoarding, and I'll decide what I'll do with you."

The coyote looked at Shuck carefully for a moment, then spoke. "Me and my friends here are carrying four-thousand twenty-foot metal shipping containers. Inside each of these we are carrying twenty-two tons of a dry material for 'commercial sales'. We're loading them into these trucks — also friends of mine — and then we're deposing them at one of our 'sales deposits' scattered about the city. In ten minutes, we'd've emptied all our stock out into these trucks. In half an hour we'll be gone and far away from this city. You let us carry on, it'll be big cash for you. You try and stop us... it's concrete boots all the way down."

He flicked his cigarette away with a dry chuckle. "So what's it to be, flea bag," he said, reaching into his trouser pocket. "You beat it, or beat you?"

Shuck Black approached rapidly, the coyote backed away, not expecting this move from the old dog and failing to mask his fear behind a veil of ease as the distance between them was closed. Shuck leaned close towards George's face, suddenly not looking quite so old as he did a moment before, looming up over him as he spoke in a voice gruff and dangerous, "Go sodemise yourself, basted."

Growling, the young coyote shoved Shuck back away from him and reached for the knuckle dusters in his pocket. In a flash, however, Shuck had drawn the cold, 'reassuring weight' — his flick-knife — from his pocket and had grabbed the coyote by the neck, forcing him back with both strength and speed, which didn't suit his age but very much suited his many years of physically strenuous servitude — pinning George against the crate and pressing the deadly-sharp blade against his throat. The others lurched for him, but he turned his head with a ripping growl, his black and rugged fur rising and his single red eye glinting as he pressed the knife’s edge slightly firmer against their boss’ throat.

"No," shouted the coyote, "don't. Go get the others!" The two ran from the sight, leaving them alone. The one-eyed, black hound bared his barbed teeth at him.

"I said I knew your kind," he grunted. "You don't have the guts to take on real conflict. You'd rather hide behind your guards, barking orders and hoping trouble doesn't come too close. Now," he continued, turning his single eye towards him, "what the hell kind of operation are you running here?"

"When my boss finds out what’s happened, you're in for a heap of s—"

"Who is your boss, boy? What's his name?"

The coyote was reluctant, but the press of steel against his neck opened him up. "His— his name’s Nyilas. Victor Nyilas, okay?"

"What are you shipping here?"

"It-it's just stuff! I—"

"I will gut you. I've done it before. Now TELL ME!"

"Garrrgh! Cannabis, Cocaine, Amphetamine, Ecstasy, you want some? Take your pick!"

"I've told you before, stop trying to bribe me. Now, where’s your base of operations?"

"If— if I tell you that I'm as good as dead!"

"You're as good as dead now." Shuck paused in thought for a moment. He could hear others close by. He didn't have long. "How about I give you a nice eye like mine." He turned his missing eye towards him. George cringed back from the sight.

"We... we have ten bases of operations in Zootopia. The first was Ladders and Ladders, but that's been compromised. The second is in the north of Precinct One, Erkin Enterprises. The third—"

Then he stopped. From behind, shouts arose as a number of various large mammals came running towards them armed with clubs and hammers. Shuck's reaction was instant — dropping the coyote and making to bolt.

Wanting revenge, George leaped for him, grabbing his arm and holding him in place. The black dog span and delivered a heavy punch to his gut. The coyote recovered quickly and went for his knuckleduster. He pulled it out, swung his paw back... and then yelped in pain as Shuck thrust his knife into George’s paw against the wall. The coyote froze. He was trapped against the wooden crate — his paw pinned to the wood by the knife stuck within it.

Black Shuck's barbed teeth smeared a foul grin as he pulled the knife away and the coyote’s body fell limp to the floor. He span on the balls of his feet, as the mob approached, and ran. He ran. He ran and he ran and he did not stop until he was far away.

...

"You okay, boss?" A large hog helped the coyote to his feet.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine," he lied, fearing showing his anguish would jeopardize his authority. "Get in touch with Nyilas. Tell him we'll just have to carry on as planned. We still have time to unload half of our stock before the police arrive and that dog won't know where the ship is headed. We'll just have to accelerate our plan, move on to Step Two earlier than expected. No real harm can come of this."

"Very good, Sir. Would you like someone to look at that paw?"

George looked down at the bloody hole in his limb. He couldn't bend his fingers and he couldn’t feel his arm — probably for the best. "Yeah, and get these crates moving, we've got about five minutes before the coppers get here."

With that, he set off back towards the boat with distaste in his mind.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

  • Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I would like some thoughts on what you thought of the character 'Shuck Black' — based on the old English myth 'Black Shuck', the ghostly black demon-dog, who Arthur Conan Doyle based the 'Hound of the Baskervilles' from. He is important to the story — in one way or another, for better or worse, in the short term or the long — and so I would appreciate it if I could have some feedback as to what you thought of his character — your first impressions of what he's like as a mammal, if you will.

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Chapter Text

The sky was clear, the winds high and Judy Hopps was up on deck. She had a mop and bucket, and had to wash the entire ship before nightfall — nightfall would soon be upon her, but she only had a little more deck to clean up. Around her, all the other mammals were busy doing much more important jobs, but she didn't mind, in fact, she was happy. Everyone had told her that a bunny would never make it on the open sea: It was far too much of a dangerous place. There was also the fact the she was a femammle. The galleon she was serving on — the Mary Rose — had over fifty crewmammals, but she was the only femammle. Besides, most captains didn't even allow fememmle on board.

Ooh... the Captain.

Just the thought of him made her head dizzy and her heart a flutter. He, was a fox, tall and handsome with fur the deepest of reds. Whenever she was lucky enough to hear his voice calling across the length of the boat, her ears would prick straight up, yearning to soak up more, every syllable bringing her pleasure. She stopped mopping the wooden floor in a light daze as she fantasized about the Captain. She knew he would never even second-glance a lowly crewmammal like herself, but that hadn't stopped her from falling for him.

...Whenever the chance arose for her to actually see him. She would nearly faint from the bliss. She found ecstasy in everything about him. She could see his smile from the other end of the ship on a bright day, his teeth glistening in the sun. His bushy red tail looked smooth, well brushed and silky, yet warm and hopelessly soft. His swagger did things to her she could neither explain nor understand. But over everything, there were his eyes.

His eyes. Judy had never spent much time looking into his eyes, as she was always too abashed to look directly at him and had never really spoken to him — but she knew they were one of his most amazing features. That said, she found everything about Captain Wilde pretty amazing: the fine red and gold silks he wore; the crimson, broad-brimmed hat with the large red feather in it; his high leather boots, satin trousers, the way he walked, the way he talked.

Her pulse quickening, she pulled the bucket of water off to one side near the edge of the galleon and started to mop there. She wasn't allowed onto the quarterdeck, where he spent nearly all his time — so her glimpses of him were rare and fleeting — but, if she was incredibly lucky, if she would stay just 'here', and looked—

Yes! Yes, oh yes, oh yes!

There he was, him, Captain Nicholas Wilde of the Mary Rose.

Oh how she adored him.

He was stood gracefully, nobly, majestically by the edge of the quarterdeck, looking out to sea with his paws clasped behind his back. She had the perfect view of his profile: The azure sky behind him, the setting sun bathing his already-magnificent features with a golden light.

As though planned, a wave hit against the side of the boat, giving the Captain an even more awe-inspiring appearance as the spray of water flared up around him. Judy dropped her mop at the sight. The Captain's ear twitched at the sound. The rabbit's breath halted at the movement, and then, to her everlasting joy, he turned to her. His eyes locked with hers. His eyes, that thousand yard stare of the greenest of emeralds. If only she had a painting that's all she would ever need, a painting of her esteemed Captain Wilde so she could spend days just gazing into his lovely face. His amazing eyes, and they were looking at her! She took full pleasure of the moment, knowing it would be over in but a second.

To her amazement, however, his gaze lingered. It was different from his usual ones: As though he was only truly seeing her for the first time. She noticed his brow furrowing slightly — his expressions clearly defined by the setting sun glowing upon them — and then something even more amazing happened: He started to walk towards her. His every step rose Judy's emotions higher and higher, he reached the edge of the quarterdeck and turned to go backwards down the steep steps to where she stood. He crossed the space between them. He stood right in front of her, and then looked sternly at the mop she had dropped on the floor.

"Shirking one’s duties?" he asked. "That is a punishable offense." She watched as the Captain bent over — finding herself closer to fainting than actually speaking — losing all power of thought as this brought his head to within three inches of hers — far, far closer than she had ever, ever been before. He picked up the mop and then stood upright again. Judy felt as though she had died and gone to heaven, as his eyes, again, focused on her.

"...Take the mop." He shoved the mop back into her paw; the effect was like being struck by lightning; his paws lingered on the mop she was again holding, before withdrawing. He hadn't even touched her, he had touched the thing she was holding — but it still sent a rocket of emotion up to her brain, leaving her blissfully dazed as she mooned at him.

The twitch of a smile grew on his otherwise-stern and masterful face.

Oh how she loved that smile. If only I could see his predator teeth.

Not fully realizing it, she reached out a shaking paw towards his face. Time slowed as the Captain looked down at her. She reached out to touch his face, to stroke his muzzle and then part his lips to reveal his glistening teeth to her.

Unfortunately... her paw only reached half way before she ran out of height. The Captain quickly controlled the grin which tried to spread, looking sterner than before as he glanced over to the sun that touched down upon the horizon.

"Have you nearly finished mopping?" he asked.

She tried to say 'yes’sir' — though, all she could manage was a whispered mumble — but he seemed to get the message.

"Good. There is a penalty if you don't clean everywhere, remember?" A moment passed; as though as an afterthought, Captain Wilde added, "Crewmammal, I hereby add to your daily duties the washing of the quarterdeck." Judy gaped. Oh wow! She was allowed onto the quarterdeck now? To clean the floor with the Captain, seeing him every day and closer up then she could ever have been before? A wide grin split across her face, her body nearly trembling with the excitement at the prospect. Without another word, the Captain then turned and gaitered away. But, as he passed the bucket of water Judy was mopping from, he kicked it over, and the water spilled out across the planks.

Without turning or even acknowledging what he did — Judy stood in stunned silence — Captain Wilde walked directly to the door of the quarterdeck and opened it to step inside. He stopped just before stepping in the doorway, turning to the golden sunset as it disappeared into the night. He turned to the startled crewmammal.

"Tishk, tishk. What did I tell you about getting all the floors cleaned?" Judy's mouth dropped open. He leaned towards her, his voice dropping low with a dangerous edge, "Be at my cabin, one hour." She started trying to protest — that wasn't right, he had only just gave her that duty, did he seriously expect her to get it done instantly? Captain Wilde silenced her before she had protested, but he did not do so actively — he merely grinned — his full grin, his teeth shining bright in the moonlight, sending a shock of excitement all through Judy's body as he spoke.

"It's called a hustle, sweetheart." With that he stepped in and shut the door behind him, leaving a gawking Judy starring at where he just was. Somehow... she didn't quite have it in her to be angry with him.

'Him', who she would now be seeing in his cabin.

...

One hour later, Judy came to be stood outside the door of Captain Wilde's cabin. The hour had passed quickly for the rabbit, who had returned to the crewmammals' cabin to change her cloths behind the small screen, which the other memmle had put up for her, so she could change in some little privacy.

Judy Hopps had thoroughly enjoyed the past two weeks out on the open sea, enjoying the new and challenging environment with every step of her journey, each day bringing something new and special. But tonight — she decided — would probably be the best one yet. Even if the Captain merely had spent twenty minutes shouting at her for not getting all the floors cleaned, despite the fact it was his fault — assumable to make an example of 'discipline' to the other crewmates — then it would still be more interaction with him than she had ever dared hope for.

Taking in a breath, Judy knocked on the door. A voice called from within that gave the confirmation. A shiver of excitement ran down her spine just at hearing that voice. Briskly, she opened the door and stepped inside. It was warm in here and well-lit by oil lanterns. She looked about and quickly spotted the Captain in a loose, white nightshirt, sat at his desk and writing with a large quill on some papers. She marched swiftly over to him and managed a smart salute, which he ignored as he continued looking at the papers he was writing.

"Just one minute." Her salute dropped. She looked around the room. It was well-polished wood just like the rest of the ship. He had stern-facing windows with green silk curtains, paintings of boats on the walls, a desk with several papers with a quill and globe of the world. The floor was carpeted — a commodity unique to this room only. There was a large wardrobe, a sitting area, a dining area, a large bed, which made Judy ache to feel a real mattress beneath her again — rather than that uncomfortable hammock; and a brass bathtub also.

Her spirits fell at seeing the bathtub a little as it was clearly full with hot, steaming water. If he was planning to have a bath soon, then this, clearly, wouldn't take nearly as long as she had hopped. Captain Wilde looked up from his papers for the first time, and grinned a little as he saw her starring at his brass bathtub. He looked down, acting as though he hadn't noticed, controlled his grin into a firm expression and cleared his throat. Judy's head turned back sharply as the Captain looked up, fixing a masterful gaze upon her.

"Crewmammal," he began, "you have shirked your duties. This is, indeed, a crime most serious." The rabbit opened her mouth to protest. The Captain talked through her, "I will not tolerate insubordination on my vessel, whatever the excuse."

Waiting a few moments, she decided she was allowed to speak, "So... what will you do to me?"

"Well," he said in reply, "by all accounts, I should throw you off the ship." The rabbit looked crestfallen. The fox smiled, knowing she hadn't understood the full implications. "I mean... while we're still out at sea." Now she understood: Her frightened eyes shooting up to meet his in a panic.

"What?! B-b-but, Sir—"

"That's 'Captain'."

"— Captain! I-I... You can't throw me off the ship!"

"Why not?" he shrugged, "'round here the only laws are my laws, and what I say, goes." She stuttered, trying to make a response, but only fumbling the first syllable of a few small words. The fox watched in amusement for a few seconds — but keeping his grin on the inside — then spoke.

"But, I do understand that you are a rabbit... and, a femammle. That does mean you do have disadvantages compared with the rest of us. It is for this reason, therefore, that I have decided to offer you an alternative punishment based on both your species, and your... gender."

Her answer came instantly as she clutched at whatever straws her Captain had given her. "And what's that?"

He jerked a thumb behind him. "...You have to bathe with the Captain." It took a long time for that statement to sink in and, when it did, she didn't quite believe it. He seemed to be waiting for an answer, however, and so, Judy forced herself to make one.

"Okay..." she relented, then continued, shifting from foot to foot in anticipation with her voice starting to rise in pitch slightly, "yeah, o-okay! B-bathe with the Captain, sure!" The fox stood then — and Judy started back suddenly — because the lose-fitting nightshirt was the only thing he was wearing. But, not for much longer it appeared, as he undid the first of only four toggles, which kept the white shirt on his russet body. As the last was undone — as Captain Wilde slipped it off his shoulders, dropping it to the floor, gazing upon her with a more than ample frame, 'ample' in several ways. She felt she should make a start herself, as she didn't want to miss this, after all. So she began undoing the buttons on her own shirt, only to be interrupted.

"No," said Wilde, stopping her instantly. "Let me." Without further comment, he crossed the room and stood, naked, directly before her, reaching out a paw towards her. Judy's eyes — which had been gaping wide for some time now — softly fell closed as one of his large, dark paws reached out and touched her face. She let out a soft sigh as his other paw did the same — caressing the fur on her cheeks, slipping down to her neck, rubbing across her shoulders, clutching the material of her cloth by the collar… and then...

Judy's eyes shot open again as the fox tore the shirt off her. The rabbit gasped at the exposure to the air — and to Wilde — her mind suddenly racing to the profound and incredible realization... this really was happening. Unabashed as he moved closer towards her, his strong, red paws ran down the sides of her body which tremulated in pleasure at his touch. Reaching down yet further so both his paws came level with the ends of her trousers’ legs. His black claws extended and dug into the material. Expecting pain, Judy flinched — yet no pain came. She looked back again as his claws came ripping up the full length of her trousers, ripping them in twine, making them fall to the floor in a pile of rags seconds later.

Leaving nothing, nothing, standing in the way of Wilde’s body... and hers.

"Get in the bath," he ordered; Judy obeyed instantly. And she didn't just obey because it was an order, and she didn't obey because the alternative was being thrown in the sea, and she didn't obey because she felt like she had no other options.

She obeyed... because there was nothing on this earth she wanted more than what Nick was currently offering. Without delay, Judy stepped into the steaming and slightly scented water of the bath, and her body was encased in the soft heat. It filled her with such warmth as she had not known since leaving port several weeks past; it felt so wonderful to be in it that she almost forgot where she was — reiterated who was in the room with her, walking towards her, stepping in... Judy could only watch, speechless, as the fox who was her captain joined her in the soft heat, leaning casually back against one end of the brass bathtub.

His elbows propped up on either side of him on the edge of the bath — making no attempt to cover himself as Judy had unconsciously done — he regarded her with a simple, level smirk as he drank in the sight of her.

"So," he said after a long pause... "you got a name?"

"It's Judy. Judy Hopps, Captain."

He waved a paw dismissively towards her. "Nick will do… for now at least."

"Wow," she breathed in disbelief, "you'd really let me call you by your— your first name?"

He replied nonchalantly, examining his claws as he said, "I tend to drop the 'captain' part when I'm naked in the tub with someone. Judy snorted, a grin setting across her mouth at the reiterated fact of their current situation. Not lowering his paw, Nick's head turned sideways with a quizzical smile as he asked, "You've been wanting this for a long time, haven't you?"

She grinned, nervously. "Erm... yeah. Yeah, I have... Nick."

He shifted, sitting up slightly and guesting for her to come closer, his needy eyes aglow as he spoke, "Well then, Miss Hopps, I think you ought to come over here and join me."

"Now-now, Captain," she retorted, playfully, "you didn't say anything about joining you in the punishment."

"No," he replied, vaguely, "but that don't mean you don't want to." Judy's grin slowly fell as she came to realize: He was right. He was absolutely right. She wanted this; she wanted this like nothing she had wanted before. God, she wanted him — needed him — his body — against her — inside—

Unable to control herself a second longer, the rabbit rushed for him. All thoughts of status and rank, left her; the compulsion to restrain herself and her desires, because he was the captain and would never want a lowly crewmammal, fled; the worry and concern that there was no chance of her and him ever doing anything even vaguely intimate together disappeared.

All were banished. Banished by the simple fact: He wanted this too.

Her arms came hungrily around her captain's neck as her lips met his. He returned with full desire, and his strong arms and firm paws came brushing up and down the fur of Judy's sides, making her shiver in excitement and pleasure. Forcing the kiss to turn deeper — not that Judy minded — the fox then shifted beneath her, steadily but surely switching places with Judy, so he was on top and she was beneath, without allowing the passionate kiss to end. He leaned into the affection, his paws starting to touch and fondle her body as she moaned in bliss against him — moans, which were lost to the fox's mouth, as his tongue slipped further within her.

Leaning all of his weight into her — a good weight, which Judy accepted and appreciated as it heightened the intimacy between them — Captain Wilde's paw slipped down low, rubbing against her leg; moving up to press her inner thigh, close — getting closer — to her apex.

Judy's arms came firmer around his chest — wanting, and fully ready for what was to come — but then, suddenly and from nowhere, a great sound like some kind of blaring trombone came ripping through her reality. Captain Wilde didn't appear to notice the sound as his paws just started to touch upon her lower intimate spot of fertility.

Moaning in further pleasure, the rabbit, fearing what the notice might be, tried to ignore it as the bliss at the touch filled her body and soul, but then — with a final ripping blare — the ship collapsed around her, fading and disintegrating into the inner confines of a unfamiliar bedroom.

...

Alone in the early morning light, Judy's eyes opened. Her vision and concentration still fuzzy, she turned her head sharply to look upon the contraption which had done the waking, as the radio continued playing...

"— Non, rien de rien, non, je ne regrette rien—" She slapped her paw down upon the radio-alarm's snooze button. At that moment, she was too close to a sleeping state to wonder why her small, digital clock had decided to play the radio to wake her up, rather then the 'beep beep beep' it usually played for an alarm — or to wonder why her bed was now in a different position and in a room about a dozen times the size it used to be. With a grumble, she huffed her head back down on the pillow, lying close to the edge of the bed and facing the room — failing to notice anything amiss behind her.

Oh great, another amazing dream about Nick I'm gonna have to force myself to forget. Stupid alarm, it was getting so 'interesting' too. Why does stuff like this have to happen? Arrugh... I wish I could just turn over in bed and see... see—

At thinking 'turn over in bed', Judy had actually done so... and was now starring, gobsmacked, into the back of the head, of a blissfully sleeping, red fox.

Captain W— no... Nick?

Her mouth fell open. She blinked a few times. She shut her eyes, opened them again; the fox was still there.

Well when the hell did this happen? Don't tell me that wasn't a dream.

Of course it was a dream— you've never even been on a boat.

But how did Nick get... 'here'?

Still not sure if she was dreaming, she reached out a paw and laid it on Nick's shoulder. It was both warm and soft, an unfortunate combination as it brought Judy's mind right back to the moment Captain Wilde had lain atop her right before the ripples of realities had entered true... and all the emotions which came with it.

Sweet cheese and crackers, Judy, you have to forget that dream. Now!

She clutched his shoulder a little firmer as panic was setting in within her. At this, however, she appeared to stir the fox from his slumber as he groaned. His eyes still shut, Nick turned over in the bed; his nose coming to touch Judy's own. Not 'within inches' but 'touching' her own sensitive nose. His own nose twitched at her scent. His brow furred as his mind returned from wherever it’d go when one slept. Then, his eyes cracked open. And — as Judy's mouth, again, fell open — Nicholas Wilde spread one of the biggest smiles Judy had ever seen.

"Morning, beautiful."

"Oh my god!"

"I love you too."

"Oooh, Nick!" Something went click in Judy's mind... and then her current situation suddenly dawned upon her. "I— I'm n— naked!" Her eyes darted to the fox. "Nick, you're naked!" She bit down on her finger, her voice rising high in pitch in excited confinement. "We're both, naked… and in bed… and— oh!"

Flustered, Judy clutched all the covers she could over her body, her legs kicking involuntarily in the panic, hitting Nick square in the chest three times before slipping off the bed and landing beneath the sheets in a tangled mess on the floor.

Listening with vague and sleepy interest to the muffled cries of his partner, Nick leaned back in bed.

Today, he thought, is going to be a very, long, day...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

  • Radio alarm: 'Non, rien de rien' was influenced by Christopher Nolan's 'Inception'.

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Chapter Text

'In Somnis Veritas' — Latin phrase. Meaning: 'In Dreams there is Truth'.

...

The clouds had all but vanished, leaving only a spotless, azure morning sky, which offered no hindrance to the beams of warm sunlight that shone down upon the earth, drying what little evidence of last night’s storm had remained, just as the clouds themselves had done overnight. A warm wind blew its way softly through Zootopia's streets — the concrete pavements, which gleamed gold in the early sun — as the first of the early-morning risers set about their daily duties.

The duties of these early risers went from great to small, from high to low, from noble... to nefarious. Dealers and salesmemmle sparsely polluted the streets, many workers for pet insurance companies or partners in the rawhide industry. But one of them — a mammle armadillo — had a job that was far less than noble.

The mammle armadillo, who stepped out from the darkness of a block of flats, looked both ways before shutting the door, locking it and slipping the key into his pocket. He adjusted his other paw into his pocket as he walked, checking to be sure the packet of white powder was as it should be — it was — thus he made his way down the street.

Leaving the warm wind and golden glow of the main streets, he sneaked into the back alley closest to the multistory apartment block he had departed from. Here, in the darkness, the air was chill and damp. Droplets of moistness dripped wetly down from overhanging roof tiles and — among the shadows — a stranger loomed.

He stepped into the alleyway, passed the figure hidden in the shadows, turned a corner with the shape brewing up behind him. Sensing a presence, he started to turn, but all of a sudden, two paws were upon him — two large and feverishly-relentless paws. One was holding his arm in a lock behind him, the other, holding the back of his neck tight, searing him effortlessly at a rush as he was forced back up the empty street.

He started to call out — shout for help — but just as he did so, the weight on his neck increased and he was pulled up a small staircase to a door. Stumbling up the steps in a panic, his head forced level with the lock on the door he had come out of but seconds earlier. He struggled for a moment, then whimpered, "Wha'— what do you want form me?" There was a growl from behind him — the kind of growl over which one didn't further ask questions — and his head was thrust a second time against the wooden door.

"O-okay, o-okay! I'll open it." Taking his key out, he fumbled with the lock before it clicked open and the force behind him was there again — relentless. It pushed without him ever having the chance to stop moving, get away or glance behind him. It pushed him on and up to a door on the second floor. In no more than thirty seconds, he had been captured, abducted, dragged up two staircases and to a door. He never had the chance to call out for help, the kidnapping was so quick — not to mention actually getting away — and, when they arrived at the door, his head was, again, forced level with the lock.

"I, I don't have the key!" There was that growl again, but it seemed to believe him this time as the strong paws, holding him, simply retracted, pulled the armadillo up, then smashed him with full-force into the door — the weak locks of which gave away instantly — and the armadillo was sent, rolling to the floor, while an albino white wolf dove into the room behind him, his razor-black claws extended and ready, his pale, slit eyes sweeping the room for his prey.

The wolf's eyebrows slowly lowered in thought. His paws dropped to his side, and he returned to a natural stance. The room — apart from the armadillo who was cowering on the floor — was empty.

The wolf looked about at the room. He stepped out and re-read the number on the door. This was definitely the right place, so, where was the rabbit? Where was she? Where... was—

...

Judy Hopps giggled as she called out to Nick, still struggling beneath the sheets of the bed which she had become tangled in after slipping out and onto the floor. "Niiick," she called, "I'm stuck!"

The fox chuckled, leaning forwards with a paw outstretched towards Judy's — which was all of what of the rabbit he could see — as he teased, "Need my help again, Hopps? Wherever would you be without— meee!" his last word was a cry of surprise as Judy's paw — rather than hold onto Nick while she stood herself up — tugged upon him with such sudden force that he was toppled off the bed likewise. Dazed as he tried to figure out what had just happened, Nick sat up to stand. Behind him, a pile of duvet rose, and threw its small but strong arms around his neck and pulled him back, flat upon the ground.

"Hey, let me up," he chuckled as he tried to pull himself away. Judy re-doubled her grip on his body. Nick reached quickly around her, traced up her arm and pinched the nerve in her elbow. The rabbit giggled as her hold on his was broken by reflex, and the fox took this opportunity and made to rise quickly. Quicker, the shape of Judy's legs came up from the sheets and hooked around Nick's waist. She twisted her body around, flipped Nick onto his side and threw the sheets up over both of them, as he fell on the floor.

Both laughing, giggling and growling playfully, each tussled with the other in the soft heat beneath the sheets, playing a game of who could stand up first. Judy would stand, only to be thrown back down by the weight of Nick upon her. Nick would stand, only to have his knees kicked form beneath him before falling back to the floor.

Judy leaped onto Nick again, they rolled. They rolled fast across the floor. They covered the entire floor space of Nick's carpeted bedroom and crashed against the sideboard, knocking over a lamp by the sound of it, but both failing to care. Both grinning, Judy pushed her paw against Nick's face to hold him down, and Nick's paw pressed up against Judy's to force her off. They focused entirely on their game as they each tried and failed their own and their partner’s attempts to stand. When all of a sudden, they stopped. One second they were both playing an innocent, childish game... the next—

Both naked — but for Nick's boxers — the rabbit's and the fox's eyes met. With Nick lying on his back on the floor, Judy directly above him looking down, their heads level, their gazes upon one another deep — Nick's paws slowly wrapped around Judy's body, feeling her warmth and her smoothness both under his paws and against his bare chest.

Judy shivered, just a little, as his scent and his warmth filled her, and as the rough pads of his tender paws slowly ran up and down her back. She closed her eyes. Their lips met. The kiss was slow and gentle, sweet and tender... to start with. But then Nick shifted beneath her, flipped the rabbit onto her back, pinned her paws above her head with one arm, and held her face — her mouth — facing his with the other.

"Nick," murmured Judy as she grinned widely. His only reply was to make deep growl from the back of his throat — a wonderfully animalistic sound that sent a shiver of something, which really wasn't fear, down Judy's body — as he leaned further forwards into her, pinning Judy beneath his arm, grinning down while she grinned up, before their lips came crashing together again.

The kiss was deep from the offset, but it was made yet more so by the rabbit, as she put her arms about Nick's neck. Their tongues came into the mix, pushing with equal intensity into Judy's mouth as it did into Nick's. But then the five minute snooze-time on Nick's radio-alarm ended, and it kicked back into life with:

"Because she had kisses sweeter than wine. She had— mm, mmmm— kisses sweeter than wine."

Nick reached back over and silenced the device, but the damage was done and, when he returned, he could already see Judy's mind frame shifting back into getting ready for work. Neither could blame the other for this, and so, Nick reached out a paw to Judy as she lied upon the floor. This time, Judy took it and allowed Nick to lead her back to the bed, holding the sheet against her chest as she walked.

"You get a couple more minutes in bed, Hopps," he voiced, as he straightened the sheets over her, "I'll get dressed, make you some breakfast, and you can change in privacy while I'm out of the room."

"Thanks, Nick," she returned, beaming up at fox she once thought she could only dream of having for herself. "Did you sleep well?"

"Fine. Just fine, thank you, Hopps," he said, reaching out a paw, stroking it against Judy's shoulder, remembering the incredible pleasure caused to him by her presence beside him that night — the warmth, the softness, the affection, the trust he felt from her. "Still, I don't have to ask you that. By the way your legs were twitching, I'd say you must've been having some pretty Wilde dreams."

"Errh—!?"

Nick had made the comment in jest, but reacted to just how panicked Judy looked at the implication and decided, maybe, there was more truth in it than he first had realized... "Boy, what were you dreaming about?"

"Nothing!" she exclaimed as if electrified, to which the fox grinned, working it out for himself as easily as if she had just told him, thus he smiled, turned and slipped out of bed.

Judy watched — a little disjointedness; a little revealed that he was still wearing his boxers from the night before. He opened up his wardrobe and took out his ZPD uniform, a blue shirt, trousers, tie, et cetera, while glancing to Judy often with a fond smile as she watched. Judy peeped with fascination as he dressed — glancing away only when he changed out his boxers, not because she was uncomfortable with the sight, as such, but because she feared just glimpsing it would be enough for her to lose control of herself entirely — as it appeared, she was barely holding on by a thread.

But, as the fox dressed, it slowly became easier and easier, until every inch — every millimeter — of his body was the epitome of perfection. The knot of his tie was expertly tied, faultless; his shirt’s hem tucked perfectly, straight and creaseless; his collar was exact, symmetrical and neat. He looked amazing, the rabbit thought, but... he didn't quite look like, 'Nick'. She assumed this sudden change of dress-code was on her account — trying to make a good impression or something — but just as she opened her mouth to tell him that he didn't have to worry and that she preferred: slash, was sexually attracted to his lop-sided, casual charm. He half turned to her, smirking, as his paws returned to his collar and flicked one corner up, untucked his shirt half an inch and twisted it slightly off-center, and by tugging at it and turning it askew, he loosened his tie so it was 'just' below regulation standard.

Shaking her head fondly, the rabbit giggled, "Dumb fox. Are you seriously telling me you spend more time on making yourself look scruffy than you would if you wanted to look neat?"

"Scruffy, me?" he gasped, jokingly laying on a paw across his heart with a look of pain on his face, "I never look scruffy, Hopps. Just... lived in."

"So, you're telling me," Judy chuckled in disbelief, "that 'You', Nicholas Wilde, the fox who is renowned through the ZPD as the casual, easy-going cop who shirks off paper work. Who gets through the day on nothing but good luck and witty quips alone. Who slacks off as many duties as he can get away with, and who invariably takes naps in the storage room just about every Monday afternoon. Only to show me that he gets up earlier in the morning and puts more care and attention into his appearance than 'Me', Judy Hopps, the famed 'stickler' of the ZPD."

"Oh, I wouldn't call you a stickler," Nick said honestly, leaning back close to Judy and putting a kiss on her forehead. "You just set a good example for everyone — just like you set an example of a good life to me. I can more than understand why the Mayor and Bogo would want to advertise you as the model — perfect — officer."

"But still," she said quietly, blushing at his charm, "you can reach perfection with less effort!"

"I do look perfect," he said in wry reply, "just my own special brand of perfect."

Slowly, her eyes started tracing deliriously down his lean, fox-body. "You’re right," she cooed, her voice thick with devious hunger, "you do look perfect." She bit down on her lower lip; and odd little groan escaped her from the back of her throat. "Absolutely perfect, and quite," she finished heavily, "irresistible."

"Judy?" Nick said, a tone of concern in his voice. "Judy, you're making me feel like a piece of meat."

"And what a piece of meat you are," Judy said, one paw slipping unconsciously beneath the sheets to do what Nick could only dream of, her eyes still drinking in the sight of him.

"Wow," Nick hummed, vaguely, "if I walked over there right now, you'd have me in a second, wouldn't you?"

"U-huh," she flirted, "as though we were jackrabbits at high noon: I'd have you." Heat building quickly around his collar, Nick took an unsteady step towards the rabbit. He knew he should be walking away, but his body just wasn't listening to him anymore. He had torn himself away from Judy's — by all accounts — irresistible body several times, since they had first embraced outside on the roof — and every one of them took more self-control than Nick ever thought he had.

This — however — this was too much. Far too much, and it drove Nick's desire, insane.

It was carnal — yes — it was animalistic and uncivilized — yes — it was disrespectful to the wishes of Judy's parents, and may, someday, make relations with them difficult — yes... But that didn't make it any easier for him to fight the incredible, maddening desire to take Judy's body, to feel her pressing up against him, to know — at long last — to know Judy and Judy's body in that special, sensual way.

"Ooh yeah, Nick," she breathed as he came ever closer, "I may not have seen all that much of you yesterday, but I remember exactly what I saw when the bed-sheets slipped round my place, and 'boy' was it good." Nick came and stood right up beside the bed, next to Judy, her... 'free' paw reaching up and slowly edging the sheets down off her body.

The fox would hate himself for what he did next for the rest of his life. But he did it all the same as, quite simply, it had to be done... Lurching forwards, he gave Judy a light kiss on the forehead, then practically ran from the room, shouting over his shoulder, "Okay-Judy-I'm-gonna-get-some-food-on-so-you-get-yourself-dressed-and-we'll-leave-right-after-we've-eaten!"

The door banged behind him. Judy blinked.

"...Nick?"

The door opened, cautiously. "Yes, Judy?"

"Is my carrot pen in there?"

"Yes...?"

"Could you throw it in here?" Nick opened his mouth as though to ask why, but then quickly through better of it and chucked it inside with the same feeling of self-preservation as a zoo-keeper had when throwing raw meet to the crocs, before shutting the door briskly behind him a second time.

Judy sat back in the bed as the door closed. She looked down at herself. She looked at her pen. It was for sure a nice, practical pen.

...

"We're in, okay?" the dealer blurted, carefully, "so, I guess I'll just be..." He stood, and the wolf shot him a very harsh look. "...Staying, here, a little longer," the dealer finished pathetically, sitting down upon the bed. The albino creature stood stock still for a moment longer, he did what he had been told, what they had made damn sure he wouldn't forget to do if ever something would be amiss. Pulling out his phone, he tapped in the code which would make the moving image of 'Him' appear. It rang once and then was answered, His face appearing on the screen with a smile.

"Wulf, is it done?" The wolf shook his head, to which 'He' frowned. "What? What do you mean? You haven't been jeopardized, have you?" The wolf started to shake his head, but then — struck with a thought — he stopped himself and turned the phone so that the armadillo drug dealer came into view.

"I see," was all the face on the screen noted for a long while, and then, "this is how you gained access to the building, yes?" The wolf grunted in affirmation… "He is expendable," the face said, quite calmly, "this will not impede us further. I will arrange another meeting between you and this rabbit, and call you when I know where you can find her. This time — Wulf — you will not fail me." The wolf listened to the face on the screen — focusing hard on processing the words, which would usually become but-a-garbled jumble of sound if he didn't pay full attention — and then turned the phone so he and the dealer were in shot. Wulf jerked his head towards Him with an eyebrow raised in a question.

'His' head moved as He rearguard the dealer for a moment, then the face looked back to the wolf, His voice completely impassive with the words of impassive detachment, "He can't know of you… or me. Kill him."

"— Hey, wait—"

"And, Wulf," He added, regardless of the dealer’s words, "it cannot look like murder, not at this pinnacle stage. If you get found out, I'm cutting all ties from you. We are too close to achieving our goal for you to destroy everything now. No screw-ups, understand?" The wolf nodded without expression. The face on the screen grimacing, He reached out and His face froze, as He pressed the 'end call' button. Slowly, the wolf turned his head; his pale eyes focusing on the frightened pupils of the armadillo drug-dealer.

"Hey... hey, p-pall," he started, nervously, backing away, "you— you want cash? I got lots of cash." The wolf seemed unfazed. He tried again, "I— err— I got drugs too! You want some drugs?" He reached into a pocket, pulled a large packet of white powder out and held it to the wolf. The wolf's pale eyes shifted down to look upon the packet. Slowly, his razor-clawed paw reached out.

"Yeah... yeah you take it. You take all of it." Clutching his paw around the packet, the wolf pulled his paw back. "Your boss… whoever he i— he doesn't have to know a thing!" Briskly, the dealer made for the exit, stepped into the doorway and passed the wolf. Without looking up from the packet, a single, white arm shot out and clutched onto the armadillo’s shoulder with an iron grip.

Despite the defensive perks of nature of the armadillo species, the wolf effortlessly threw him back into the room, swinging the door shut with his foot, while his focus rose from the packet of white powder to the dealer. The armadillo raised his fists — he was a crook after all, and knew when the fist was the only way out — and delivered a powerful right-hook to Wulf’s chest. The wolf flinched, but a flinch was all it was. The dealer tried three more times and then, the wolf simply became irritated.

He drew his arm back across his shoulder, and then swept the back of his fist across the armadillo's face. His paw was a blur and moved with the same forwards momentum of a truck, and the armadillo was knocked back in a daze, falling back on the bed, hitting his head on the sideboard, stunned now from the impact.

The white wolf advanced. Holding the packet in one paw, he raised the other and slit the clear plastic with a single, black claw as he came skulking over the stunned body of the dealer. Coming round — shaking himself into awareness. The armadillo started to mutter, while the wolf's strong arm reached out to his mouth. The dealer tried to pull back, but the impossibly-strong fingers forced his jaw open. He tried to scream out, kick, or punch at the wolf, but the other paw thrust the packet into his mouth.

He tried to spit, but both the wolf’s paw came clamping down on the armadillo's mouth, holding it shut, his pale eyes void of emotion as the dealer was forced to swallow, sealing his own fate. The moment he heard the gulp — the pathetic, whimpering cough — the white wolf pulled back from the dealer’s mouth. The wolf stared at the retching body as it convulsed on the bed — his interest captivated utterly by death like it always was — watching, stimulated, and more than a little aroused, as he marveled at the last breaths of the mammal chocking before him.

Blood started seeping out from the dealer’s nose and mouth. The blood entered into his eyes as his vision blurred. His heart was beating hopelessly-fast in his chest, and his breaths were coming and going like a steam train at full speed. Yet — for all his efforts — it was as though he was suffocating. Trying to clear his lungs from the thick coat of hallucinogenic, which now covered them, the drug dealer coughed once more in a vain effort to free his airway — rewarded, only, with spewing forth a mouthful of blood which felt as though it was ripped out from his body, torn out of him, just as his lungs felt as though they were being shredded by glass within.

The white wolf goggled on, while the convulsions of the armadillo's body started to decrease. With one last shudder, one last gasp of wretched breath, one last sickening moan, which made the wolf glad to be alive — the armadillo's bloodied and broken body slipped off the bed and landed with a lifeless thump on the floor.

He savored the sight a moment longer, then turned, shutting the door behind him, which was sealed with a click, as the rattled tongue automatically slid into place, despite the broken locking mechanism.

He paced away down the corridor — unobserved, unheard by any — as he made his way to the exit of the building. This armadillo wasn't the target he had been set upon — and he wasn't nearly as much fun as a rabbit — but the wolf was pleased with the day as it had gone so far, and smiled pleasantly as he made his way out...

Out into the spotless, blue morning sky; into the warm wind which blew softly through the gold-like pavements that gleamed in the sun, slipping effortlessly back into the dark crowns of the untraveled places of the city… Utterly free from pain, disgust or guilt.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Nick Wilde, breakfast in paw, pressed a large red ear apprehensively to his bedroom door. He heard nothing for a few moments, then a soft, stifled moan, or possibly a groan. Either way, it was definitely Judy. Lifting his head from the door and gazing at it steady, Nick took in a long breath before letting it out slowly, as Judy moans came again from behind the door.

As he stood there, the red fox knew, Judy could be doing any number of things, and he knew he was probably overthinking what he was hearing and that there could be any number of reasons for the sounds she was making... But, one in particular, was stuck firmly onto the forefront of Nick's mind. And it wasn't as though it was unjustified after all. There were only so many uses the fox could think up for a carrot-shaped device. Damn thing seemed to have no end of uses. Oh boy… He’d never be able to look at that thing the same way again.

Nick glanced down into his left paw which held a tray of steaming, but rapidly cooling, food; gazed across to his old, age-yellowed tumble dryer, as the washing sequence ended, and he observed the door again with a fate unknown within. He steeled himself and then, raising a paw, Nick tapped softly upon the firm, wooden door with a claw.

"Yes?" came Judy's voice in reply, instantly, not strained, not panicked. Just her normal, everyday voice.

"Erm... Carrots?" he started nervously, "I— I have your breakfast."

"Oh, thanks, Nick!" she called back. "Could you bring it in for me, or would you rather I ate at the table?"

"No... no, eat in bed if you want, I'm fine with that. I just wanted to check if I could come in."

"Of course you can come in, Nick," she called back, "you don't have to ask. But, thanks for the warning all the same."

"...All— alright then." Nick winced as he turned the metal, 'L-shape' door handle, closing his eyes in trepidation as he slid it soundlessly open across the carpeted floor. He stepped in, felt the softness of the ground beneath his padded feet, and opened one eye ever so slightly. Then, he gawped in shock at what he saw.

"Hey Nick." Judy greeted, glancing up to Nick with her beaming, beautiful smile, before looking back to the notepad she was holding and writing something else down with her carrot pen.

"Urrgh, Judy," Nick asked, frozen, "wha— what are you doing?"

"Oh," she replied vaguely, adding a full-stop to the end of the page with a flourish, and flipping the notepad shut. "Just making some quick notes to the report for Bogo. I only managed to make half a report yesterday before I— well, erm... never mind. Fact is, he'll probably want this soon, and we need to let him know what's been going on anyway.

"But I heard... grunting!"

"I was thinking Nick, trying to remember as much details as I could about our investigation." Nick nodded understandingly, deciding it was best if he just let the conversation end there. Sadly... it didn't.

"Erm," Judy drew cautiously, "what... what did you think I was doing?" Nick looked carefully at nothing as he wordlessly crossed the room, and put down the tray of breakfast on the bedside table. Judy's cheeks lit up bright red as she put two and two together. She blinked, and blinked again, then her gaze rose to look at the fox. Nick hardened in the process of putting down her food as he felt that steely, cold glare penetrating him. He turned slowly, with a sheepish smile twitching on the corner of his mouth. A grin, which dropped entirely as Judy spoke.

"Wait!... Did you think I was—?" Judy stared at him, her eyes wide with shock and her mouth gaping. Nick was dumbstruck, his silver tongue turned to lead in his mouth as he struggled to think, no less act. He thought hard for a believable alternative to what he truly thought she was doing, and came up blank, his heart thumping loud in his chest, panic rising fast within him. But then, a tiny crack appeared in the veil of Judy's shock. The smallest of twitches in the corner of her mouth. Then, the crack of another smile appeared, a larger one, and this time the crack split right through her body.

Her shoulders started shaking as the silent chuckles built in strength and intensity within her. Soon after, it was impossible for Judy's body, which was small after all, to contain the swell of laughter building within her, and her mouth split into a wide smile as her fit of laughter filled the room, her head rocking back automatically to allow the vast quantities of joy to escape her more easily.

Nick joined in too, if a little nervously... and if only out of relief.

"Ooh, Nick, if..." She reached out smoothly and took his paw. She drew it close to her body and pulled Nick onto the bed beside her. Once settled, lying on his back close to her, Judy possessively held Nick's paw and rubbed his fingers, his palm and his claws across her cheeks and her sensitive lips, all the while, touching and fondling it in her own soft paws. Nick watched silently from beside her, more than content just to feel Judy's face and Judy's paws pressing into, and massaging his own. But his eyes moved from watching their paws, to looking into Judy's lilacs as she took a breath to speak.

"...If I was really that desperate, Nicky, I'd come straight to you." She kissed his paw, pressed his palm flat against her cheek, then spoke again, her eyes practically sparkling with affection, "I know you couldn't resist a direct plea, could you?"

"Hopps, my darlin'," he replied warmly, feeling Judy's face with his palm, making her eyes drift shut and her cheeks tinge pink, "I can hardly resist an indirect one." Judy's lavenders, which had fallen shut, opened again as Nick's lips embraced against hers, her lips melting into the warm kiss merely another second after.

...

"God dammit," Jack Savage mumbled to himself from the floor above, flipping to the back of his notepad and marking down yet another line on the tally of kisses they had shared, "damn procrastinating lovers. Get a move on, would you? We don't have all day."

...

The affection ended, finished by Nick after a final little push of energy. He leaned back in the bed, a very satisfied expression on his face, as Judy looked on, more than a little disappointed. "Why'd you stop?" she asked, pouting playfully.

"Do you want your soup to get cold?" he smirked in return, then reached around behind him, picked up the tray of breakfast and held it beneath Judy's nose, which twitched expectantly at the appealing scent.

"Soup?" she asked, taking the tray, "What kind?"

Nick answered too quickly and nearly gave the whole game away, "It's chic— carrot! It's carrot soup."

"Carrot soup?" she repeated, picking up a spoonful of the solution and letting it drip out again. "This doesn't look, or smell, much like carrot, Nick."

"You know, that spiced kind."

She took a sip. Her eyes turned wide and her ears shot up at the pleasure of the taste, but she continued her line of suspicious questioning, regardless, "Then, shouldn't it be spicy?"

"I guess it's more of an herb really."

"Ooh, what kind?"

"Gee, I don't know!"

"But you made some yesterday!"

"Yeah I... did."

"Only, you've forgotten—?"

"No! No, of course not, that would be silly."

"Then what is it?"

"Well..." If foxes hadn’t had limited sweat glands, a single drop would have been dripping down his forehead at this point. That slight slip-up of almost calling it chicken had made her suspicious. He had better watch himself, especially the need to pant that was trying to overwhelm his senses.

"Well," Nick tried again, "it was actually just a packet that came ready-made. Only I wanted to impress you by making it look like I made it myself." His eyes flicked up to Judy as he waited for the 'ahh, that was sweet of you'... but that never came. Instead, the fox was faced with another relentless question.

"Then wouldn't the packet say?"

"Yeah... packet. Only, I already threw it away."

"Well, you could fish it out of the bin."

"Can't, I just took the trash out." Judy gave Nick a weathering look, to which Nick realized he had won and a sly grin broke across his face. Judy grunted, picked out a small cube of something, which Nick knew for a fact to be chicken, with her tablespoon, or 'teaspoon' as it was used for by the larger Nick.

She sniffed it, cautiously. "Are you seriously telling me this is carrot?"

"Yep."

"But it's creamy-white and soft!"

"It's been specially-prepared."

"Nick," she shot, dropping the spoon with a clang, "you cannot... make carrot... look, like, this."

"Maybe not the kinds you’re used to," he retorted, adjusting his tie, auspiciously, "but I know a few types you've probably never heard of." To be honest, Nick regretted his choice of words the moment they left his mouth, and his smile fell into a look of worry, as a smug grin came onto the face of the rabbit, whose entire lineage were carrot farmers.

"Oh yeah?" she mocked, balancing the tray on her knees and folding her arms, "name 'em."

"Urgh... long carrots, short carrots, bent carrots, straight carrots, stale carrots, broken carrots, moldy carrots, cute carrots, bunny carrots, hairy carrots, mutant carrots, chocolate carrots, baby carrots, teenage carrots, grandpa carrots, party carrots, green carrots, mossy carrots, red carrots, ruby carrots, blue carrots, navy carrots, chopped carrots, sliced carrots, carrots that are vaguely reminiscent of phallic objects, carrot bear, carrot-bars, carrot buns, carrot cake, carrot eggs, carr—"

"What?" Nick looked to Judy's face. She was squinting at him with the same expression she had had when he had asked her how long would she have to keep apples buried in the ground before they were ripe enough to hang down from the sprouted.

"Carrot eggs," he repeated, "you know, the stuff you plant."

Judy shook her head slightly, squinting even more in one part confusion, and other part of disbelief. "Nick... those are called seeds."

"Not the ones I've heard of."

"Well... I don't know where you've heard them being called eggs, but they’re seeds."

"Sometimes, maybe, but—"

"No, not sometimes. They’re seeds, Nick, seeds!"

Nick raised his paws innocently. "I'm not saying you’re wrong, Carrots. After all, who am I to argue with a member of the same family who grow such wonderful blueberries? All I'm saying, is perhaps, we're both right…" And it was then she started going into hysterics.

"But they’re not eggs, Nick! Never in a million years are they eggs! They’re seeds, nothing more, nothing less, seeds. They don't come from mammals, they don't hold embryos and they are not fluffing eggs! An egg is the oviform, organic vessel designed to hold the fertilized zygote until it forms into a sufficiently developed animal embryo, which grows within the protective calcium carbonate shell created during the ovulation process of all species of birds and fish and some species of mammal, whereas seeds—"

Silently, and while Judy was still talking, Nick slowly and expressionlessly rose from the bed. Judy was focused entirely on her explanation of basic biology, and kept on watching Nick as he paced out of the room, only vaguely aware he was walking away amidst her ignorance.

"— Seeds, on the other paw, are the matured ovule of a gymnosperms or angiosperms form of plant, containing an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective shell for the duration and maturation period of —"

The door shut. Judy stopped talking. "Oh…" That made her to stare down at her breakfast. She thought it was a little ill-mannered of Nick to walk off like that, but she also knew her lectures of plant husbandry could last for hours. So, she inserted her spoon, raised it to her mouth, tipped it down and swallowed... and it was then when realization hit her.

"Oh, sweet cheese and crackers." She threw down her spoon, growling, grinding her teeth and bitterly-angry at herself for falling for it. "Nick, you fluffer!" she shouted at him, "you did that on purpose, didn't you? You know they’re called seeds, don't you!? And only called them eggs to throw me off subject..."

She had been shouting anyways, but then it became a scream, "And I fell for it!"

...

Nick continued pretending he couldn't hear the rabbit’s shouts of reprimands that echoed repeatedly behind the door. Instead, he opened up the door to his dryer and took out Judy's clothes: a light blue shirt, darker blue trousers, under vest... carrot-print underwear. For some reason, Nick was unable to progress further. He merely sat there on the floor, a pile of Judy's folded cloths to his left, an empty tumble dryer to his right, and a small pair of underwear in his paws. He sat there, staring at the floor quite some time. He couldn't understand why, but he had the overwhelming compulsion to make up a story to Judy, hide the panties and keep them for himself. Eventually however, he was able to drag himself away from the unbridled temptation.

He folded them, though he wasn't quite sure how to fold femammle’s underwear, so it required a few attempts, before picking up the pile of freshly washed clothes and making his way back to the bedroom. He tapped on the door a second time, but otherwise went straight in.

"Your uniform, Carrots?"

"Thanks, Nick. Cleaned?"

"Yep. Washed and dried."

"Thank you, sweetheart," she smiled, still a little annoyed at him for the way he dodged telling her what the soup was, but quite unable to stay cross at him for all the kindness he consistently showed her. Judy took another spoonful of the half-consumed carrot soup, which turned out to taste as nice as it had smelt, while the fox lied down beside her as he had done earlier.

"Aren't you eating anything?" she asked.

"I'm good thanks." Nick watched with a smile at how much the rabbit was enjoying her meal. He knew this was a less than an honest way of getting her to realize she liked it, but it was for her own good really. He knew it was probably a typical predator attitude, but the idea that anyone could not like chicken, poultry of all foods, was preposterous. All Judy needed, like the build-up from the two of them having sleepovers, to living together, was to be acclimatized at a rate that suited her, and which Nick could judge with every meal she ate. Nick drew himself back from his thoughts with a smile, crossing his legs at the ankle, and bringing his paws up behind his head.

"So," he broke the silence, "what's with your parents and this whole sex after marriage thing? Seems kinda outdated to me. I'd have thought being rabbits—"

"— Being rabbits," she interrupted, "we'd all be pregnant by the end of our first heat. I mean," she continued, more patiently as she looked up to Nick, "you do know about our heat, right?"

"Ermm, yeah," he whispered... and he couldn't help the grin that split right across his muzzle as he said that, no matter how hard he tried.

"Good," Judy replied — a blush starting to form on her cheeks at that oh-so-sexy grin and the implication it was connected to — so she hastily looked back down to her food. "G-Good. Then you'll understand how important it is for my parents to employ strict rules to prevent it. It's a lot easier to have sex than to have a successful long-term relationship, after all. Just think of all the single mothers there'd be if they tried to pair off with the first buck they took a liking to. Just think how many of them would leave the mothers after the heat's worn off."

Softly, Nick's warm, red arm came slipping around Judy's body. He wrapped it around her, held her against him, leaned forwards and kissed her forehead as he spoke, "I wouldn't ever leave you, you know that."

"I know," she said, turning her head up to gaze at the wonderfully handsome fox she could now call lover. "That's why I was, and still am, in two minds about sleeping with you. You're so important to me, Nick, and I want to get this right."

"Me too, Jules." Reaching out, Nick soothed Judy's cheek delicately with his free paw as he leaned in, ministering her lips with his that was both long and tender, before he pulled back and spoke again, "Me too."

"Nick?"

"Yes, my dearest little bunbun?" he asked, his voice oozing with syrup.

"You've put paw marks all over my underwear."

"What? Where!?" he spluttered, panicked, turning sharply to see.

Judy just grinned, "Gotcha."

Nick's worried expression fell to a glum frown. "Yeah... right. And your Zoogle history is full of fox—porn."

Not missing a beat, Judy clicked her tongue and winked at the fox. "You won't catch me out that easily, Nicky ol' boy."

"Well then," he chortled, producing Judy's phone from nowhere and entering the password without complaint, "let’s have a look then, shall we?"

"NO!" Judy leaped. The soup bowl flew into the air. The naked rabbit tussled the startled Nick for the phone with nothing covering her soft, gray-white body. Nick could do nothing but tense his grip on the phone — not entirely intentionally but due to the sight. The soup bowl came down. It landed on Nick's head with a wet squelch that made both of them freeze like water to ice. Both taken aback, Judy slowly reached forwards and raised the rim of the soup bowl that now covered Nick's head. She lifted it, and gazed upon the irritated, wrathful and very... soupy expression of Nick.

"Ooh," mumbled Judy.

"Hmm..." grumbled Nick. Biting her lower lip, Judy softly, gently, lowered the rim of the soup bowl back over Nick's head, chicken soup still running down his face and over his uniform. The fox was still motionless but for his tail that thumped down on the bed at short intervals.

"Sorry," she squeaked.

"You will be," he muttered. With those dangerous words of mischief, there was a click that was followed quickly by a blinding flash that made the doe to blink in reflex. She looked down at her naked body, across at the phone Nick lowered, then up into Nick's face as he held the rim of the bowl up with his free paw, revealing an almost savagely, devilish grin beneath.

"Nick," Judy started... "Nick, did you just—?"

"Arrh, not bad," he tittered, inspecting the photograph he had just taken on Judy's phone. "Not bad at all. I might even send it into PlayMammle!"

"Nick, did you just—?"

"Now lets see, contacts... contacts."

"Did you seriously just—?

"Ah, here we go! Now, who to send it to."

"Nick, you give me that phone."

"Well, there's me, obliviously, and there's Bogo, Clawhauser, Finnick... Mom and Dad—"

"If you want to live ‘till tomorrow, Fox, you'll give me that phone."

"Of course, after what we did by saving the city, I'm sure Mayor Lionheart would be happy to have it printed in every newspaper, report and article in the city!

"Nick, you give me that phone right now or you're dead!"

"It's sure to raise his voting rates after all."

"Gurrghhha!"

...

Twelve minutes later, Nick and Judy stepped out from Nick's apartment. Judy stepped out first, holding the door open penitently for the poor fox as he shuffled out from several feet behind, her gaze dropping apologetically to the floor as he passed. The moment he had paced slowly past her, Judy ran to get ahead of Nick, unlocked the car, and opened the passenger-side door for him, humbly, speaking as he came nearer, "I'll-I'll driv—"

"Yes." She bit her lip and obeyed without question, opening the door and slipping in without comment. Nick joined her, slowly, a few seconds later. Judy remained motionless in the driver’s seat. She stared blankly ahead of her without moving or saying a word. After some time, she risked a glance at Nick, who hadn't looked or properly spoken to her since then… while he held a large, white bag filled with ice against one half of his face. She looked back, her ears low with shame.

Eventually... Judy broke the silence, "Nick—" The fox just grunted in reply. "Nick, look, I'm sorry."

"Forgetaboutit," he mumbled in dejection.

"Look," she tried, honestly, "please... I didn't mean to hit you quite so hard." Nick lowered the ice pack he was holding to his head, turning to glower at the remorseful rabbit through his good eye... and tried to do the same with his blackened one.

"Judy... just drive the fluffing car!"

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Languid stillness hung in the main reception hall of Zootopia’s Police Department Headquarters. The reception of the ZPD HQ was empty — its lowered shutters blocking the light of the freshly-risen sun and the still air of its empty halls and corridors, fresh and chill after the cold night. All of it was such; clean, like the confines of an operating room, empty, waiting, ready for use, prepared absolutely for what troubles the day may bring — the dawn of crisp torment from the ebb of night.

Movement. Sound stirred in the silence. A fresh breath of warmer air following behind, drawn in by the airflow caused from the large figure’s entrance to the room — a rather flabby figure. The creature hummed — the tune muffled by the pastry his mouth was stuffed with — as he entered the main reception hall through a side-passage. Accustomed to the museum-like silence, which hung in the air every morning — before the ZPD would be busy with the industrial rush it faced throughout the day — the cheetah broke the silence without care or comment; ceasing the stillness underfoot as he strode to the front desk.

He opened the half-door to enter the receptionist’s compartment, closed it behind him, put his boxes of doughnuts and cereal upon the counter and slid into his large chair with all the grace and dignity of a poleaxed pig. He settled himself down, made himself comfortable in the wide chair, which was once less breadthy, but had since been bent out of shape just like the chubby mammal himself, who then proceeded to prepare his first bowl of cereal — since coming into work, that is.

From where he had entered the building, Bogo’s presence soon became known. "Clawhauser," Bogo greeted as he neared, not looking up from the report he was engrossed in.

"Hiya, Bogo," the cheetah called back. Yes, standing with a salute to his chief was customary, but Clawhauser was one of the Chief's oldest friends... besides which, if he stood now, he might not have had the breath to stand up again later without calling upon the assistance of a dozen other officers. The buffalo sighed airily, setting his report down upon Clawhauser's desk, and taking a long swig from the strong coffee, which he took every morning in substitute for breakfast.

"Benjamin," the Chief began, "you getting those front gates unlocked yet?"

"Oh! Err, yes, Chief!" With that he pulled a key quickly from his pocket and inserted it into a lock concealed beneath the desk. He turned it, and the electrical signal it triggered shot down the desk, beneath the floor, across the room and into the iron shutters. With the device triggered by the key, the motors above the glass doors of the ZPD HQ jolted into life, rising slowly and giving way to the fresh sun that filtered in as the metal bars rose. Bogo and Clawhauser — who had turned away — looked back to the glass doors with frowns. As the shutters raised and the light crept into the room, a vast black silhouette was lain across the ground. They looked to the source of the shadow.

There were many kinds of species of dogs living in the city of Zootopia — canines were one of the most diverse breeds in the world, in fact — some were smaller than rabbits in size, and some were far larger beasts. This one was big and black — the size of a medium-large wolf — with fur that was rugged and shaggy; he had a single eye, which was of deep brown that could have easily be mistaken for red, and a strong sailor’s-swagger, as his old but-large-muscled frame moved into the building. Bogo and Clawhauser observed in silence as he approached, parting his lips and speaking — not shouting — and yet filling every inch of the room with his voice.

"Heed my words well," he began, "for I have a great tale to tell."

...

Amity Avenue was known as one of the oldest standing roads in all Zoophon — the country which Zootopia was the capital of — and unquestioningly, the oldest road in Zootopia itself. Better known simply as 'Old Road' by the locals of this ancient street, many might’ve thought that it was merely a grotty little street, disused and dingy, forgotten and fading. In truth, it was anything but.

Old Road was the widest and longest single road in all Zootopia. Four lanes wide, it was said that Old Road was the first real road to be built by mammalkind all those hundreds of years ago — back when Zootopia had been a three-hut village, and the idea of predator and prey living in harmony was but a mocking joke in the wind — amidst a medieval world of warring nations. In today's world, however, Amity Avenue was the main artery of Zootopia, pumping lifeblood into the heart of the city, fueling it like coal to the furnace. The four lanes of Old Road ran all in the same direction — inwards — from the edge of the city to the Ringroad, which encircled the Administrators' Tower — unarguably the grandest and most influential building in all Zoophon — at its core.

Nestled somewhere among the continual line of traffic — which ran from dawn till dusk, slowly, like warm treacle — Judy Hopps pulled the ZPD cruiser to a stop before the red lights of a crossroad. Nick let out a slight groan of discomfort as he adjusted the hold of his ice-pack against his face, or — more to the point — his black eye. He had changed his soup-doused uniform since the incident had occurred, and had washed his 'chickened' face. Without turning his head, the fox glanced to Judy, guilt slowly building within him for the silence he was allowing to drag on.

Surrounded on all sides by hundreds of cars — the metal of which gleamed harshly in the early-morning sun — the rabbit turned to the silent red fox, hoping to use this pause in her driving to make amends. She spoke softly to the fox, who was gazing out at nothing, thus making his ear flick once by the very tenderness in her voice. "Nick... how— how does it feel?"

He glanced to her, briefly, then replied, "Feelsalright," he mumbled.

"Let me see." Nick didn't move, so Judy sat forwards in her seat and gently took Nick's paw in her own, lowering it and the ice-pack from covering his eye. "Well, the swelling's definitely gone down," she stated carefully.

The fox smirked, and a wry little chuckle escaped him, before he half-glanced to the bunny and said, "You know, that's quite a right hook you've got there. You sure you shouldn't have been a boxer?"

"An interesting idea," Judy decided to humour him, a small smile sprouting on her lips at the fox's return to being receptive to her, "but how could I've had a handsome partner like you if I was a boxer?"

"I could've been your sparring partner — what am I thinking?" he added, touching the black swelling about his eye gingerly, "I already am." Judy's smile phased again and her ears started lowering. She opened her mouth and began to make another apology, but Nick beamed his lips, reaching out his paw and laying a single finger against her lips to silence her, while angling his head to face her.

"Judy," he interrupted, "I don't care how much of a beating I get from you; I'm just happy you feel the same way about me as I do about you." Judy beamed, and allowed her head to move closer to Nick's, her eyelids lowering at the soft touch of his paw which drew her head closer. Their lips moved closer together, the soft sweetness of the one grazing gently across the other, and moving closer to bri—

A loud honk crackled jumps to the both of them, the impatient sound protruding into the intimacy with the closeness of its origin… The partners leaped apart, and Judy hastily put the car into gear and tried to get it moving. In her panic to do so, however, she ground the gears and stalled the car, audibly glowing in embarrassment as her cheeks lit up red, while the cars of all the lanes started to pull away around her.

"It's okay, Judy," Nick reassured comfortingly, and only a little patronizingly, "just relax and take a breath. Try again, and it'll all work out fine." He shifted to the rabbit and smiled. She did the same to him, but bared her teeth. The fox moved back from her expression — knowing when giving Judy a little space was wise — as he adjusted his tie nonchalantly. Nick opened his mouth to respond — but then... something caught his eye. His gaze rose, and the fox looked out at the lane furthest away from them. It appeared their car was not the only one having troubles …

Judy tried a second time, failing to notice anything amiss outside, as a number of small curses passed through her lips — many of which began with 'f's. She started the car, moved properly into gear and set of down the road. Nick twisted himself around in the seat as they pulled away. He stared at the cars behind for a moment, his brows lowering, before he turned back ahead of him.

"Judy, turn left here for me would you?"

"But, the ZPD's ahead...?"

"I know — just — humour me, okay?" Judy started forwards in bemusement, turning the car to the left as the fox had asked.

"Another left here," Nick said, his voice dry.

"We're going back home? Why?" The rabbit tried to figure out some reason as to why Nick was wanting to return home so soon but, to be quite honest with herself. The only reason she could think of was that the fox wanted to drag her from work and have his wicked ways with her... which was an idea Judy didn't mind one bit — no matter how much she told herself she must.

All chances of her mini-fantasy of Nick taking her home and to his bed were dashed, however, as the next set of crossroads were reached. "Left again here," Nick urged averagely coldly.

"Nick, are you feeling alright? I probably hit you harder than I thought, but, you do realize we're going in circles, don't you?"

"Okay... another left," was his only response. Judy said nothing this time, glancing concernedly at the fox before pulling a fourth left, and coming up to stop before the crossroad and traffic lights, which had started this strange adventure.

"You know," Judy drawled, baffled but sarcastic, as Nick twisted in his seat and gazed out of the back window, "it's funny, but I'd've thought you of all mammals would know their way to work after—"

"I thought we were being followed. Okay?" Nick vexed in defense.

Judy's head shot around to face Nick, her eyes wide, her mouth open with shock. "W-what?" She span around further, scanning the faceless mass of cars. "Where?"

"We're not. Least I don't think."

"Who... who did you think was following us?"

"Just some rabbit. Mid thirties I guess, grey fur, black stripes. Kind of a black suit or something."

"Why'd you think they were following us?"

"I just felt like I knew, Judy. It's hard to explain," he responded, gazing off at nothing, trying to put into words that which he had always taken for granted, "but, you just kinda get a scene for that kind of thing when you've been in the trade long enough."

"But... I've been a cop longer than you!"

"And that wasn't the 'trade' I was referring to. Besides, when we— I mean you had that little mishap back there and failed to pull away, they did the same thing. But it didn't look like they were having trouble, just looked like they were waiting and not trying to do anything else. Kinda like they were waiting for us to go first."

"So that's what that was about!"

"Yeah. I was testing how far they’d follow us. It could've just been a coincidence they followed us from outside our apartment to here. But if they followed us around the block, they would've been following us for sure." His words struck speechlessness in Judy for quite some conservative moments…

“Our apartment?"

That question obviously threw Nick off guard. His gaze rose to her. "Wh— what?"

"Our apartment," she repeated softly, carefully. "You said 'our' apartment, like, we're living together or something..."

Even though she was looking at the road and not at him, it was still hard for the fox to hold his eyes at her. "J— Judy," he stuttered, his eyes flicking away and then back again. "Judy, this... this really isn't the time—"

"Why not? Because we're talking about some rabbit who wasn't following us?"

"Why? Because… it's errh. Because—" Nick sought for a way to change the subject — not because he didn't want to commit to Judy or to an answer — but because he wasn't ready to best argue his case. He knew he might get only one shot to convince her to live with him, and if he wasn't prepared beforepaw, he might disgruntle the whole thing up. The fox found an excuse to change the subject — sadly unaware that Judy had pointed out the fact he had spoken, as though they were living together, not to berate him — but to encourage him.

"Because— Look, your favorite song is on!" Judy opened her mouth, but Nick had already turned the volume up beyond reason. The ZPD came into view and Judy Hopps — with a sigh and a frustrated growl — decided this would be a discussion best left...

For later.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

"And that's it; you fled?" Shaded from the intensity of direct sunlight — sheltered in the cool, conditioned air of his office — Bogo sat back in his chair, his chin resting on his hoof as he watched the shaggy black dog sat across from him.

"Yesir," he replied, "no other option, y'see. Mind if I smoke?" The Chief opened his mouth to say 'actually he did mind and that it was, really, illegal to smoke in public buildings'... but Shuck had already put his match to his small, wooden pipe and was puffing away furiously. Bogo closed his mouth, cleared his throat, and tried again.

"Can you tell me more of this — coyote — what he was wearing, any distinguishing marks?"

"Aye. He was a young fellow of a lad who didn't have no respect. No taller than your average coyote but a little leaner perhaps. Typical sailing garb— you know: boots, waterproofs, all that." Bogo copied Shuck's words onto paper as he spoke. The dog sucked a particularly long puff from his pipe, as he leaned his age-stiffened back into the soft support of the visitor’s chair, squinting at nothing as he thought back on what had happened.

"I'd have tae say he was... overstated, in the way he behaved and held himself an' all. Far as I could tell, he was the type of lad suited to middle management. Ordering people around an’ takin’ their credit, only doing what he'd been told by 'is supervisors without any real skill or thinking on ‘is part beyond lookin' pretty."

Bogo scratched down more notes. "And this, Victor—"

"'Course," Black interrupted, sitting forwards and banging his pipe out on Bogo's desk, leaving a small pile of ashes, "it won't do you no good to be lookin' for him now. That ship's long gone."

"Still," Bogo replied calmly, sitting closer to the daring black dog, and brushing the ash off his desk, "we do like to know these things." He smiled, falsely, and then, "Now, this Nyilas—" Bogo was interrupted a second time — this time by his radio.

"Sir?" it crackled from its place on Bogo's belt.

The Chief grunted and pulled it from its holster, speaking wearily, "Who is it?"

"Me."                                    

Bogo blinked. There was only one mammal Bogo knew, who would be so self-confident as to simply assume whoever he was talking to would instantly know who it was, by just stating a single word... and it wasn't Nick.

"Savage," Bogo affirmed, tersely, "can this wait?"

"Well it 'could'... yes." Bogo's shoulders slumped; he sighed. In Jack's books, a statement as vague as that was a general, non-confrontational, term for 'yes, do it now'.

"Alright," Bogo relented, standing, "just give me a sec'." The buffalo rose and made towards his small, personal office, turning to Black for a moment as he stepped out. "This'll just take a moment," he said, before he shut the door on the floatingly aggravated dog.

Shuck Black watched Bogo with two eyes as he left the room. After a moment, his paw moved to his head and he took one of them out. He examined his glass eye through his real one, breathed on it, rubbed it clean, then put it back into its socket, before starting to process of refilling his pipe and making a further mess on the Chief’s pristine desk.

...

The air outside was thick with the building heat of the day. In the car park of the ZPD headquarters, the smallest of cruisers pulled up to a stop. Inside, Judy twisted to look at her fox, as she turned off the car and pulled the ignition key from the lock. She frowned at seeing him tweaked around to look out the back window. He still seamed troubled.

"Nick?"

"Yeah," he glanced at her, fleetingly, then looked back out, "what?"

Judy unbuckled herself and sat forwards, angling herself around to look out the back window so of the same. "What's the matter with you this morning? Other than your black eye, I mean," she added, apologetically.

Nick reacted to the sadness in Judy's voice and glanced at her a second time with a warm smile, but then looked back out the window, his expression stern and thoughtful as before. Her eyebrows lowering in confusion, Judy leaned forwards and moved her head close to Nick's, looking out so she could follow his gaze. The car park of the ZPD was within a secure, enclosed space with only one entrance. This entrance came with a metal gate high enough to stop intruders accessing the ZPD’s cars. Observing carefully, Judy could see the cars passing on the main road they had drove in on.

She stared out in silence. A red car drove past, then a blue one, a gray one, a white one, then another red one. "Nick, what… what is it you're doing, exactly?"

"Looking."

"For what?"

"For who."

"Whom— actually, but go on."

Nick glanced towards her, grinning at his lover, before returning to his observations. "Our black-stripped friend: the rabbit with the silver car. I know it's a long shot, but it pays to be careful."

Judy slipped an arm around Nick's waist — for the simple reason that she wanted feel his body against hers — as she spoke, "Good, but... hadn't we better get in there? It's probably getting late."

"Nope," the fox retorted, not turning to her, but at least slipping his paw down to hold hers, which was wrapped around his waist’s front. "We still have eight minutes before the others start crowding up."

Judy pulled herself a little closer to the sweet-smelling fox, her head resting lightly on his shoulder. "How's that," she asked, "I would have thought after all that we'd've needed to hurry."

"Well, seeing as how we came straight here without needing to stop off at yours first… that, and the fact we drove rather than walked– I think it's easy to see why we're the first ones here. We've got plenty of time." The fox raised his free paw to his eye, rubbing the black swelling around it tenderly. "Even with... incidents."

Judy put both arms firmly around her fox, holding the warmth of his body close to hers as she spoke, sadly, into one ear. "Nick, I am, really sorry about that. I promise, I—"

"Will you stop apologizing, Hopps," Nick interrupted playfully as he looped both his arms around her, holding her in an, albeit awkward, but satisfying hug. They were perched over the gearstick and pawbrake, their bodies facing the observations moving in the back window.

"Honestly, stop it," he continued, "your reasons were perfectly justified and your justice dealt swift. For all you knew, I was literally about to send a pic' of you, naked, to the mayor of this city, after all."

"That's beside the point," Judy complained, pressing her lips against Nick's nose gently, "the point is I hurt you. And not for the first time.”

"I realize I'm no help," Nick added, absently, "I do tend to push your nerves as far as they'll go… I know… and sometimes I just push you too far. I understand that. I don't blame you for the results of my own actions..." He raised a clawed finger and tiled Judy's head up so her eyes met his... "And nor should you."

Judy smiled, raising her paw and holding Nick's paw in her own, thus holding the silence a bit longer in this soothing moment. "Then there's also the fact you're gonna have to tell everyone in the ZPD how you got that black eye—"

"Ohh, I shouldn't worry too much about that, Hopps. After all, who's gonna know?" Judy squinted. Nick grinned, and in another instant he had produced his aviator glasses, opened them with a flick of the wrist and had slid them coolly across his nose.

Fondly, Judy gleed up at the fox — bathing in the warm sense of relief that filled her at knowing Nick was anything but mad with her — speaking softly, warmly, as her fingers entwined with his, "I love you, you sly old fox you."

"Old? Not too old to be dating a beautiful, young rabbit like yourself, I hope." The rabbit giggled. Nick continued, "Come on, darlin'," he said, leaning forwards and planting an honest, simple kiss on Judy's lips, "let’s get in there before things get heated and we really are late."

Judy knew they had done far more than just 'kissed' the night before — and she was fully aware of what would have happened if only she or Nick had just a little less self-control. But the simple pleasure of that chased-but-loving kiss was still more than enough to make her lips tinge pink, her cheeks flush with color, her breaths turn short and a light fluttering sensation to grow in her chest as she said, "I'm coming, sweetheart."

The two lovers shared a fond moon for a long moment, opened the doors, and stepped out of the dark interior of the car and into the broad light of day. They locked the car and walked arm-in-arm to the metal door of the ZPD's back-entrance — the fox opening the door gracefully to the rabbit before shutting it softly behind her.

And… a few seconds later, the black-striped head of a gray-furred rabbit appeared from the other side of the car park's outer walls. He watched the fox and rabbit enter the building — not noticed by either — and then slipped in through the metal bars of the gate, which were more than wide enough to allow a rabbit entry.

He raised his phone to his drooped ear — Hopps and Wilde safely within — and spoke, "Targets relocated, Sir," he reported as he walked, "both are now entering the building as we speak."

"Good work, Savage," came Bogo's reply. "Now, come in and stay low, especially when the other officers start turning up. I do not want your presence here to be known. Out."

Jack stopped and looked down at the hung-up phone in his paw… "Very good, Sir," he muttered, slipping the phone back in his pocket and heaving the over-sized door slowly open.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

It was Paw in Paw that Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps wondered the still-empty corridors of the ZPD, Nick leading Judy through the paths less trailed as he always did. They made the way, from around the back of the building, to the front — heading towards the reception — where they would then sign in.

Judy noticed Nick had a particularly strong swagger today, and she thought she knew the reason. "Well, someone’s cheerful this morning," she prompted, playfully, squeezing Nick's paw lovingly in her own.

He glanced over to her, smiling. "How couldn't I be cheerful with you by my side?"

"I really mean that much to you?" Judy asked, aware of the answer, yet wanting to hear it from the fox.

He didn't disappoint. "Oh yes indeed, my carrot-farming friend. This is already the best day of the year and it’s only five minutes to six!"

Judy took Nick's arm with her free paw and tugged him to a stop, pulling his head low to whisper into an ear, "In that case, Wilde, we have five minutes before roll call. Yes?"

Nick nodded, mutely. Judy pulled his ear closer and whispered quieter still. "Then what would you say if we found ourselves a nice, quiet little storage cupboard to creep into, and spend a few minutes just 'enjoying' one another."

"Tishk, Hopps, whatever would our chief say?"

"Stop mucking, Nick: time’s 'a ticking." Instantly Nick Wilde switched from playful to serious — he always did when the situation required it.

"We'll do it. Tell Clawhauser we have to get some paperwork for the Chief. That'll give us an excuse not to talk, then, we'll head over to a storage room. If we're quick, we should get two minutes uninterrupted, at least." And then Judy was gone, marching swiftly away with the speed and inexorability of a Sergeant Major.

A small warning signal grew in the back of Nick's mind, while he watched his lover fondly as she sped away, and he started to wonder what it was. But it wasn't until a second later — when he was being dragged along by his arm, stumbling clumsily as he tried to regain his balance, with a small cry of surprise escaping his lips — that he realized: Judy was still holding his paw.

"J— Judy! Wait!"

...

With a thirty second walk accomplished in what felt like just three, Judy gave Nick the much-needed opportunity to regain his composure.

"Thank you," he said tersely, adjusting his shirt, tie and other parts that were attached to his body. He turned away from Judy with an awkward smile and faced the large-gray door, which led from the service-corridor they had entered, and into the ZPD's main reception hall. "Okay, remember what I said: We need to get some paperwork to the Chief."

"Got it," Judy acknowledged, releasing Nick's paw as he pushed the oversized door open before the two of them walked — quite calmly, quite leisurely — into the main hall, in the center of which the almost unnaturally-wide figure of Clawhauser could be seen, digging into a box of cereal like an excavator on defenseless earth. Hopps and Wilde approached, listening to the odd sounds of delight the overweight creature made, as he ate his snacks of unhealthiness — forgoing the use of a bowl or cutlery — with his head simply shoved deep into the cardboard box. Both watched with silent fascination before Judy broke the silence.

"Claw... Clawhauser?" Leaning forwards meekly, Judy tapped on the table as though not wanting to disturb him.

The fox chuckled at the rabbit slightly-pityingly. "Hopps," he said with a condescending little pat on the head that made her scowl, venomously. "You've adapted wonderfully to city life. But my darlin', you still don't seem to realize… Sometimes, a little extra volume is needed to get your voice heard."

With a smug gin on his face as he gloated at the fuming rabbit, Nick leaned forwards onto the desk. He opened his mouth to call out to the feasting cheetah, when a small, but impossibly-strong, gray-blue paw clamped over it.

"Officer Clawhauser!" Judy bellowed, Nick starting back. The rabbit stood squarely in the center of Clawhauser's desk. "Atten-hut!"

The subconscious part of Clawhauser's mind instantly recognized the voice and tone of a commander giving orders, and that had his body up and snapping to attention instantly — eyes straight, shoulders back, salute in place. Pieces of Lucky Chops Cereal were stuck to his face. A few fell and landed onto his uniform as he stood at attention, waiting for the next orders of whoever the commander was — his eyes fixed to the front where no one could be seen.

Then, something peculiar happened. The commander... giggledWell that didn't sound like a commander. That voice sounded far more... Judyish? He looked down. "At ease, Ben," the small rabbit chuckled.

"... Hopps?" The cheetah realized he was still stood in a salute and quickly sat back down with a loud scrunch that the chair groaned out. "God, you nearly gave me a heart attack, Hopps... you—" Neither knew why, but he trailed off then and his nose started twitching with interest.

"Clawhauser," Judy said eagerly, getting down as his sniffing continued, "sorry we can't talk, but we have to fetch some things for Bogo before roll call." Clawhauser didn't seem to be listening, while Nick moved his paw, leaning forwards on the desk.

"What Hopps here is saying, Ben, is that..." The cheetah's predatorial nose swung around and started twitching in Nick's direction. "We..." Suddenly, Nick realized what it was Clawhauser was sniffing at. His scent! He drew himself back hastily, wincing, knowing he had figured out what the cheetah was digging at too late.

"Well... you two smell like you had a pretty good time with each other last night!" Clawhauser grinned, "things get a little out of paw in the bedroom, did they?"

Both Nick and Judy got encased in frost. "W-what," Judy stuttered in a moment of shock, but quickly frowned in the retrieval of confidence, "what are you implying... exactly?"

"Oh come on, Hopps," he gesticulated in reply, moving closer, his paws tucked under his chin, "there's only so many reasons why two mammals come to work standing that close together and each smelling exactly like the other."

Judy stared up at Nick. Nick stared down at Judy. She spoke, "No! No, you've got it all wrong, we—"

"Give it up, Hopps. This has been going on for months and everyone knows it."

"Months? But this has only been going on for—"

"A-hem," Nick tried to interrupt.

"— there is nothing going on! There is nothing, going on, between Nick, and myself." Clawhauser scoffed. "We’re just friends."

"Ooh, stop it," Clawhauser puffed.

"Believe me!"

"No! Why else would you come to work smelling the same?"

"Be— because..." Judy fumbled for an answer for all but a second before the reassuring calm of Nick's voice cut in.

"We were sparring," Nick simply added, speaking for the first time since this line of questioning had started. "Hopps and I, sparring, round my place," he shrugged, "just a few simple moves to get us warmed up and ready." After a moment’s thought, Judy grinned up at her fox. Yep, that lie worked a treat. Clever fox. While not exactly a reputable skill — and definitely not one to put on a CV — the ability to lie quickly and believably could be a seriously-powerful skill in the paws of one who’d know how to use it. By the simple and honest way in which Nick had told his lie — not stuttered, not blabbed — even the most stubborn of listener wouldn’t be able to remain unconvinced.

Clawhauser, on the other paw, didn't want to be convinced. "Yeah, right. I know the kind of sparring you really mean," he retorted with a wink. "From what I know of Officer Hopps here, I'd guess she's quite demanding when it comes to those matters. You've all but admitted it now, and there's no taking it back. I know what the two of you have been up to and there's nothing you can do to change my—"

Nick slid his glasses off and gazed flatly at Clawhauser — one eye open, the other, half squinted closed with a black swelling around it. Clawhauser froze in place. Slowly, he started to turn red. Then, he raised a paw to cover his mouth in shock before he blurted, "Oh my god I am so sorry! It— it's just when I saw you coming in, staying so close like that and smelling the same— and knowing how well you two get along anyway, I mean, you spend like literally every day with each other— I just assumed the two of you might have been dating or something and now I find out you're not, and—"

"Clawhauser, it's fine," Judy reassured, far calmer now after Nick's reassertion on the matter, "it's perfectly understandable for you to think what you did. Me and Officer Wilde here do spend a lot of time together. We are very close—"

"Getting closer," Nick muttered, quietly, so that only Judy, who silenced him with an elbow, could hear.

"— but," she continued through the subtle interruption, "our relationship is purely platonic."

"Thanks to her parents'," Nick muttered again, "stupid marriage before se-ouch" He rubbed his forearm and sneered down at the rabbit beside him, wondering — not for the first time — if Judy secretly knew just how hard she’d hit him.

Clawhauser opened his mouth to apologize once again — now firmly believing what he had been told — but then, out of nowhere, his two-way-radio receiver barked into life with the sound of Bogo's voice. "Clawhauser!" He flinched back but pressed the 'respond' button swiftly.

"Yes, Chief?"

"Send Officers Hopps and Wilde up. Now!"

"Yes, Sir." He looked back... but Hopps and Wilde were already jogging towards Bogo's office. "Hey, be careful," he called out after them, "it sounds like he got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.”

"Clawhauser," Nick reminded back, "I don't think Bogo's bed even has a right side." The cheetah chuckled, while Nick and Judy disappeared around the corner of the stairwell.

"Well," Nick muttered to Judy, replacing his smoked glasses, "so much for our time enjoying one another."

"Never mind about that now, Nick," she chortled, slipping her paw into his as they climbed, "after all, you know what tomorrow is, don't you."

"The weekend?"

"The weekend. Just imagine all the fun we can get up to with two whole days to do whatever we want."

The fox's only reply was to grin as the door to Bogo's office came into view.

...

Back at the reception, Clawhauser pressed the 'call' button for Bogo's radio signal. "Sir?"

"What is it, Ben?"

"How," he began, flummoxed, "how did you know they were here?"

"I'm the chief, Clawhauser. I know everything." The radio crackled, then, the line dropped dead.

Clawhauser squinted down at his radio receiver as he thought. When Bogo said 'I'm the chief, I know everything', ninety-five percent of the time what he really meant was 'Clawhauser just told me'. Obviously he would never say this, and the cheetah knew his chief had to give the impression of being just that little bit of omnipotent, but — seriously — how had he known?

He pondered for few seconds more, shrugged, and returned to furiously eating... quite unaware that his answer was stepping into the reception through the same doorway Nick and Judy had entered through not long ago.

Jack Savage paced silently towards Clawhauser's desk, running through his reasons for being there one last time.

He was a computer technician working for Direct Data Ltd. He had been recently called by Bogo to fix server systems in the eastern wing of the ZPD, which had developed minor faults that he was required to fix. The company had been established for seven years. He had been working for them for three. His name was Ronald Rule, he was thirty-two years old with a house and wife in Perthshire. It was all worked out. The ZPD's security receptionist could ask him any question about anything related to who he was and why he was there, and he could answer him instantly. He had it all down pat. No question — no matter how complex — could ever catch him off guard. He was ready.

The black-striped rabbit came to a stop, stood just in front of the desk, where a sack of heart-attack-on-legs was sat with its head reinserted in a cardboard box of cornflakes, apparently completely unaware that anyone was even there. Savage opened his mouth to call to him, "Mist—"

"Ooh, there's the toy! I found it!" the cheetah squealed. The rabbit blinked. He blinked again. He raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders slightly, and paced silently away again, heading — completely unhindered — towards his goal, deciding that sometimes, fate just dealt in your favor.

...

Resisting the urge no longer, Bogo rose from his desk and walked across to the window, throwing it open and allowing the thick stench of Shuck Black's continually-smoked pipe to escape, hence breathing deeply of the fresher, cleaner air which rushed in to take its place. Behind him, Shuck cleared his throat.

"So, these officers," he began, "they any good?" Bogo hid his annoyance to the dog’s implication that he would hire officers who were not any good at their job, though a friendly smile replaced his dark thoughts.

"Certainly. Both Officer Hopps and Wilde are outstanding. They were in the news just under a year ago for saving the city, didn't you see it?"

"I never have much time for stuff like that," Shuck answered vaguely, "but just so long as they can take care of 'themselves, I don't have a problem." Bogo's head turned to the door as he heard a soft knocking emanate from without.

"Come in, Officer Hopps," he called. The door opened. Judy's head poked in first, followed by the rest of her with Nick. Bogo's expression hindered when he saw the red fox.

"Morning, Chief," Judy said quietly, still not quite sure why he had asked them there." The Chief didn't respond, his gaze still locked on Nick, his expression turning slowly darker as the fox gazed right back. Nick's expression was somewhat startled as he tried to figure out what he'd done this time.

"Ermm," Nick trailed, "hey, Chief."

"You've got some nerve, haven't you, fox."

"Have... have I?" A thought struck Nick, he means my glasses, and he instantly slipped them off his face. Bogo's expression didn't change at noticing the black eye — apart from his scowl, which grew in size, and his glower which became like a beacon of retribution — glaring deep into Nick's hiding soul.

Nick was good at obscuring when he was in an uncomfortable situation, but no amount of training or experience would ever have been enough for him not to visibly shrink back from the sheer fury in the gigantic buffalo's glare, as it hounded down upon him. Chief Bogo hadn't meant to act any differently towards Wilde after what he had... heard, during Savage’s report on what they were doing. And yet, when that red creature sauntered into the room like he owned the place, stinking of Judy as Judy stunk of him, he couldn't help himself.

For Bogo, caring for his officers was second nature — instinct — and he couldn't ignore or resist the building anger and tension he felt at seeing him. He knew what he and Hopps had been doing and it made him sick to the core. He didn't care whether it was consensual, he didn't care if Officer Hopps thought that Nick cared for her — or if Officer Hopps was under the impression she cared for Nick — the fact was that Nick Wilde — the shifty, low time conmammal, who once came under heavy suspicion for the murder of his own girlfriend — had taken Officer Hopps — one of his officers — and had brutally, and heartlessly, defiled her.

Bogo didn't care what trickery or manipulation Wilde had used to make Hopps believe she was in love with him: She wasn't. And he could not just stand by like nothing was happening. He was going to take that fox. He was going to take him and throw him in a cell to stay until he rotted. He would have him neutered for what he'd done. He—

Bogo quickly drew himself back from his thoughts. He still didn't have any hard evidence, after all. To be perfectly honest with himself, all he knew for certain was what Savage had reported, and everything else was simple speculation. The fox’s awkwardness was judged by the shift of feet. Sure he could use that as evidence for himself that the fox was guilty, but then again, he knew that he might be appearing intimidating through his sneer, due to the room feeling very silent, and yet noisy-full of the gloom skulking.

At length, Bogo broke the darkness. "Officers Hopps, Wilde," he said, turning, "this is Mister Black." The two officers turned to the large, shaggy black dog who was eyeing them carefully.

"Good morning," Judy hummed politely to the raggedy creature.

Black nodded. "An’ same to you, Missie."

"Last night," continued the Chief, "he played active witness to what appeared to be the importation of an illegal shipment of drugs at our docks. I have considered the matter thoughtfully, and have decided to give the duty of investigating these claims to the both of you."

"Thank you, Sir!" Judy piped up, grateful, but maintaining her professional stature.

"And," Bogo added, "after you have questioned him sufficiently here, the two of you will make a comprehensive report of your findings to everybody at roll call.”

And it was that order which made her ears fall loudly. "But... Sir, isn't that your job?" It wasn't that she minded being given extra duties, like questioning Shuck, investigating the fire at Ladders and so forth, because every time she did that, it looked good on Nick and her report. Such may, just may, speed them on towards her primary goal of becoming a detective. This, however, was different. This, was public speaking. And she hated it, ever since that awful interview of separation and broken hearts.

"There's no time for that kind of luxury, Hopps. If there really has been an entire shipment of illegal substance entering this city, we have to appoint all possible resources we have to finding it, containing it, and ensuring it doesn't happen again. I have already got in touch with the officials of the harbor and advised them to place more security staff, but we must focus on amending the damage done."

"I understand that, Sir, but—"

"Unless you have documented your findings," Bogo bellowed in reply, "then we have no choice but for you and Officer Wilde to make the report. There is no discussion about this. This matter is not open for—"

"But we have documented our findings!" Nick cut in. Bogo fell silent. "Judy wrote up some notes to give you this morning. I checked it, and it's mostly comprehensive. Most of everything else we found is recorded in—"

"Nick," Judy whispered, "no, don't."

The fox glanced down at her, then continued, "Almost everything else we found is recorded in Judy's carrot pen."

"Nick,” Judy whispered again, "that bit about your dad: It's still on there!" Only Nick heard what Judy said — Bogo, not a mammal designed for eavesdropping, and Shuck's ability to hear things having eroded with age. She received a quiet response, while Bogo watched suspiciously, but unable to whiff a word.

"Judy, I know. But I'm over my past now— thanks to you. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't affect me. So," he persisted, finally loud enough for the room to hear, "now that we've cleared the fact that the pen is in your pocket and not mine, would you mind pawing it over?" Judy's gaze raised to meet Nick's as she considered what she had just heard. It was true he was more comfortable about his past now than he used to be, but did he really want people like Bogo knowing about it?

Then again, it was only one small bit of Nick's past and it wasn't mentioned in any detail. Therefor, trusting Nick's judgment in the matter more than her own, Judy reached into her pocket, took out the novelty carrot pen which was — in a way — the only reason Nick and herself were lovers now, and pawed it over.

"Here, Chief," she mumbled, quietly, "this is everything." Judy took out her notebook from her pocket and made to give it to the Chief. When Bogo's hoof had reached to take it, however, it met resistance.

Bogo's scowling face resolved that, and Judy released the notepad without further comment. He wondered why the rabbit was suddenly blushing, but decided it wasn't worth his time finding out. Without another word to either three of them, Bogo turned and walked out of the room, leaving nothing but uncomfortable silence between Judy, Nick... and Shuck, not that apparently the black dog cared.

...

In the coolness of another office, Bogo examined the pen. He tried to press the play button but his finger was about a dozen times too big to fit. He tried to slide the tip of a single nail into the gap, but even that was too much to press the button, and so he set the device down with a grunt. Resolving just to focus on Judy's notes for the time being, Chief Bogo picked up the tiny notepad and lifted the front page. He gawped, expressionlessly, at what he saw scribbled in the margin of that first page.

In orange ink, it appeared, Judy had scribbled down a small, cartoon sketch of Nick. It was a cheerful, though not particularly accurate, depiction of the fox and, written next to it in that same orange scribe, was the single word 'Nick'... followed by several 'x's, which the buffalo, who was anything but a romantic, guessed were supposed to somehow represent kisses.

The Chief breathed in deeply — moving his mind away from that part of Officer Hopps and Wilde's relationship — and flicked through the various entries as he looked for Judy's most recent one. The reasons for Judy's blushing quickly became apparent, as the Chief leafed through page after page. It appeared the rabbit had turned half of her notepad into authentic notes for investigations and so forth... and the other half into a sketch pad.

He gave her credit — the quality of her drawings had definitely improved over time and had become much more lifelike — depicting scenes of her and Nick holding paws in a field, sharing dinner at a restaurant, kissing one another beneath a firework display... and one sketch of particular interest, which also apparently involved several cans of alcohol, pawcuffs, and the back of a ZPD cruiser... Bogo, for the first time in his life shuddered, and quickly turned over to the next page.

He cleared his mind of all thoughts of... 'that kind' as he reached the part titled, 'Investigation of Ladders and Drug Spree'. Bogo's eyes scanned the page's tiny writing. He spotted a problem. Taking out his reading glasses, he settled them over his nose. Still unable to read it, he took them off and held them between his eyes and the page so that the image was magnified even more. But the writing was still too small to make out.

Clearing his throat, Bogo softly shut the notes. He thought for a moment, pulled out his mobile phone and entered a number. It rang once, and then it was answered.

"Savage."

"Sir?"

"Get up here. There's a pen I need you to play to me..."

"Yes, Sir." Bogo raised the carrot replica again, holding it between thumb and forefinger, examining it carefully through the wonders of his mind.

"... and some notes I want you to read."

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

From behind the tall mountain peaks which surrounded the city with a wall of tall, jutting stones: The sun had finally risen. The beams of gold shone down — through the picket of jagged rock — and upon the pure blue lake and the luscious green earth surrounding. Obliterating all retirements of cloud, the sunlight greeted all the cityscape of Zootopia in glorious rays of hope, its polished glass and gleaming metal shining like flawless crystals of most precious qualities.

The cold and stillness of night broken, the city was reborn in the flame of a star.

The warmth of day shone — stimulating the growth of trees and the movement of late-rising mammals — spreading its glory all through the metropolis, across all the streets and buildings, and in through the upper floor’s windowpane of a plainly decorated, rectangular room. Within sat three occupants. One: a large black dog with shaggy, thick fur and a glass eye. He sat with a hunch upon a chair, his only real eye glinting almost red in the fresh sunlight, as he looked upon the two before him — far smaller mammals — who shared a single chair, on which they were actually standing on, rather than vice versa. One of them, the rabbit, spoke.

"So, Mister Black," she said, while making ready to fill out a witness form, "if you would be so good as to just answer some questions for the paperwork, we can make a start looking into this case. Your first name, please?"

"Shuck. Shuck Black, but most people know me by Black Shuck. And your names, Officers?"

"I'm Officer Hopps," she returned politely, "and this, is Officer Wilde."

The back dog sat forwards upon the desk. "Wait, Hopps, Wilde... you the officers assigned to this case?"

"Yes," Nick answered, doing the same as Shuck in slight aggravation, already guessing his response, "is that a problem?"

"Thought little mammals were used to fill out paperwork. Don't the ZPD have anyone bigger who can handle this?"

"Sir," Judy took the word, her voice strained a little, but still polite, "Wilde and myself are more than capable of investigating whatever requires our attention."

"Officer Hopps is right," Nick continued with formal diligence, "our rate of success easily matches all those of our fellow officers, even the biggest ones."

"Well I don't doubt you— I mean, you’re a fox, you can cheat your way out of anywhere— but this rabbit—"

"Mister Black," Nick cut in, allowing his rising temper to show through just a little, "would you mind refraining from directing offensive and speciest comments towards my partner, and just telling us what you came here to say? We have a great many things to be getting along with, and would prefer it if you could tell us what you know." The harbormaster met Nick's glare steadily for a moment. 

Perhaps… He decided that they will assign real officers to him once they were satisfied that he was not just wasting their time. Then, he leaned back in his seat and uttered, "So, what can I tell you in aid of this investigation of yours?"

"Well, Mister Black," Nick answered, "first, I would be interested in some more details about yourself. For one thing: I notice your accent. You're not from around here, are you?"

"Not originally, no," Shuck said through a scratch under his neck, "I was born and bred in— well… Zootopia's twin, you might say."

"You mean you're from—"

"Yes," Shuck slashed instantly to the surprise of the fox officer.

"Oh… I see."

"When I was sixteen, I lied about my age and joined the Merchant Navy. By the time I was seventeen, I'd circled the earth. I had to get away from... there— I didn't have a future in that place… and I'm certainly not going back. So when I got too old for sailin', I settled down here in Zootopia's docks, working night watch to keep meself busy."

"So," Nick asked, "what's living in Zi—" Shuck’s warning gaze held his, yet the fox didn’t visibly falter other than a restructure or expression, "What's living in... that place really like? I've heard a lot of rumours about it, but I thought that was all just myth."

Shuck sighed longly, leaning back from the beam of light entering through the window, and into slight shade: his black fur and coat hiding his form, only a single-soot eye glinting. "Let’s just say there ain't many living there who can make something of 'emselves — any attempt to better yourself is trod down — and leaving that place when I could was the best decision I ever made."

"How bad is it," Nick asked, his voice low, "really?" Judy glanced between Nick and Shuck as the fox's focus held the dog's. She wouldn't admit it in front of Shuck, but this was going over her head — she knew what Zootopia's twin city was, certainly — but, as far as she knew, that was a lovely place to live at, by all accounts.

Shuck broke the dance of drills and looked off, breaking the standoff. "I didn't come here to discuss me past, Officer Wilde. I came here to warn ya about the drug shipment."

There was silence. The rabbit sought for Nick’s guidance, and he nodded to her to show that he was finished with his line of questioning. Then, Judy sat back in the mutual chair, her arms folding across her chest. "You can start," she acknowledged, "by giving us a rundown of what happened at the harbor last night."

The dog looked from one to the other slowly, almost as if trying to show his disbelief. He was a traditional sort of mammal — brought up on little more than chores and 'healthy beatings' like all children once were, back in the good old days — and he simply didn't have it in him to believe these... small, animals had it in them to operate efficiently in situations like this. These were, however, the officers who had been assigned to him. "Very well," he decided, "I am ready to tell you what I know on the matter."

Judy smiled to the success, and Shuck began his recollection on the past-night’s activities, "It was just past eleven o'clock — or thereabouts anyway — and my shift on night watch had just begun..." The harbormaster spoke on. His story opened at the very beginning, continued until it came to the end, and then stopped like soothing wind, as all good stories must, while the blue-gray and red mammals impatiently awaited for more to sprout from his mouth, yet to no avail…

...

The sun chortled on through many a window, behind each of which was a story unfurling. Some mundane and common, others bizarre and unexpected. Some were totally independent, playing out as they would, regardless of all alternative events around. Others were different. Other stories were so tightly bound to the tales of other creatures that one simple difference in what happened, and how they behaved, had the ability to utterly sway anyone with a focused ear.

One such story, which the all-seeing light of sun was gazing upon, was playing out but-one-floor below where Judy and Nick dwelt. Had the fox and the rabbit had been more careful with their newfound status, had they had been less forthcoming with the information they had found, had Nick had been unable to accept Judy into his life: then the conversation playing out between buck and buffalo might’ve been quite different — or, not happening at all.

Chief Bogo flipped the blinds closed, and the sunlight, which had been so-sweetly touching upon the room, turned from a square of luminescence, to but-a-few dozen and narrow strips, which lay thin and stretched across the stark table and plain floor of the small interrogation room that the cape buffalo now gave aura to with his presence. He sat down at the table again, staring blankly at the space in front of him, while the gray, black-striped rabbit continued reading out-loud to Bogo from Judy's notes. Bogo leaned closer and rested his head on his chin in thought.

Jack knew, however, his thoughts were not on the matter at paw. "Sir? Sir, are you paying attention?" Bogo didn't react. Jack shut the rabbit-sized book, with a small thump, which was enough to yank the buffalo from his trance.

"Yes, Agent Savage?" he started, quickly, as if burned by fire’s tongue.

"You don't seem quite yourself, Sir. Your mind is somewhere else. Would I be mistaken — I ask you — in suggesting your mind is preoccupied by Wilde and Hopps' romantic involvement?" Bogo snapped up at the clock on the wall, using that as an excuse not to look the rabbit in the analytical eye.

"Let me give you a hint," Jack added, "... I'm not mistaken."

The buffalo's eyes moved and dared to express themselves at Jack. He was right. Of course he was right, damn it. Sitting back a little, Bogo rubbed his forehead as he surrendered, "I don't know what to think, Savage. This... thing between Officers Hopps and Wilde: Is it natural? Is it right?"

Savage leaned back in his ow seat, crossing his arms as he considered aloud, "Is it natural? No, not at all. Not it any way, shape or form is it natural for a rabbit to be romantically involved with a fox... but, is it right?" he continued, brushing off the apathy from his face in the replacement of a tug of frown, "well, that's a different question entirely."

"You're saying you agree with their pairing?"

"On paper, no. In the sight or reality... yes." Jack then just shrugged, arms still crossed. "But what do I know? I'm a spy, not a marriage counselor. But so long as they’re happy with each other, I say, who gives a toss? It's just love, unlikely pairs have fallen in love before."

"Yes, but those ‘pairs’ tend to be different in social standings, not different in species or — while we're on the matter — different food groups."

"They are happy," Jack repeated, then simply opened up Judy's notebook and started flicking back through the pages. "Sir, just look at all these drawings Officer Hopps has made over the year. That's not something you do unless you're very much 'into' someone." Bogo raised an eyebrow. Jack hadn't even battered an eyelid, when he had first seen the drawings, thus the Chief just assumed he hadn't noticed them. But then again, Savage rarely battered an eyelid, no matter how surprising something would be... and there was also the fact that… Savage noticed everything.

"Clearly," the rabbit continued, "Officer Hopps has been romantically interested in Wilde — whether she knew it or not — for a long time. Actually, I'd have to say," he included through a pause, flicking to the first page, "... since within a week of meeting him… interestingly."

A small smiled played on Bogo's face. He had always known the two of them were interested with one another. It wasn't that he didn't like the fact they were different species — that wasn't really the problem. He trailed his eyes elsewhere and exhaustive-sighed as he spoke, "It all comes down to Wilde's part in this. My minds running like a gyroscope at the moment. One half of my head is incredulous he's as clean as a freshly scrubbed bathtub, and the other half insists he's in it up to his neck." His fingers pinched the bridge of his nose in the struggle of finding a decision between the two.

"And then the first half accuses the second half of being speciest, and the second half calls the first ignorant. The accusations get louder in volume. Then, the two halves get into a row and start shouting at each other. It reminds me," he groaned, bitterly, "... it reminds me of my ex-wife." Bogo chuckled, dryly, then continued, "When I first saw Wilde, I was about ready to rip him apart for — as I thought at the time — taking advantage of one of my officers. Now, this anger wasn't because he was a fox and Hopps a rabbit, but because I believed, with every fiber of my spirit, he was criminally involved and that it is my duty to protect my officers from that kind of harm.”

“But then the part of me that thinks him innocent kicked in, and seconds later, I was telling myself that there was no proof and that he was innocent in it all. I can't make up my mind, and so my mind makes it up for me. The problem is, it can never agree for more than a few minutes at a time, and it changes its mind continuously."

"So it's a matter," Jack asserted, "not of their species, which concerns you, but of Wilde's questionable lawfulness?"

"Savage," Bogo breathed, flatly, "if you can convince me Wilde is innocent as I hope he is, I will have nothing whatsoever against him and Officer Hopps becoming romantically involved — so long as they get their work done, that is. But, up until that time, it is nothing less than my duty to take precautionary steps to protect my officers from potential threats."

Savage smiled. He rested his clasped paws on the table and inched closer. "Let us, therefore, examine what we already know, Sir, and do that which we can to draw this investigation to an end." Bogo nodded. If he had heard of Wilde and Hopps bonding in that way all but a week ago, he would have been happy to hear it — more like delighted — but now, with an unsolved murder on his hoofs, literally a heap of illegal drugs on his doorstep and with Wilde apparently the only suspect as the owner of the murder weapon... he had no choice but to be mistrustful.

"It will not be long now — the ending," Bogo said, grimly. "We know the crime, we know the cause, we know where at least one of their bases of operation are set up, and once we locate Nyilas, we'll have the whole operation shut down." He grinned. "I feel the drawstring pulling the net tight around those who would do this city harm. The ending," he repeated, "will not, be long, now."

A dry voice cut into his assurance, "I would not be so sure, Sir," Jack intervened with a slash onto the Chief’s confidence, "this operation seems far too large for only one mammal to manage, and I suspect there is more than just Nyilas at the top. And remember, we may know the drugs come into Zootopia through the docks, but, from where are they grown? No, Sir, it is my belief that this story... may be far from over."

"A chilling thought, Savage," the Chief muttered in dejected spirit, "one which I hope holds no greater baring than mere hearsay."

"To whatever end, Sir. To whatever end."

...

In another place — far from the city of Zootopia and from the heat and light of the rising sun — a gray figure stood in the darkness, silhouetted against the dusty horizon, while the very last drip of sunlight vanished into crawling night. The air close to the ground shimmered with heat, but the desert sands cooled swiftly after sundown, and already a chill wind was rising, driving away the hot, muggy air that hung about the city during the usual of day.

The streets were mostly empty, the last of the public rushing to their homes before the biting chill of night would finally set in.

This was the twin city to Zootopia: where the streets were narrow and paved with nothing but dust and muck, where the hours were long and the pay meager, where cubs as young as six worked long hours to buy their bread, where families had a choice between keeping fed and keeping warm, where an honest mammle would suffer great loss for his decency, and yet a liar and a cheat could pave their way in gold.

Zistopia.

Where the crows fed on the corpses of those who had starved to death, and the living ate of whatever they could find — bugs, arachnids, birds and remains better left unspecified — there were no prey mammals here. All had... 'disappeared' many years ago.

A single long road lead up to Zistopia, a great long and narrow road, which dipped and twisted like an empty wasteland through the endless dunes of the desert’s sands. The city itself was mostly shacks and small huts, built from drystone or corrugated metal. Simple buildings. Simple, squalid buildings, which neither kept their occupants cool during the day, nor retained any amount of heat overnight. The only source of water or proper food, within over a thousand miles around, was circle of green oasis in its center, around which, was built a wall of shimmering, white marble: thick and tall. It was defended day and night by armed guards, who jealously protected the only greenery in the whole desert from the commoners, who would only receive miserable rations for all their hard labor.

The city of Zistopia may’ve been as vast as Zootopia, but it was anything but 'great', for the only structure of any magnificence was to be found in the center, towering imperiously over all else, unequaled by any structure, by mammle or God. In the center of the endless desert, amidst a wide city of squalid huts, within the confines of a white, marble wall and surrounded by the only luscious earth around — stood the Lord's Royal Tower.

Rising avarice-high stories above every other structure in the city, the Lord's Royal Tower was all paw-carved from a single piece of great, black marble. A single stake — a boundless black nail — hammered into the heart of the earth, the tower's looming arrogance and broadness was a humbling and fear-inspiring sight to all whose eyes would be drawn to its terrific and intimidating design, yet luxurious and somehow appealing, nevertheless.

Within this sharp piece of jutting rock was to be found great treasure, and — so the rumours spread — some very inventive torture chambers... of course, none of this could be proved... and as far as the rest of the world knew, Zistopia was a just fine place to live — thanks to some very careful propaganda on The Lord's part.

Oh yes... a Lord. Zistopia had no simple mayor to tend to its needs, it had a lord. One-third up this towering spike of black upon the earth, was a balcony cut into the rock. The gray figure inhaled the crisp air, gazing slowly around all that he might, his breath leaving his lips through vapor to the cooling air.

An ear twitched. Sharp, intelligent eyes picked up change in the empty streets, the figure's focus was drawn downwards towards the earth, to one of the more squalid parts of the city. Movement. A chase. A small bear-cub of no more than twelve was fleeing through the narrow streets of the squalor below. In his paw was clutched an apple, and chasing behind, two palace guards. From his vantage point above, He saw the bear-cub leap and climb a low brick wall, left into another thin street, and right into an alley. The cub was, admittedly, doing rather well... but the chase for the stolen apple would be over soon... and the punishment dealt.

The sight didn't interest Him. One could see that kind of thing thirty times a day in this city.

No, of all the views and luxuries that surrounded him, the gray figure found more interest in the parapet of his balcony. He rubbed a padded paw across its time-smoothed sides, which were made from the same single stone as the rest of the unique black rock, it was finely and ornately carved, thus why he liked this tower a great deal. In daylight hours — with the hot sun shining upon the nigh endless miles of sand — the dark stone glinted and sparkled like the white surf of the sea — but come nightfall, it’d fade again to be as inkish as the distant-deep night sky, blending seamlessly with the enveloping shadows, with a cloak of invisibility to the outside observer.

Bold when in daylight, nonchalant in shadow. This is how He lived his life.

With a start, he moved and turned from the sight to return to the inside of his dwelling. He did this in one part because of the sharpness of the wind, which was now beginning to pick up... and because the child was now screaming in agony, one of his paws now cut off for theft by the palace guards who had audibly caught him. The city had been better once — free of poverty and death — but that had all changed since He had come into power. They once had operated with mayors too, but He had soon seen to that.

People had disagreed with His self-proclaimed 'Lordship' to start with, but such people often wound up in some kind of hideous accident and, over the years, the public had learned it was simply best not to argue... for their life's sake. And now, He was allowed to drain every penny he could from the city and into his own paws. With the avarice flowing with roots of decay, so did the city wither and die. Though it was not out of mere greed or spite he wished to disembowel the city, no. His goal was far... greater.

This land was all dust and sand. This land was infertile. This land was frost at night and stifling in the day. And this land was mocked by its better-off twin. This land — His land — was ever in the shadow of a better, greater city... and He would never be content, until he called the city of Zootopia his own.

He paced soundlessly across the polished floor towards a mahogany chair and sat back into it easily. He sat forwards upon the table and pulled a heavy, black rotary-dial telephone over towards himself, from which he picked up the bakelite receiver, and spoke.

"Secretary Appleby, get in touch with my contacts in Zootopia, get Nyilas on the phone." His voice was soft and smooth as silk — the kind of voice you could become lost in — with a musical quality and a lightness that made his speech a joy to listen to... and all but impossible to try to disobey.

"And run me a bath," he continued, raising his feet leisurely onto the expensive desk of power, "I need to scrub myself from the filth of this city."

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Like a streak of lightning, the door at the front end of the bullpen burst open, and the impending and inexorable form of Chief Bogo stormed in. The officers who had started jeering at his coming were silenced by the very manner of his presence. All officers' attention was drawn, instantly and without question, to their chief. All from the largest elephant to the smallest rabbit... even Nick was undeniably struck by the appearance.

"Officers!" Bogo boomed, all eyes upon him, "This drug spree ends now, right here, right this moment. It will not be an easy task, and I grant you, there will doubtless-be splinter groups, who will carry on importing and selling drugs until the last of them are snuffed out. However, by dusk tonight, you: the finest damn officers in all Zootopia... in all Zoophon! You will have brought down the crushing blow upon the heads of those responsible. With the information provided by a key witness, Mister Black, and the deft detective work of Officers Hopps and Wilde, we now know all we need to know to make our pinnacle move against them," his voice became lower, yet more powerful and moving, as he leaned over his lectern.

"This," he continued, "has been the largest, single threat to Zootopia in recorded history. Not since before the forming of the Reformation of Species Pred/Prey for Cultural Amalgamation, which declared all mammals equal and foreboded the eating of the small by the large. The world then was torn by constant war between the ruling races, but never since has the shadow of a threat been lain across our city like this. The damage they have caused is immeasurable: not only from spreading addictions throughout the populous, but of draining this city's financial resources, and of impairing its active work force.”

"The sheer volume of illegal substance entering this city is unacceptable. The amount of people required to farm, ship and sell the drugs must be enormous. The amount of wealth, whatever heathen runs this operation has gained, must be tremendous. I admit," Bogo added grimly through a pause of scorn, "the odds do not appear to be in your favor. We may know the name of a mammal high-up, one 'Victor Nyilas'. But we know very little more than that… and yet..." A strong smile grew on his face, "We still have the advantage. And the advantage is right in here with me… You." Briskly, Bogo moved around the barrier and straightened before all his officers, addressing them with might and main.

"They don't just hoof out police badges in school Lucky Bags, after all! And I know every last one of you has worked your guts out to be where you are today. I am proud of you. Very proud, of all of you. No matter how large this gang is, they are merely in passing. This, structured, secure civilization, is set in stone. And you, each and every one, unanimously and without exception, are its guardians." Bogo somehow became even higher, his voice rising louder than they had ever heard it before. "Guardians, you hear me?"

"Yes-Sir!" the room cheered.

"And who do you protect?"

"Zootopia!"

"Who, do you, protect?"

"Zootopia!"

"Good! Now then," he shouted, quieting the cheering, "confidence speech over, time for the facts. Three days ago, Tuesday, the abandoned industrial building, Ladders and Ladders and Co, sustained heavy damage from a fire. For the following evening and the morning of the next day, I had Officers Hopps and Wilde investigate this outbreak. Together, they found traces of an alcoholic fire accelerator and some form of incendiary device. Alongside that," he added, feigning cheerfulness, "a body. So well done Hopps and Wilde." Bogo stopped and picked up the report on the fire, which included what Judy had written.

"Our forensics team, and the Officers of the Murder Investigation Bureau, established that the fennec fox killed at the scene was either knelt on the floor at the time, or shot by a larger mammal. The bullet," he continued, holding his hoof like a gun shape in the reliant place, "entered the skull around about 'here', and made egress through either the left or right eye. Then it became impaled in the opposite wall, which was later discovered by an M.I.B. Officer and identified as a bullet shot from a Ruger SR1911 Master Edition." Reaching into a drawer, he took out an old technical photograph of what Judy instantly recognized to be Nick's gun.

"The Ruger SR ME," Bogo continued through a tone of devoid humor, "is the only gun of its kind ever made, yet sadly," he lied, "the owner of this gun has not yet been ascertained." Bogo paused for a moment and watched Nick's face out of the corner of his eyes. The fox didn't even bat an eyelid. Bogo breathed in a long breath — what else could he expect from a fox — and started slowly pacing as he continued his speech.

"Also worthy of note about the fire at Ladders, is that a window was smashed in by a rock for the arsonist to gain access to the building, before the door was unlocked from the inside. Some large pieces of wood were piled up on the fourth floor to bury the corpse in, while acting as fuel. However, the window pane would have only allowed a small-sized mammal access into the building, and yet the size of some of the pieces of wood moved would have required a larger mammal. So at least two arsonists are suspected, probably more." The findings of the investigation at Ladders concluded, to which Bogo set down the report on his lectern patiently.

"Under most conditions," he started anew, "that would have been the end of it and this fire would never have been connected with the drug spree currently in operation. However, Officer Wilde picked up the scent of a fennec fox whom he recognized. Believing it to be this person, Hopps and Wilde then found and questioned the fox, Finnick, who was once a close friend of Officer Wilde," he added, glancing to Nick. Bogo thought he noticed something odd in the brief glance he gave, and looked back to the fox a second time, to which the gaze turned into steel at the disgruntling sight.

Nick was sat there on the chair next to Judy — his aviator shades back on to hide his black eye — with nothing more than a smug grin on his face... holding paws with Judy under the table. He didn't actually have to see their limbs, Bogo could tell just by the angle of their arms and the blush on the rabbit’s face. He was so damn cocky.

Bogo’s rage began chipping away upon his face, hence that awful grin died in a flash.

...

"You do realize, Sir, that Officer Nick Wilde may be the very mammle we seek, who is in charge of this drug operation?"

"What?" Bogo answered in disbelief, the volume of his voice growing as he spoke, "You mean the mastermind behind it all: the mammal in charge of importing shipments of drugs from another country. The administrator behind organizing and facilitating the movement of drugs from shipment to warehouse to dealer. The supreme supervisor!" he shouted, "Of a multi-bloody-billion dollar criminal operation... who still has time to work five days a week as a copper!?"

Jack's gaze crashed to the table, where he and Bogo were sat either side ofThat statement did seem a little far-fetched, even to him. Bogo rested in his chair and looked disinterestedly around the sparsely furnished and whitewashed walls of the small interrogation room he and Savage occupied.

"I think, Sir," Jack trod, softly, "we can be fairly sure Wilde is most definitely not at the head of the operation. But I do believe he is in some way connected."

"Pish-tosh. Don't talk rot."

"Let us, Sir," he said, trying to calm Bogo, "take a step back from this, shall we? Let us examine purely the facts of the operation."

Bogo realized he was getting too involved, thus becoming 'irrational'. "Be quick about it, Savage," he grumbled, glancing to the clock, "I have to get down to roll call in five minutes."

"Let's take a look at these in purely chronological order, Sir. First, we know that he had direct access to his father’s supply of drugs on the night of his death—"

"Officer Wilde was never under suspicion for the death of his father!"

"And yet," Jack countered, "the fact remains true. Before," he continued from where he had left off, "rather uncharacteristically going to an up-'til-late-party, despite the fact, when questioned at the time, his mother had said that he rarely left the house, except when he had to."

"What are you implying?" Bogo shot, impatiently, "That Wilde spiked his father’s drug supply to intentionally give him an overdose, before heading to a party for a conveniently provable alibi?"

"Why not?" Jack asked without a shadow of a doubt.

Bogo brought his face close to Jack's. "He, was, seventeen."

There was deafness with the intrusions of the clock’s ticks. Jack gazed calmly into Bogo's blazing eyes. The rabbit waited for the emotion and confrontation to fade form Bogo’s face, and for him to sit back in his chair as he had been, before replying, "This is merely a stating of the facts as we know them... Sir."

"And these 'facts'," Bogo vexed, "seem to be very much against Officer Wilde."

"I would be willing to accept that these may just be unfortunate coincidences, Sir. If you would be willing to likewise accept that these might also be criminal acts performed by Wilde intentionally."

"Believe him capable of thoughtless murder? And yet capable of falling in love with Officer Hopps?"

"If our fears are recognized, and Wilde truly is the unsavory character he could be, his relationship with Hopps to him is nothing more than a display of emotional power. It may be he feels no real fondness or attraction to Judy Hopps, beyond a sexual one, that is. And that he merely wishes to show dominance over her."

"Goddamn you, Jack," Bogo huffed in doubt, "I thought you were with me on the idea of the two of them being together. Must you always stand completely against how I feel?"

"If I want you to equally consider both sides of the argument, yes, Sir."

Bogo squinted. "You mean you intentionally and actively stand against what I believe to make me think harder on the subject?"

"Yes, Sir. If I merely agreed with whatever you said, you may reach a conclusion quicker. But you would never have considered the matter in such depth, would you?"

"... I thought you were just being an arse."

A thin smile grew on Jack's face. "That too... Sir. Of course, the most damning piece of evidence is that this Frank character… if that is indeed his name, was murdered by the very gun in Wilde's possession."

"One of two guns, Savage. We haven't located the other yet."

"The other," Jack countered, "which just happens to have belonged to Wilde's former romantic partner: Scarlett. Who, incidentally, was violently murdered one night several years ago. Whom, coincidentally, Wilde just happened to be suspect number one, for a second time."

"We may not consider Wilde as Scarlett's murderer," Bogo shot, "that charge was dropped many years ago now."

"Only due to lack of evidence, Sir. Not due to proof of innocence."

"He never so much as went to court."

"But he was jailed for her murder."

"Provisionally only."

Jack tutted and slumped back. If Bogo wasn’t even prepared to listen to his suggestions, why was he even here? "Remind me again," Bogo said, tiresomely, "why it is we're hiding the fact we know there are two guns, and that one of them belongs to Wilde?"

"Simple," Jack smiled, "it's so he doesn't know he's under suspicion. Call me speciest if you must, but Wilde… he is a fox and an experienced hustler. He could more than easily cover his tracks with such skill that even I would be hard-pushed to discover if he's been misbehaving. But if he isn't aware he's being watched... he doesn't know to watch his thread."

Bogo looked down at the table, thoughtfully. At heart, he still didn't like the sound of any of this, and yet, he knew he was bound by law to continue to investigate the fox's involvement. "You don't... you don't suppose it could be a set up? You know, to frame Wilde."

A single, dry laugh left the rabbit's lips. "I can think of easier ways of framing someone, Sir," he now chuckled in reply, a grin upon his face, "I mean, if I wanted to frame someone, I'd probably just stab the guy's lover, hide the murder weapon in his house, alongside some letters from her address to another mammle to make it look like she was having an affair. Then I’d let the whole thing look like an act of passion! I think the whole 'criminal drug shipment of epic proportions' is a little bit overkill for the sake of incriminating one officer."

Bogo sighed and sat back, looking off the side. He gazed out through one of the thin cracks in the lowered blinds, out through the window, beyond which he could see the glistening city and the harsh light of the sun, as it climbed ever-higher through the morning sky. Jack observed him with dulled interest. Bogo accidently noticed the clock tho, and realized that it was over. "I have to go," he remembered, standing, "roll call starts now."

"Sir," Jack called, "one more word." Bogo paused and half-turned to the rabbit, stood halfway between the interrogation room and the corridor.

"Bogo, when all is said and done, Officers Ho—" Jack sighed, "Nick and Judy are still… as you yourself said, the very best officers in the ZPD. Now, Nick may or may not be innocent. But either way, at this pinnacle point in the investigation of the drug spree... and Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps working together on this may be the final push needed to bring this gang to an end." Savage crept closer on the table, earnestly. "You must continue to use Wilde in this case. Or else all may slip through your fingers."

Bogo remained in the shadows of silence, until nothing more than two small words cracked his lips, "Thanks, Jack." The door then closed, shutting soundlessly behind him.

With an airy sigh, Jack moved back low in his chair. He raised his arms and rested his paws behind his head, his legs coming up to rest on the table. He stared blankly at the whitewash wall as he thought — the cogs in his mind ever-turning.

...

Bogo brought his mind back from his recollections. Nick's smugness had shriveled to a nervous frown, and Judy had gone from just holding his paw to hugging his arm protectively with an apprehensive-such of her own.

Opening his mouth, Bogo moved on, slowly, "The findings... of this—" he found his throat dry — the result of too much talking and not enough sleep, and just one too many celebratory glasses of brandy. He paced back to his lectern and poured a glass of water — the room following his movements as he tipped back the large container. He set it down on the wood’s rim, with a dull thunk, before attempting to re-ignite the engine again.

"The findings of this interview were recorded upon Officer Hopps' famous carrot pen. During questioning, Finnick: real name, Finnegan Depesdo, revealed a number of important facts which would’ve otherwise gone unknown. Firstly, the identity of the murder victim. It is impossible to 'officially' identify the murder victim, due to the severe damage caused by the fire itself. However, Finnegan's brother, Frankfurt, appears to be the likeliest candidate. Not only was Mister Depesdo able to provide us with the victim's identity, but of his movements also. When asked, Finnick claimed his long-estranged brother had come to him asking for one thousand zevs to purchase a crate of illegal substance. Such is cheap, to sell on for a high profit. He was to purchase it from the disused industrial building, Ladders and Ladders... and you don't need me to point out the connection." A few officers chuckled, but Bogo silenced them with a glare of discipline.

"If true, this suggests that this drug operation uses a number of key buildings or 'hives', if you will. They act as a center point to sell drugs off to independent drug dealers, who will then sell them on to drug users, rather than standing on the streets and putting themselves at risk. It’s easier to have scapegoats. In essence, it’s the same kind of operation that car manufacturers tend to have. Car manufactures make cars, yet they do not deal with selling the cars off to the public themselves. Instead, they sell them in mass to major car dealers and salesmen, leaving the middlemen to deal with commercialization."

Bogo leaned back on the side of his spot, resting his palms on the board behind him as he talked, "Owing, once again, to information provided by Mister Black, we now know that there are ten such 'hives' currently in operation, including Ladders and Ladders. They may or may not yet have a replacement. After Black... 'questioned' the coyote, who is apparently in charge of the important drugs from the shipment, he was informed the name of another one of the ten Hives. It was the company Erkin Enterprise, which I have already checked in the police database. It appears to be a perfectly legitimate busies. But we'll soon see just how legitimate tonight…”

"Now, in accordance with the murder of Frank, it is my belief, that he was killed by those in command of selling drugs at Ladders after he threatened them with blackmail. In other words, he demanded he be given a discount or else he would give incriminating evidence over to the police. If he didn't return, a friend would do it for him. I suspect the drug traffickers then proceeded to kill Frank and then burn down the factory, thus wiping away all evidence of drug sales, and covering themselves should this 'friend of Frank' try and hoof the incriminating evidence over to us: the ZPD. However, they have helped us in this more than harmed us, as the number of dealings in that area has been reduced to zilch since it burnt down, more or less proving it was, in fact , a Hive for further drug sales. We are yet to identify the other eight Hives, but it is my hope we will find out some names and locations when we raid Erkin tonight."

Bogo finally paused to allow that statement to settle. He stood from supporting himself to moving in the center in direct sight to all his officers. "So, to sum up, we know how and why the victim at Ladders and Ladders was murdered. We know where the drugs enter the city from and how they are sold. We know the location of one of only nine remaining Hives in operation, and we know the name of the crook in charge: Victor Nyilas. Today, we will scramble to find out as much information as we can about this operation and its surrounding network. Including, hopefully, where these drugs are grown and shipped from, and if Nyilas truly is at the top. Then this evening, at five-thirty, we will storm Erkin Enterprises, and show those drug runners just what it means to go against the cops of the ZPD."

Reaching behind him, Bogo swiftly picked up the five documents, which he hoofed to the officers in question. "Trunkaby, McHorn, Fangmeyer and Delgato: I want the four of you patrolling the city docks. Another shipment so soon is highly unlikely, but I want each of you to search the harbor with a fine-tooth comb. Keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior and see if there's any way of finding out where that shipment of drugs originated from.”

"Snarlov, Wolfard: you two are to go back to Frankfurt Depesdo's house and tare the place apart. If my suspicions are correct, somewhere in there, is proof that drugs were being bought and sold from Ladders and Ladders. Take a truck with you. Confiscate all his belongings for forensic examination.

"Grizzoli, Rhinowitz, Higgins: a simple job for you three. Find out who the hell this Nyilas character is. Check the police database, go down to city council, check the parish records. I don't care how you find him, just get everything you can on this... even whatever species he is by five o'clock, or you'll be on parking duty for the remaining duration of this case!" At hearing the added threat, the three officers concern-rushed to get out the door first, barging past their colleagues in their bid to avoid the ZPD's second worst job. But Bogo's voice stopped them — stopped everyone — as it called out again.

"One more note before you get to your assignments. You're to keep away from Erkin Enterprise itself, understand? They cannot know we are organizing a raid for this evening. If they’re willing to torch Ladders just for the sake of one independent mammal, just think what they'd be willing to do if they knew we were coming. And one more thing," he shouted as the last of them left, "I want everyone back here, in full tactical armor by five p.m. for the raid on Erkin. Any questions? Good," he said before anyone could ask, "let’s roll out!"

The last of the officers made to rush out in hurried excitement, leaving only three mammals in the bullpen remaining. "And last," the Chief took in a long breath to calm himself, "but definitely not least: Officers Hopps... and Wilde."

His gaze lingered on the fox a moment longer than necessary before he pulled himself away. Steps were being taken, whether Wilde was dirty or innocent, it was imperative at this moment that he had all hoofs working for the raid tonight. "I need all my officers. But for this mission I need my best. And I need to be able to trust both of you entirely. I have to let myself..." Bogo became aware he was mostly talking to himself now — confusing Nick and Judy, who were watching with some small concern. Grunting, Bogo moved behind his lectern and sat down to the closest chair, while adding more words to the room, "Officers. Together, the two of you have made more headway with this case than I could even begin to think was possible. You have shown endless energy in persuading and discovering more proof and insight into how the drug runners operate in this city. All that we now know would not have been possible without your aid. I am not ashamed to admit it: I am indebted to you. Both of you."

Judy's ears were already pricking up at the compliment. That was praise of the highest order from Bogo. Even Nick appeared visibly pleased.

"But, I must sadly ask you to do one more... rather dangerous, mission for me. I have… as you now know, everything in place I need to perform the raid on Erkin. Except for one thing... a warrant. As it stands, we are lacking the proof of probable cause I need to get us a search warrant justified. If I am to convince the judge to give written consensus to enter a public building of this nature, I need some hard evidence. I need someone on the inside."

It clicked with Judy first, she snapped forwards on the table, keeping one paw firmly held in Nick's, as she asked, "Into... into the lion's den? I thought you told everyone to stay away from Erkin in case they suspected we'd be raiding them later."

"Yes, Hopps, I know. And if you and Wilde were not the very best officers in my employment I would never ask you to do so now. However, you are the best, and I believe the two of you are capable of getting proof of the kind of operation they’re running."

Judy looked down at the table. She braced herself, took in a small breath, and reminded herself she was an officer of the ZPD, and that it was her duty to stand strong, being the force of justice between the innocent and the sinful. The life of a police officer was a dangerous one. She had to do this. She released the hold on Nick and placed her paws on the table. "What would you have us do?"

"Your instructions are in this file," Bogo answered, leaning back in his chair and slapping down the document on top of two sheets of paper — two sheets of paper, which he was careful to make sure were covered by the file so that Judy only saw it after picking it up. She slipped down from her and Nick's shared chair and onto the floor, hence pacing over towards Bogo's desk. Nick, likewise, hopped down onto the floor, but remained on his spot. Judy leapt on an adjacent chair and was now level with Bogo’s desk’s top. He pushed the file to the edge of it — the two pieces of paperwork still beneath it — and Judy picked up the file while thanking him. She spotted the fine detail at last, instinctively. Her eye was just drawn towards it like a magnet to iron.

There were two of them — two legal forms. At the top of each page was written, in pen, a name. One: Judith L. Hopps, on the other: Nicholas P. Wilde. She scanned the page. It was all filled in — everything — with the signature of the Chief scribbled at the bottom. Her expression rose to look at Bogo — his face as stony and impassive as ever.

"Whatcha got there, Carrots," Nick asked with forced cheerfulness, while he paced over to see what had caused the rabbit to freeze up in such a way. The fox climbed up onto the chair beside her, and his reaction was none less different than the doe’s.

Bogo sighed. "Read it out," he prompted.

Judy blinked, looking back down to the page. "Application for Police Learning and Development Program (IPLDP), leading to Level 3 Diploma in Policing (QCF), training for promotion to..." Judy stared at the word... "for promotion to Detective Inspector?" She gawked at Bogo with a stunned amazement of disbelief.

Bogo smiled, thinly. "You get us that warrant," he added, "and I may even think about sending them off for approval."

Nick glanced between Judy and Bogo. He may not have liked the idea of his lover being put in any more danger than absolutely necessary, but this was Judy's dream — and skipping the rank of Inspector to go straight to Detective Inspector? — that was no small feat. This had to be done. "We'll do whatever it takes, Sir," Nick took initiative, both mammals looking over to him as he slipped his polarized glasses off his muzzle and winked, "you can count on us."

Bogo nodded, while Judy saluted with incredible respect, and the two officers made egress from the room.

Bogo sighed, slowly, gazing down at the two Policing Diploma applications before him, the fox's last words ringing round and around his head.

"I hope so," he muttered out loud. "I sincerely hope so."

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

The rising moon cast its pale light upon the shadows and cold sands of the desert earth. The black spike of the Lord's Royal Tower glowed faintly like a ghostly apparition in the cold, blue light. Through the high, black doors, which operated on the backs of large, castiron hinges, lied an intertwined and complex system of narrow halls and labyrinthine corridors.

The design of the Tower — its tall and narrow construction — had prevented its long-forgotten builders from carving rooms of any great width or depth, hence the rooms were small, yet many. The ceilings were tall enough for mammals of any size, and often carved in peculiar shapes to allow other halls and corridors to fit neatly beside them, without breaking into an opposing room or, worse still, chipping an unfixable gap in the side of the tower.

The corridors of this Tower were long and winding — with slopes and spiral staircases — which slipped like serpents between rooms and other corridors, an unmappable, complex maze of chambers and stairways. Few could navigate their way from point A to point B without becoming lost. Only one knew the layout of the whole place by heart.

The craftsmen, who built the tower over an age ago, had been faultless in their construction. In over a thousand occasions, the slightest of errors on the part of the builder would have spoiled the overall effect — two corridors may not have joined up, the floor of a room may have been tilted off-center, the hall of one room may have come too close to the hall of another and broken through — yet all was designed to perfection.

The Lord's Royal Tower was, at one time, alive and busy with the comings and goings of the Republic of the City Council, who once administrated the city of Zistopia... before He had come, before the dark times had befell, before 'The Master' took matters into his own two paws.

The gray-clad figure's foot came upon the last, black step of a long, black staircase. He reached out a soft paw and parted the tall, black doors with a single push. The doors swept back without complaint, accepting without question the will of its master's paw. The Lord of Zistopia stepped from the cold of the corridor and into the warm, steamy air of the Royal Tower's bath chamber, while Sir Appleby — secretary, valet and butler to Zistopia's Lord and all his domestic affairs — nodded to Him in acknowledgment, and then poured another bucket of steaming water into the wide, circular bathtub which had been carved into a piece of elevated rock many eons ago.

The tall, male badger stepped back respectfully from the full bathtub to allow his Master to enter, hence wordlessly informing Him that his bath was ready. The Lord liked Appleby: he knew his place and he kept to himself. He would obey any order given and was always apt and efficient in his doing of the task, and would glide noiselessly out of the room to perform it. The very calmness and infallible logic, with which his mind worked in, had always been of credit to the Lord's own sharp mind. But what He liked most was that there was far more to the badger than met the eye. Further, he always kept neat and clean, dressing each day in what would be best described as the traditional valet's outfit: dark suit, spotless white shirt, crisply pressed trousers, and he never allowed a spot of dislike to linger anywhere in the surroundings for long.

But one of the finest things about Sir Appleby was that he always seemed to know exactly what was going on. There was a time when the Lord had been disturbed by this, and had taken precautionary steps to have him... 'erased'. But as the years passed on, He came to understand, Sir Appleby's loyalty lied with the Lord of Zistopia and the Lord of Zistopia only.

Zistopia's lord stepped towards the steaming pool of water, slipped his moonlight-gray bathrobe from his shoulders and handed it over to Appleby, who folded it with expert ease — unabashed by the fact his Master was now naked before him. No, that old badger had seen worse things over the years and was far too much a professional to so much as bat an eyelid anyway.

The sleek body of Zistopia's lord was toned and shimmered in the soft light. His jet-black fur was as smooth as his own voice while his lips opened to reveal his reflective-alabaster teeth. His eyes were bright and shone with the glittering color of gold. His paws were swift and dexterous. He was a panther, his fur black as Death itself.

He walked and moved with a kind of sophisticated charm, and held the manner and air of one who knew he could never be bested, one who knew He held all the cards. The Lord of Zistopia breathed contentedly, as he stepped into the watery heat. He sat, ran the pad of a black paw across one arm and grimaced at the numerous grains of sand which dislodged from his usually smooth fur. Reaching out, he picked up a scrubbing brush and started roughing the filth away from his natural coat.

"Sir," said Appleby, his voice not precisely humorless, yet dry and perfectly logical, "Mister Nyilas is now available for communication."

The Lord’s gaze slowly rose. "It's over twenty minutes since I asked, isn't it?"

"Quite, Sir. He has, indeed, been most tardy in responding."

"Very well," the Lord said, returning to his scrubbing, "put him through."

"Very good, Sir." Appleby drifted from the room, pacing silently into another, opposite from which he returned a moment later, carrying a laptop computer. He walked to stand directly in front of his Lordship and opened the laptop, revealing a moving image of Victor Nyilas. The badger remained motionlessly holding the laptop in his Master's direction as He spoke, obediently and patiently waiting for his Master to be done.

The image of Victor Nyilas, spoke, "My Lord," he started, "it's good to see—"

"Less of a delay is required next time, I think."

"I, I couldn't just leave! I was giving my students a lectu—"

"Come again?" His soft gaze rose to meet the Professor's. Victor was a billy goat past his prime, who sat nervously upon an office chair and behind a large desk. His fur was mostly a brownish-gray, but for several patches of offish-white, and he had two tan horns which formed curls just above his flat ears.

The goat stuttered, his focus failing and lowering to his desk a moment later. "N-n-nothing, your Lordship."

"That's better," the Lord nodded and then smiled as he relaxed back into his wide, circular bathtub, making a low groaning sound as the soft heat further enveloped his fur and skin. Nyilas sat silently while he waited for what he knew was to come. It did. "Now, this matter of our most recent drug-shipment—"

"I did all I could, your Lordship," Nyilas pleaded, "but what happened was out of my power! I couldn't—"

"You should have been able to detain one old shiphand in his late sixties," the Lord cut in, his usually musical tone of voice replaced with one of iron will, one that had the strength to make all who’d hear it flinch. "And your failure to do this simple task surgeons to me that you intentionally allowed this dog… this Shuck, to escape."

"My Lord, I would never—"

"And we know what happens to turncoats, don't we?"

Victor Nyilas shuffled further into his seat, as though unconsciously trying to hide beneath his desk’s cover. The Lord of Zistopia appeared to have lost interest in speaking with him as his gaze fell away, and his leg became exposed from beneath the water and onto the edge of the luxurious bathtub. He took back his brush and then started purifying the jet-black fur of his limb.

Nyilas picked up the courage to speak, "Sir, I... I entrusted the coyote, George, to protect the shipment. I wasn't even there! This is his fault that—"

"George the Coyote is an idiot," He said without looking up, "that's why he's useful. You should have known full well it would be unwise to trust him with something of importance."

"My... my Lord, I do, humbly, beg your forgiveness!"

"Begging is of no use to our cause though, is it? What is of use to our cause is money— and lots of it. Money," He continued, tersely, "provided by our vast network of drug trafficking."

"Surely you have enough by now."

"Not quite," the Lord said, simply. "But soon, very soon, we will have gathered enough to initiate stage two. And then... well..." he chuckled, dryly, "like a line of dominoes, the rest will just come tumbling down on its own accord."

"God," the goat muttered to himself, "if but they knew of the future that awaits them."

The Lord's now-piercing gaze rose once again. "But of course, they’re not going to know, are they?"

Once again, fear grew in the billy goat's mind, and his eyes scurried away onto the desk. "Certainly not, my Lord."

The Lord smiled, but it was one full of deceit. "Tonight... there will be another shipment of drugs t—"

"B-but, my Lord, the guards!"

"The guards will not be there." Victor was fully flummoxed, the Lord continued, "For six o'clock tonight, Chief Bogo, the head of the Zootopia Police Department, has organized a police raid on... on one of our hives. When this happens, he will order all officers to attend, leaving the docks free for another shipment to enter... seeing as how the last shipload was cut short."

"Wouldn't it be better to take precautionary steps against them?"

"Your job is to follow orders, Nyilas, not to think. And anyway, if we took precautionary steps to disallow officers’ access to the building, then they may be reassigned to the post of guarding the docks, hence we may, yet again, be foiled."

"So the Hive being found out is—"

"A necessary sacrifice, yes."

The goat frowned. "How do you know what the police are planning?"

The Lord's gaze rose to meet the goat’s. "That is not your concern. All you need know is that Officers Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde will be attempting to sneak into the premises of Erkin Electrical at some point this afternoon. They must be allowed to do this. They must find proof of foul play."

"Hopps and Wilde? You wanted them dead, didn't you?"

"No," he shot, sitting forwards through disdain, "only the rabbit should die. You hear me? The fox lives!" The goat watched nervously as his Master slowly retreated back in the bath. The Lord smiled, a thin grin spreading quickly across the length of his black muzzle. "The fox lives. But leave the rabbit to me," He said, "I have..." a number of short, mocking little laughs escaped his lips.

"... I have another operative working on her. Your job, is to oversee tonight's shipment personally, and—"

"— but my Lord—"

"— and to ensure nothing comes between me and success. Understand?"

Victor's gaze faltered, but he managed to hold it with the Lord's own. "I... I understand perfectly, my Lord."

"And this time, Mister Nyilas, you will not fail me."

"N-not at all, M-master."

The Lord scrubbed dirt absently from beneath his claws. "Because you know what will happen if you fail, don't you?" he asked. "By your paw or by mine: it will happen." The Lord of Zistopia watched Nyilas from the corner of his eye, as the goat stuttered silently and shrank back within himself. The Lord leaned forwards, a wry smile growing on his lips. "Well," he said as he reached for the 'end call' button, "I'm glad we understood one another. Be seeing you." And then, with a click, the image of Victor Nyilas vanished into black.

The Lord of Zistopia smiled, and his eyes fell closed as he relaxed sat low in the steamy warmth of his comforts. He chuckled a couple of times, then one of his eyes half-opened. "You are dismissed, Secretary Appleby."

"Thank you, Sir," replied the stony badger. He bowed, closed the laptop, turned and glided steadily from the room, the high black door of the jutting stone tower closing with a recurring clunk, which echoed around the polished stone walls, ceiling and floor.

The black panther chuckled once more as his paws came to rest behind his head, sitting back further into the soft heat and leering out through the high, glass windows that were cut expertly into the side of the black tower...

He looked upon the shining-white of the moon as it whispered upon the squalor of Zistopia's streets and the ethereally glowing grandeur of its Royal Tower.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

Nick wandered through the backways of his mind, recalling and remembering all the memories of his past. Most were painful, a few were pleasant, but that was not the important thing. The important thing was that Nick was mentally able to let himself remember them.

That night, last night, on the roof of his apartment, Nick knew that he had torn open the wounds of his past to Judy. As poison was drawn from a wound, the blood of emotion had bled out into his soul, leaving his body weak and his mind tormented. Without the healing powers and the love of the sweet-smelling bunny to aid him, bunny who had sat beside him in the cold night air, the fox knew that he could never have hoped to ever escape the shadow of his past.

And yet the wounds of sorrow, the rabbit had all but wrenched open, were closed. They weren’t just bandaged and covered up, hidden within himself as they had been for so many years, but truly and blessedly... closed. With the healing process now having begun, not that they would’ve been healed overnight, nor would’ve Nick ever been truly freed of the scars they had left behind, but at least now the fox no longer had to convince himself that he didn't care about his past and pretend it had never happened. He could accept his lot as it was, come to terms with it and move on.

It had happened... it just didn't bother Wilde anymore. Nick somewhat drew himself back to the moment at paw and sat back in his chair, an ear flicking in adjudication and anxiety at what was to come later this day.

Nick had woken up with the sense that today was going to be a very long and difficult day and that sense still held firm. He couldn't quite put it into words, though he still had this... feeling, this indefinable thing that told him something big was at paw. Nick drew himself back from his broodings fully, hoping to distract himself from the ominously sinking feeling that made him want to take Judy home and hide her under the sheets. It made him feel like a rat in a sinking ship, thus he turned to the gray-furred rabbit as she pulled the ZPD cruiser to a stop before some red traffic lights.

"So, Carrots," he engaged, putting a wry smile over his concern in the way he was so skilled at, "what's the plan? Run in Erkin guns-ablaze or sneak in there subtly like that Joanna character from Perfect Bark?"

Judy turned to him, her brow furrowed as she answered, "What do you mean 'what's the plan?' We talked through all this before we left the station!"

"Yeah... I may have accidently stopped listening to what we were actually talking about and started focusing on... something else."

"Nick," Judy tutted, turning back to the road, "it was me and you stood alone in our office. What was there to distract you?" Nick smirked, leaned close to her ear and whispered something to which Judy started back in shock... then giggled, and brought a paw to her mouth to cover her embarrassed, yet flattered, laughter as she glanced over to him. A blush grew on her face while a grin overtook Nick’s.

"You do wear a very tight pair of jeans, after all."

Judy controlled the blush while her face bloomed sultry. "That can come later, darling."

"Apt choice of words, sweetheart."

Her blush crimsoned. "N-no," she stuttered, "I said 'come', Nick, come! Spelt c-o—"

"I know what you meant, you multiplication-mad little minx."

"Nick, I... I—" Judy drew herself hurriedly back from where that conversation was going and focused on the fact that the traffic light had turned green. She shifted the car into gear and pulled it neatly away, being careful to avoid stalling the car like she had last time when things had gotten a little heated at a similar red light.

"So," she tried after calm had entered the air, "since you conveniently lost yourself to thinking about thrusting your meat between my legs 'til I'm sent over the edge—" Nick coughed and choked beside her, a blush just becoming visible at the back of his red neck; consequently, Judy smiled while watching stealthily. Nick could dance circles with playful implications all day, but whenever Judy wanted to get her own back, all she had to do was be blunt and untactful, and he would be blushing and stuttering in a matter of a second."... Then I guess we better go through it all again."

"Erhm," he muttered, "I— I... I guess."

The rabbit glanced to him, a smug smile on her lips for getting him flustered further more. Life was a competition with Nick, but it did keep them on their toes. "Well," she hummed, "the mission objective only states we have to get Bogo a warrant to search the place. That means we don't actually have to go inside or anywhere near Erkin if we can help it, only as a last resort. So I thought: rather than marching right on into the lion's den, we should try and find out everything we can about them first."

"Makes sense to me," Nick approved, resting an arm on the side of the door and gazing out ahead casually, still flustered but doing his best to hide it, "I mean, you never know. If their paperwork’s dodgy, we might even get enough for a warrant from the dirt on that."

"Precisely."

"We're heading for Registry House, then?"

"Yep!"

"You know where it is?"

"... Not exactly," Judy muttered in humiliation.

"And you were taking us this direction, why?"

There was a long, uncertain pause… "Instinct?"

Nick shook his head at her playfully. "It's not hard to find. It's just on The Ringroad near Admin Tower's southern complex. You'll spot it. Just carry on down here." Judy did as Nick instructed, continuing her drive through the morning rush-hour traffic as it started to disband to normal-level traffic with the minutes ticking on. Very soon, the streets would be relatively quiet, like they would be through the rest of the day, before picking up again come the time of evensong and the rush-hour that usually followed after that.

Judy huffed slightly as she came to a stop at another set of traffic lights, behind another line of cars that was unhappily stagnated by the traffic, which lied upon the roads almost as thick as the heat that hung in the air. "So," Judy started, due to the boredom of the tedious interlude, "Erkin, Nick: know anything about them?"

"Arrh, not really. Unlike Ladders and Ladders, me an' Fin never took the time to find out anything about the place."

"You mean, 'you never saw fit to rob it?'"

"Well... yeah. I mean, there's probably some pretty expensive equipment in there, but it's not abandoned like Ladders. All I really know is their full title is Erkin Electrical Enterprises. I don't know who runs the place or who started it. I don't know what they make, exactly, or who they make it for. I don't know if they supply businesses with computers or fix hearing aids for old grannies."

"But we know it's something to do with electrics."

"And we know they must have an active presence in the city. You've seen their trucks from time to time, right?"

"Yeah, white trucks, aren't they? With a green, 'EEE' insignia on the side." The light changed green again, and Judy set back off down the long, wide road. She added nothing as she pulled away, the car suddenly still with thoughtful silence, before Judy remembered what she was trying to add and broke it. "Nick, didn't we pull one of their vans over for something a few months ago?"

"You know, I think we did. And you know what that means, don't you?"

"Yeah. Well, nearly. I can feel it on the tip of my tongue... or, mind."

"Carrots," Nick prompted, "what's the worst job in the ZPD?"

"Parking duty?"

"No," Nick argued, "we agreed that was the second. The first was—"

"Paperwork! The details of the Erkin van we pulled over will be in the paperwork!"

"Including a run-down of the kind of stock they were carrying.

"Clawhauser," Judy called, now into the radio, "respond." Anticipation turned to fester on the nerves of impatience that soared in the constricted air. Judy was drumming her fingers on the receiver and was about to call-out once more—

"Clawhauser, responding."

"We need you to dig up some info for us," the rabbit replied back efficiently, "we can't remember when exactly, but about two months ago now, Wilde and I pulled over a van belonging to the Electrics company: Erkin Enterprises. Do you think you could tell us its cargo?"

"Boy, the two of you pull a lot of cars over. Can you remember what it was for, exactly?" the cheetah asked.

Judy looked to Nick for support, but he was only able to provide her with a startled expression and a shrug of shoulders. "Sorry, Claw, that's a negative."

"Okay Hopps," Clawhauser called back, "it might take a while then, but I'll get it for you."

"Thanks Ben, you're a lifesaver." The radio crackled, then went silent. Judy turned to Nick, grinning. "Nick, you are a genius."

"I know, darlin'. I know."

Judy giggled amidst the dance of affection that overtook her energetic eyes. "Gimme a kiss."

"What, just... just like that?" Judy's reply didn't come verbally, but she did reply physically by slowing down the car at another set of traffic lights, reaching out a paw and gripping Nick by his tie that she tugged. His head met hers for a sudden, yet powerful, kiss on the lips that spread a taste of honey to her mind and stem.

Judy giggled and returned all attention back to the road to help hide her embarrassment. Nick's face was flushed with heat, and he swiftly turned away likewise and rested his head on the window so he could look out in a light daze... A silver car in the next lane pulled up to a stop directly beside them, unable to move further forwards for the cars in front; ergo, Nick's face came to be staring directly at the car's driver through the driver-side window.

The fox’s brow started to furrow. The black-striped rabbit, who was sitting in the driver's seat of the car, remained utterly motionless in his seat, gazing, nonplused, out of the front window and not acknowledging Nick in any way, shape or form. It wasn’t just some rabbit with unique stripes of black, this one was too familiar to not to be easily recognized as none other than… Jack. Nick frowned into the window with the sub-conscious reaction that wanted to attract the attention of the rabbit and prove the truth, but before anything substantial would happen, the light flashed into green and the patrol car rolled forward.

Nick observed the rabbit’s car fully, until it moved in another direction and passed out of sight, yet all it did was to further his suspicions and assertions. Eventually, Nick sat back in his seat and said nothing, his mind deep in thought.

Judy beside him was oblivious to all as she drove on down the road, half-glancing to the fox when she asked, "Is it much further? Nick?" Silence was all that spoke. "Nick!"

"Carrots," the fox returned vaguely, "paw me your pen, will you?"

Judy glanced to him a second time, a questioning expression on her face, while she fished her carrot pen out of her pocket and pawed it to him. "Sure. Here...?"

"Thanks," Nick said, setting it down on the dashboard. Without a word of explanation, he clicked the 'record' button on the small orange device and spoke, his voice suddenly shifting from deep and brooding to light and conversational. "So, Hopps," he chirruped, "what exactly is the secret to growing such wonderful blueberries?" The car came to a stop at another set of traffic lights. Judy just gawped at the fox, bewildered. Slowly, Nick's head turned to face her, his eyes indicating for her to go on in a similar fashion.

"Well..." she hummed, very unsurely, "it's really more to do with being attentive to everything a plant needs, rather than just one magical secret for perfect berries—"

"Really? Sounds fractionating. Do go on!"

"It's simple when you break it down and look at the process as a set of steps," she replied, casually slipping into a normal-sounding tone of voice, "first of all you've gotta plant the seed in the right location. You have to consider how much light it's going to get, moisture absorption, minerals in the soil, what was planted there the year before. All before the seed's even planted, you know? It might be that there's a natural barrier, like a tree or a hedge, which will block sunlight to certain parts of the field at certain times of the day."

"I get it," Nick muttered, starting to suspect that Judy had forgotten about the pen and was now just lecturing him on plant husbandry. "The idea is not to put a plant there so it’d get as much sunlight as possible."

"Actually," she interjected with decline, "it depends more on the time of year, the product you're planting, the quality of the soil and the air pressure, moisture and temporal climate. You see, at times in the summer, when the sun is shining at its most intense, it may well be the plants are getting too much sunlight and getting burnt up. But if it's closer to the rainy season with thicker layers of cloud and less light getting through, a greater degree of sunlight might be wanted."

"But all plants need sunlight, right?"

"Yep. Unless it's a fungus, of course, in which case you want a darkroom kept at fifteen degrees. Now," she continued, the pen obviously forgotten, "there's also the layout of the land itself to be considered. For example: a dip in the earth means the plants will be closer to the water table and able to draw up more moisture. However, it may also mean more clay in the soil, depending on the earth. That will be drawn up into the plant with the water and minerals and can make the fruit taste kinda musky."

"A musky blueberry?"

"Nothing worse than a musky blueberry, sweetheart. Anyway, once the seed's planted, you've then gotta think about the kind of irrigation system you want to use. Dad's always liked the Claber 8053 Oasis, but I've always prefer—"

"Wow," Nick exclaimed, leaning forwards, "Judy, that was so interesting, but I think that's about as I can take at the moment." Then, the fox picked up the carrot pen-recorder and flicked it off. "Thanks," he finished, slipping it into his pocket.

Twisting the steering wheel, Judy turned the car off the road they had been driving on and onto something not unlike a gigantic roundabout. The speed limit here was, but a leisurely, five miles per hour, since this part of town was constantly full of business mammals from all the highest and most well-off walks of life. The townsmammals of the City Council area filled the Ringroad and its nearby premises. Dressed in the sharpest black suits and carrying the finest quality, imitation-leather attaché cases, they walked about the streets, full of their own pompous self-importance with their black-polished shoes glinting in the sunlight.

The Ringroad circled the Admin Tower: unarguably the most influential building in all Zoophon which stood in the centre of this gigantic roundabout, the home of the immeasurable power that governed and maintained the clockwork-runnings of the city, and the center point for the greatly inspiring guidance Zootopia had upon the rest of the world.

Driving around the outside lane of the Ringroad, the rabbit and the fox passed a number of tall and grand buildings, though none as grand as the Administrators' Tower itself. They passed a metal sign baring the words 'Registry House', and Judy turned the car swiftly into the carpark and shut off the engine. There was a long moment when nothing happened in the air-conditioned space of the car, until such a leisure didn’t seem possible anymore. "So... you gonna transcribe that into written text and study it later?"

"Something like that, yeah."

"Seriously, though, what was that all about?"

"Never you mind, my dear Hopps," he beamed with a warm smile and a wink in her direction, a warm smile and a wink which shew no signs of the concern that lied beneath.

"Just... interested?"

"Just interested."

"Then... then why—"

The fox edged forwards and kissed Judy softly on the lips. "I'm dealing with it, Judy," he reassured confidently, "it's alright. You can trust me."

Judy opened her mouth to ask another question, but Nick avoided it by pressing his lips into her opened mouth with heat and deepness of tastiest delight. Hence, when he withdrew his tongue a few seconds later, the rabbit was left in a dizzy daze of pleasure and mild amnesia.

The fox grinned, both for how satisfactory the kiss was and for the fact that he had successfully avoided that line of questioning. He opened the door of the ZPD cruiser and stepped out of the air-conditioned coolness of its interior and into the thick heat of the day outside that was as if waiting for him all this time.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

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Chapter Text

The heavy heat of the sun beat down upon the shining glass and reflective metal of Zootopia's streets. Not a breath of wind stirred in that muggy, breathless air, for the breeze which usually blew up from the south brought the cool, crisp lake essence. It was, on this day, blowing down from the north, and was lost to the high mountain peaks above.

As morning turned to day, the glaring light of the sun intensified, reflecting off the high-polished metals and glass of the city, all the while baking it like an iridescent bulb between mirrors. The concrete pavement of the metropolis grew hot, the air was thick, yet not a lick of proper breath was present to relieve the mammals, who walked there, from the stifling, stuffy air.

The mammals, who roamed the streets, either jogged to more shaded parts of the city, where the air was cooler and the pavements not so hot, or they returned indoors, either to take a cold bath or to dress themselves in foot-pads which could help protect them from the hot earth. But there was no such luck for Nick or Judy, as they stepped from the cool confines of their ZPD cruiser and onto the burning tarmac of the Registry House car park.

"Heck," Nick yelped, drawing his foot quickly away from the flaming road and sharply returning to his seat in the car, "remind me, Hopps," he added, looking over to her with a painful smirk as she leaped back into the car likewise, "are we in Precinct One, or Sahara Square?"

Judy's laugh was as dry as the air, and slightly pained, and she examined the underside of her mildly-scorched foot. "Not funny, Nick. There's no shade here and it's a hundred yards to the entrance! I nearly burnt my foot just now, and I barely touched the ground! What are we gonna do, fly?"

"We could to that, but my flying skills are a little rusty, so…" Nick leaned forwards and opened up the car glovebox. He took out a fifty milliliter bottle of water and started to undo the lid.

"So what? Hopps may be my name, but even I can't jump that distance."

"Yeah, well," Nick muttered absentmindedly, pouring a little water into the palm of his padded paw, "there's still a few tricks to the city I still haven't told ya. Give me your feet." Judy didn't quite understand why Nick was doing what he was, but she was interested to find out, so she turned herself in the chair until her back was against the car doorway and her bare feet were resting on Nick's lap.

Pouring a little more into his paw, Nick started rubbing water into the base of the rabbit's feet, gently soaking the fur with his paw. He continued doing this for a generous amount of time, and then a small, satisfied smile grew on Nick's face. He smoothed his paw across her feet, his eyes tracing up the line of her legs, looking to make sure he had rubbed all the water in... and just considering with his wandering paw as it traced higher.

"Okay, Hopps," he huffed, giving her a playful slap on the thigh, "you're done."

"Arugh," she complained with a grin and the retraction of her feet, "just when it was getting enjoyable, too."

"The time for that can come later, my dear," he soothed as he turned himself to face out, raising his feet above the ground, and soaking his palms with more water that slapped against his pads.

Hopps hopped out of the car and hurried around to Nick's side, her feet blessedly cooled. She suddenly recalled a decision she had earlier made, but had, as of yet, forgotten to mention. Later it would be brought up. But later couldn’t wait, apparently. "Actually, Nicky," she piped-up, excitedly, "I've been thinking about what we're gonna do over the weekend. I mean, sex is sex, and that's kinda not allowed. But when you break it down into its component parts, a lot of it isn't the sex itself. There's still a whole lot of physical closeness and familiarity the two of us could explore without contravening what my parents teach. I think, if we—"

"Okay... that's not good."

Judy was struck into silence by the fox's comment. A cold shiver ran down her. Was he refusing her? Had she pushed too far? "What?" she asked, "What is it?"

Nick pointed down with a claw, and Judy followed towards her own feet. They were hissing and steaming, thus, she glimpsed at Nick's; they were steaming too. "Oh..." she murmured, "do you think we oughta—"

"Run!"

Slamming the car door and locking it, the officers bolted for the entrance. They sprinted across the boiling car park, heaved open the heavy glass door and slipped into the air-conditioned paradise that was the Registry House. "On fire! My feet are on fire!" Nick yelped as he hopped from foot to foot.

Judy's protective instinct kicked in. She spotted a vase of flowers on a desk, grabbed them without thinking and threw the watery contents over Nick's uniform with a cold splosh.

Nick slowly, delicately put his foot back down on the cool floor. His expression stony and impassive, he looked down at the large patch of wetness on his dripping uniform. Taking up his tie, he twisted it in both paws and wrung out a few droplets of moisture, while Judy stared silently, holding the vase sheepishly in both paws, a little water still sloshing around in the bottom, as the fox's expression rose to meet hers.

"And you did that... why?"

The calmness of his voice made her flinch. "It was, erm... it seemed like a good idea at the time!"

Nick blinked. He breathed in, slowly, and spoke, his voice still as calm as ever, "... Thank you." Without another word, the fox stepped forwards and kissed the, rather confused, rabbit on the lips. Stepping near, he wrapped his arms gently around her in a soft hug and pulled her close to his dripping body.

"Oh, okay," she grumbled, "you're just trying to dry yourself on me now, aren't you…"

"Ooh, Judy," the fox pouted, deftly plucking the vase from Judy's paw, "as if I would ever do that." Quick as a flash, the fox pulled the collar away from the back of Judy's neck with his claw and tipped the remaining trickle of water down her back.

"Eeek!" she squealed, pulling herself away hurriedly, giggling and grinning as she squirmed, throwing her shoulders up and her neck back in the reflexive reaction to the cold. "Nick," she complained, "no fair!"

"But I thought all was fair in Love and War."

"Give me that vase," she demanded, grabbing for it.

"It won't do you no good now, darlin'" the fox teased, holding high above Judy's head, "it's dry as a bone."

Judy jumped as she grabbed for it. "It's not to soak you with, it's to put the flowers back. Now gimme!" Judy leapt and batted at the fox's arm, snatching at the vase, yet missing and sending it careering off halfway the length of the room, before it smashed to pieces against the wall.

"What in hell's going on in here?" Both mammals froze to the shout, turning in unison as the large frame of a porcupine, with a shirt bearing the word 'security', lumbered into the hall from a room marked 'office'.

The large porcupine inched forwards on the receptionist’s desk that stood between him and the two officers and started examining the startled, smaller mammals suspiciously. "Ruffians?" he growled. "You two young ruffians come breaking in here, with your laughter, wreck the place, spill the water, break the vase! Why, I've got a good mind to call the police!"

"No! No, no, no," Judy said, hurriedly unpinning her police badge and waving it towards the glaring security guard. "Sir, we—"

"I mean look at what you've done," the porcupine interrupted, his far louder voice cutting into Judy's easily, "trespassing, disturbing the peace, willful damage of public—"

"We're not ruffians! We're officers," the rabbit shouted, slapping her badge down on the desk, "and we didn't break in, we need information on a business!" The porcupine stared at Judy's badge for a few seconds, then... his shoulders sagged, he slumped down in his chair and seemed to shrink and shrivel into a pitifully depressed state.

"Sorry," he mumbled, "didn't see the uniform; eyesight's not what it was. I don't know, the first bit of excitement I've had in months, and it turns out to be two police officers. I'm meant to be a security guard, you know. 'Come be a security guard, Marvin' that's what they said to me, 'fend off crooks and villains.' God it's depressing, the most fending I've ever done was dealing with a jammed printer three months ago. Even that was just a basic model. The rest of the time I'm sitting here from nine-to-bloody-five day in, day out, staring at security camera footage. Call that job satisfaction? Cause I don't."

The rabbit opened her mouth without knowing how to properly respond. "Erm...?"

"Anyway, mustn't stand around here grumbling all day. You've probably got some really important work to be doing: ruffians and scum of the earth to arrest. That's what I thought I was signing up to, you know, before they gave me a security job in one of the most boring buildings in the city. 'Make sure all the doors are locked, Marvin' that's what they say to me. 'Open up this filing cabinet, Marvin', 'Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?' Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper... I mean, who would bother to steal publicly available business information anyway? It's depressing. All the same, what was it you wanted?"

"We need some info," Nick said quickly before the Marvin could start talking again, "we need all the data we can get on an electronics manufacturing company. Could you show us which way to go?"

"Is that all? Oh, alright then," he mumbled, shuffling off towards a corridor with Nick and Judy in tow. "Manufactures of Electronic Components Department is down that way. But it's not a very interesting department to read up on. Far more interesting is the one on retail sale in non-specialized stores with food, beverages or tobacco predominating. They can be reaally interesting," he drew, with the implication that 'interesting' meant unbelievably boring, but still better than shooting yourself.

"Okay," the fox said, pushing the door open to a long and dimly lit gray corridor with a domed roof and low ceiling, illuminated by a number of beam-lights which were supported from the roof by a number of rafters. There was a gap between the rafters and the roof, which acted like a low walkway where the janitors could crawl along the spiderwebs and change the old lightbulbs.

"Thanks," Judy chirped at the security guard.

"Don't thank me, please. It's so depressing to be thanked for something you had no choice but to do."

"Oh... sorry," she apologized as he walked off, "but, you know... that's life!"

"Life? Don't talk to me about life. I don't know. Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and today it was my job to point two officers towards the filing room. And then of course I've got this terrible pain in all the quills down my left side. I mean, I've asked for them to be looked at, but no-one ever listens to me. But mustn't grumble, can't stand around here all day, must get back to staring at black and white CCTV footage. I don't know, call that job satisfaction 'cause I don't. Oh god, I'm so depressed…" The porcupine’s complaints continued, but faded into silence as the door swung shut behind Nick and Judy, while they entered the corridor they had been pointed to.

"Well..." Nick muttered, "he was cheerful."

"Yeah, we should invite him to your birthday party or something."

"Or a funeral procession, maybe?"

"Nah, he might bring down the mood."

"Hah! You know, Jules," Nick chuckled, looping an arm around the rabbit who stepped into the hug as they moved along, "it's at times like this, with a soaking uniform and a black eye that I think just how lucky I am to be working so closely to someone as energetic and upbeat as you."

"Energetic, huh? You might come to regret those words once we’re married and the mating season hits. Actually, it might be an idea if you were to start training for it as early as you can."

A wicked and toothy grin split across Nick’s muzzle. "You mean I should spend more time—"

"No, Nick, I meant you need to spend more time taking cardiac and stamina training up at the gym. Go jogging, weightlifting, whatever it takes. Just be sure you're fit enough to make it past at least the first eight hours before passing out."

"Oh, don't worry about me, Hopps. I'm young, I'm fit, I'm able. In fact," he added, his paw slipping lower, just lightly pinching Judy's posterior, "I'm really quite looking forwards to it."

"Well, honestly, Nick," she mumbled with a blush, "I just hope you're up to it. Oh, and you might wanna get some kind of lubricant too… otherwise…” she trailed off and looked down at his groin with a sort of worry that Nick managed to catch when he glimpsed at her apprehensive expression and the place it had been aimed at in the conveyed words of lube.

"I... I'll bear that in mind." He couldn’t keep away his snort, rabbits and their multiplying, unbelievable.

Nick was on the verge of making a reply when the subtle click of something he recognized screamed at his attention. If his sense of trepidation had not been spiked by spying that same-striped rabbit, who he had suspected of having followed them to the ZPD from home for a second time on the drive over, Nick would never have even heard the soft click of a pick in a lock. But he did. His legs stopped moving and he turned instantly, his ears flicking straight up as he gazed harshly down the length of the dimly lit corridor. "Hopps," he whispered, "you hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything. It's just your mind playing tricks with you."

"Oh no, Carrots. I heard it alright."

"Nick, I'm a bunny, and I didn't hear it. You sure you didn't imagine it?"

"Perhaps... perhaps you weren't listening for it."

"For what, Nick, I—"

The fox pressed his finger silently against his lips. "Judy, it's okay, I've prepared for this." His face not diverting from gazing down the length of the corridor, he gently took Judy's arm and turned her back to the goal ahead.

"Go on, Hopps," he said, his voice soft as he took an orange device from his pocket, "I'll catch up later." And with that, Nick flicked the 'play' button on the carrot pen-recorder, slid it into Judy's pocket and then, gently, pushed the rabbit until she was walking away on her own.

"So, Hopps," came Nick's voice from the recorder, while Judy walked in bewildered silence up the corridor, "what exactly is the secret to growing such wonderful blueberries?" Nick's gaze flicked up and down both ways, observing Judy's progress in one direction, and checking for any movement of shadow in the other.

"Well..." came Judy's voice, "it's really more to do with being attentive to everything a plant needs, rather than just one magical secret for perfect berries—"

Upon Judy's side of the corridor, Nick heard the door to the next room swing open and shut again. The fox's scrutiny fell to the obvious issue. Still, no signs of movement as of yet. Satisfied he was alone, Nick glanced up at the roof to the thin rafters that were suspended like low walkways from the ceiling on which the six-foot beam lights were attached to the underside of.

"Really? Sounds fascinating. Do go on!"

...

With a soft click, the fire door to the car park at the end of the corridor opened. Jack Savage's head inched around the slightly open door, and his eyes swept across the room as he surveyed his surroundings: scanning for guards, security cameras and, of course, a certain fox and rabbit.

Fulfilled that no immediate threat was present, the rabbit slipped his set of lock picks back into his pocket and shut the door behind him. His ears pricking up, he followed the sound of Judy's voice, pacing down the corridor on noiseless feet. He crouched low, his eyes darting this way and that as he’d track Nick and Judy’s conversation some way up ahead.

"It's simple when you break it down and look at the process as a set of steps," Jack heard, "first of all, you've gotta plant the seed in the right location." Judging that Nick and Judy must be quite some distance away from him, Jack hurried to catch up. He was aware he was sacrificing caution for speed, but he was also aware that losing someone in a large government complex such as this was an easy thing to do.

The scent of fox hung heavy in the air, a scent too familiar to home.

"You have to consider how much light it's going to get," Jack increased his efforts, "moisture absorption, minerals in the soil, what was planted there the year before, all before—"

A shadow fell, next, Jack froze and turned. A large weight was thrown upon him, while a heavy, clawed paw tightly gripped the scruff of his neck. In a moment of breath, Jack felt himself hurdled in the air and onto the floor with a hefty thunk that rippled pain around his body and blurry head. The rabbit rolled and sprang to his feet to meet the infuriated eyes of the red fox, who was onto all fours in the predatory stance used by foxes generations ago.

Jack grimaced, while a low growl came from the back of Nick's throat as he pounced. Jack’s reaction was sharp as he dodged, his foot sailing through the air in a kick which smashed across the side of Nick's face. It did damage and blood splattered the wall... but the fox's momentum could not be so easily stopped, because he just kept coming to the nasty surprise of Jack’s mind. White, predatory teeth pushed between Jack’s fists and anchored themselves onto his jugular like a set trap upon unsuspecting prey.

All had happened in a mere second.

No amount of training or skill in any martial arts of any kind could ever hope to protect Jack from the predatory teeth pinning him to the wall. He was in the mercy of his species’ nemesis, and he, Jack, knew it like the aftereffects of a resonating slap.

The rabbit took in a drawn-out breath. It shook a little, but he managed to hide most signs of fear as he spoke — his voice a little strained and just a slight pitch higher than normal, "Okay, Mister Wilde... you have my attention. What is it you wish to discuss?"

"Wow," Nick exclaimed, though it didn't appear to come from his own deadly mouth. It appeared, instead, to echo from some way up the corridor, "Judy, that was so interesting, but I think that's about as I can take at the moment. Thanks." 

There was a muffled click and then silence murked in the scents of indignation and controlled melancholy.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

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Chapter Text

The streets of Zootopia were still and silent with light rain falling from the sky and a thin wind blowing through the mute air. The wind changed, carrying with it the restrained energy of anticipation.

But one street — one wide street in the Entertainment District — craved for attention. One building stood alive and energized amongst the, otherwise, still and monotone houses, while its sounds of laughter and of chatter filled the craving street outside. Its stuffy heat of crowded mammals brimmed the air; light pollution poured from the large sign written in light bulbs which read ‘Music Hall’, while below was the ‘Tonight's Performance: Mister Memory.’

A silver car pulled slowly down the road, its driver observing the porter, who parted the large glass-wooden doors of the Music Hall for a group of pompous people, who lit-up their cigars and sipped their wine during the excited chatter, likewise, clothed in their dinner jackets and fancy dresses.

The driver of the silver-colored car pulled to a stop on the corner of this wide, gray street. The engine churned, the lights dimmed and then the driver stepped out from within. Pulling his collar up against the drizzle, the black-striped rabbit shoved his paws deep into the pockets, of his tan Ulster coat, and made his way down the street and towards the kindle, noise of Zootopia's Music Hall.

The tan-coated rabbit kept close to the wall, trying to avoid being noticed by the group of larger people, while he made his way to the large doors. He slipped past the group and was just to reach for the knocker when a delicate paw on his shoulder stopped him.

"Hey, sweetie," this feminine voice leaked nearby, making his ear to prick-up. "You're cute. Wanna hook-up later?" The rabbit half-turned. His gaze rose upwards, and he looked into the soft, blue eyes of an especially voluptuous, red vixen. The rabbit's eyes drifted downwards, her sapphires fixed intently upon him, as he took in her shapely form, deep red fur, the black tip of her genitally swishing tail and the polished black claws on her... her paw?

The rabbit’s eyes twitched; he twisted from her, tugged his arm away and stepped into the Music Hall through the large glass door that was opened for him by the porter. He undid the buckle of his coat, slipped out of it to reveal his eveningwear beneath and pawed it to the doormammle who hung it upon a low hook. He glanced out of the wooden door and through one of the glass panels, as he adjusted his dark, dinner jacket, to notice the vixen still watching him, her soft, pearly eyes set on him steadily as she sipped from her glass of crimson wine.

He turned his back on her, shaking his head, as he tried to put her off from his mind. He had to resist it, but he was interested. The problem wasn't that she was a fox and he was a rabbit, for he had slept around with a few different species in his time, and this vixen was way more attractive than any fox or rabbit he had seen for quite a while. It wasn't because he was here on a mission that had stopped him, for he had mixed pleasure with business on multiple occasions in the past and had found that both matters were all the more pleasurable for it. So that wasn't the problem, no, what put him off... was the engagement ring on her finger. And an enraged male fox was something which was never worth the trouble of dealing with.

The rabbit chased her away from his mind as he stepped before the large oak door, with brass handles, which lead to the main hall, but a gray-patched wolf with a clipboard stepped in his way. "You have a reservation, Sir?" the wofl asked, peering down at him.

The rabbit slipped a paw into his pocket. "Right here."

The wolf took the tiny slip of paper proffered to him and examined it against his reservations list. "Hmm. Well, Jake Smith," he said, pawing the card back, "you'd best get in there. The show's about to start." Mister 'Smith' smiled at the wolf as he walked past, slipping his ticket back into his pocket. Stepping firmly towards the large oak door, 'Smith' reached out both paws and pushed. And as the noise and chatter of a hundred different people filled his ears, he stopped in the doorway to take in his surroundings.

The ceiling of the Music Hall was two-stories high and domed at the top for acoustic reasons. Most of the large hall was taken-up by tables and chairs, with cigar smoke rising from its occupants. The wooden tables were round, and each had five chairs around them. Separating each table from every other, was a half-wall designed to give each table a little privacy, while not blocking the occupants’ view from the stage which was on a raised platform at the front.

On the near end of the long, wide hall was a bar setup with numerous drinks, glasses, bar stools and beer taps. And on the far end, a raised platform bordered on the top and sides by a parted, red curtain. On the stage, beneath the light of three different spotlights, was an overweight bear addressing the audience. Next to him, quite quiet and still, was an elderly, gray fox.

"Ladies and gentlememmle," the bear said loudly and with vigor, "with your kind attention and permission, I have the honor of presenting to you, one of the most remarkable mammals in the world."

"How remarkable," called a heckler, "he's sweating!"

"And can you be surprised by that, gentlememmle?" called back the bear instantly, clearly accustomed to dealing with the semi-drunken intellect of the average heckler. "Every day, he commits to memory, fifty new facts, and remembers every one of them. Facts from history, facts from geography..."

The black-striped rabbit paced from the entranceway and to the bar, admitting to himself he was never going to spot his 'contact' in this condition, not with the sheer number of people present, not with the limited information he had and certainly not when all he could see of most of the audience, over the low walls, was the tops of their heads.

"Evening, friend," the barmammle said as the rabbit slipped into an appropriate stool, "care for a cigarette?" Taking it without answering, 'Jake' slapped down the required cash on the counter, his eyes not leaving the audience as he put the tobacco into his mouth and lit it with a silver lighter. He looked about the room, up to the boxes and the stalls, while the bear's introductory speech continued.

"— facts from newspapers and books of science. Millions and millions of them. Think of the strain involved by his prodigious feat!"

"His feet ain't half as big as yours, Cully," a femammle called.

"I am referring to his feat of memory! Test him please, ladies and gentlememmle, ask him your questions, and he will answer you fully and freely. Mister Memory!" The striped rabbit sat forwards on the stool, his ears pricking up attentively. He didn't get a description of his contact, only their species and a call sign: a question they would call out at some point in the evening. If his contact was here, it wouldn't be long before they made themselves known to the rabbit.

The elderly fox stepped forwards and spoke, his voice dry and somewhat nervy, "A question please? Fememmle first."

"Where's my husband been since last Saturday?"

The elderly fox rolled his eyes as the hecklers started shouting answers for him. "On the booze," called one, "In court," called another, "Out with his 'bit'," called a third.

"A serious question, please?"

"Who won the Derby in nineteen eighty-seven?" called a mammle from the back.

"The pre-race favorite, Steve Cauthen, with trainer Henry Cecil. Won at the odds of six to four. Second and third, Paul Eddy and Jeremy Tree. Am I right?"

"Right!"

"Who wins in twenty twenty?" another mammle called.

"You come back in twenty twenty-one and I'll tell you, sir!"

The striped rabbit started to turn in his seat, starting to doubt if his contact was even here. Then, a mammle from somewhere down the front called out, "How far is Podunk from Bunnyburrow?"

The rabbit spun in his seat. That was the call sign! He scanned the front stalls, trying to spot who had called out, but Mister Memory was interrupted from further engaging with the caller — which the rabbit needed him to do in order to find his contact — as a reporter with a tape recorder shouted out.

"Who won the Cup in twenty-six?"

"Cup?" Memory asked, "Waterloo, football or tea, sir?"

"Football, silly."

"When did Chelsea win it?" called the tipsy badger sat beside Jake at the bar.

"Sixty-three BC, in the presence of the Emperor Nero."

"What causes pip in poultry?" called an elderly mammle wolfhound from the wings.

"Shh!" said his wife, "Don't make yourself so common."

"Well," he muttered to her, "our fowls have got it, haven't they?" The crowds chuckled at hearing this, and at the energy the chuckle created, the room started to grow louder and more rowdy, with general chatter and multiple people calling out at once.

"How many races did Mick the Miller win?"

"How old is my wife?"

"When was Crippen hanged?"

"Who was the last Zootopian heavyweight champion of the world?"

The rabbit started to lose heart, kicking himself that he had missed his opportunity as Mister Memory called out over the noise, "Quiet, please. Quiet! I cannot hear the questions if you're all calling at once." The audience went silent, and then that familiar voice from close to the front called out.

"How far is Podunk from Bunnyburrow?" A sensation like lightning struck the rabbit’s mind. There!

"Your Poor Betty who, sir?"

"How far is Podunk from Bunnyburrow?"

"Ah, a fellow fox! You are most welcome, sir." A round of applause emerged from this. The rabbit slipped down from his bar stool, leaving his cigarette in the ashtray as he paced towards the front of the hall. "Podunk, third city of Deerbroke County and capital of the province of Buckthorn. Distance from Bunnyburrow, one thousand, four hundred and twenty-four miles. Am I right, sir?"

"Quite so."

"Next, please."

"How old is my wife?" a mammle from the center called.

"I know, sir, but I never tell a lady’s age. Another?"

"What causes pip in poultry?"

The black-striped rabbit came to a stop before a table close to the front of the Music Hall. He looked down at the red fox, mid-twenties, who was sat quite leisurely upon one chair, his arm leaned upon another and his foot propped up on a third. The fox wore a deep-brown suit, which was clearly tailored personally, and sipped from a glass of red while gazing upon the stage.

Jake stepped closer. "Is this seat taken?"

"Not yet," the fox quickly answered without emotion or even a glance. The rabbit sat down upon the chair, the half-wall now concealing him from the rest of the room — except for Mister Memory, who was much too taken-up with answering questions to notice them.

The silence dragged on, both mammals watching the stage, waiting to see who would make the first move. A smartly dressed waiter approached the table and addressed the fox, "Can I offer, Sir, a drink?"

"Not for me, but my friend here will have a Bloody Mary, not too spicy, hold the ice."

"At once, Sir," the waiter acknowledged and walked off.

The rabbit watched the waiter as he retreated. Then he sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, well," he snorted dryly, "you have done your homework."

"I like to know who I'm dealing with," the fox returned, swirling the red liquid in his glass.

"So do I," the rabbit replied, turning to the fox, "but as it stands, I don't know a thing about you."

"What did you want to know?"

"We'll start simple: your name."

The fox's eyes rose to meet the rabbit's for the first time. "Willis," he simply answered, offering an auburn paw, "Mick Willis."

"Jake Smith," he said, shaking the red fox’s paw.

A smirk grew on the fox's face at hearing the name, and he retracted the physical contact. "So... Smith... you got here at last?"

"Would've been here sooner if you'd given me an address rather than an elaborate riddle to find you with."

"Don't tell me you didn't have fun. I thought you guys lived for cracking codes and breaking puzzles. Besides, I had to see if you had what it took, up here," Willis said with a playful tone, tapping his forehead.

"Well, now that I've passed your test, how about you tell me what it is you want."

The fox rested in his chair as he considered, watching the rabbit with keen interest as he spoke, "Two close friends of mine, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, have organized a... well, shall we say party? Next week at one of the banks in Tundratown. Sadly, it appears that one of the friends they invited to this party, was actually working with the Ministry of Intelligence, because the ZPD was recently informed by the MI-Z that they should consider updating this particular bank's security systems. Now, my friends—"

The fox trailed off and glanced back up to the stage, while the waiter returned to the table with a glass of red liquid on a tray. He set the glass down on the table in front of the rabbit, who picked it up and sniffed at it, cautiously. "On the house, Sir," the waiter noted, "with our compliments." He walked away again, watched by both patrons.

Turning back to Smith, Willis started again, "Now, my friends— the drink isn't poisoned, by the way. My friends have put a lot of time into organizing this little party up at the bank, and so we’re hoping they could still go through with it. I, being the good friend I am, did what I could to find out about the new systems, but sadly, to no avail.”

“'Now,' I thought, 'since I can't help directly, wouldn't it be nice if I could find someone who works for the MI-Z, one who could snap a couple of photographs of said security system's blueprints for me?' I think you'll agree with me," he added smugly, "but that would be a nice thing to do, wouldn't it?"

"Well," Jake opined, looking down at his drink, "that's an odd sort of thing to ask an agent working for the other side."

"A crooked agent," the fox corrected.

"I'm not crooked," Jake shot with a warning sign of daggers that his eyes were translating.

"If you weren't before: you are now; you're talking to me, ain't ya? Well, making deals with the enemy, that's defecting, sweetheart."

"It's not defecting, it's just... doing what has to be done."

"Yeah... you just keep tellin' yourself that, Stripes. You'll start believing it someday."

"Look, Mister Willis, when I look upon a city such as ours, I see not darkness, but hope. This corruption is but a passing thing, though I cannot cleanse this place alone. Doing this for you is but a necessary evil if it means I might someday be able to rid this city of the foulness hanging over it."

"And predator and prey will live in harmony and sing Kumbaya," the fox jeered, deadpan.

"You laugh. You mock. But some day you and all your kind will be swept like litter from our streets. The forces of good shall prevail. My will shall be done!"

"You're arse ever get jealous?"

"Jealous? My arse? Of what?"

"Of all the shit that just came out of your mouth."

"Mister Willis, I do not—"

"Okay, you want me to spell it out for you? Fine. Tell me if this sounds about right. Naive little hick with good grades and a love of spy thrillers thinks, 'hey, look at me, I'm gonna be a secret agent and rid all evil from the streets of Zootopia!' only to find, woopsy, crime is embedded into every corner of this city, far too much for a single dumb bunny to solve. And that dream of being a double-oh-seven super spy? Double whoopsie! No-one ever takes the 'rabbit spy' seriously and said rabbit ends up spending his days filling out menial paperwork at the Ministry of Intelligence headquarters, never having been given the chance to do real spy work, while lesser mammals are being sent out on top secret assignments all around him.”

“And whoopsie number three-sie, without ever having been given the opportunity to prove what a great spy he really is, the truth slowly dawns on our rabbit that he will never be anything else but a glorified secretary, and his determination gradually sinks lower and lower into the mud, 'till our rabbit finally has no choice but to agree to a secret meeting with a mysterious fox from The Firm, who claims he can make all our deluded bunny's dreams of being a real-life spy come true. Am I right?"

The rabbit didn't move, didn't blink, didn't utter a sound.

"And what's more, you don't give a damn about this city or its people. Deep down inside, in the darkest places of your soul, all you really care about is you, your ego, your reputation." The red fox sat forwards slowly, his muzzle splitting into a wide grin as he continued in a soft voice, "So, here's the deal. You wanna be a real spy? You're gonna have to get a few recommendations under your belt. My associates just so happen to have 'influence' over a number of police chiefs, majors, superintendents. The list goes on. These photos are just the start. You keep us posted on what the ZPD and MI-Z are planning, maybe even do a little light sabotage for us, an' I'll get you all the commendations you’d ever need to someday become Agent One."

"You have the authority to ordain this? Don't you need the Kray's permission?"

"They trust my judgment. I'm no pawn."

"... And if I decline?"

"Then get practicing your speed typing, 'cause you're about to spend a real long time filling out paperwork."

After a few moments thought, the rabbit slowly tilted his head to one side. "I wasn't too sure of who I was talking to initially, but I think I know now. I've heard a lot of rumors about you. Is it true what they say?"

"Is what true?"

"That you're the only Firm operative who's never pulled a gun?"

"Well, doesn't word get around? Yeah, it's true."

"Are you really that cocky? Or just that stupid?"

The fox's expression turned grim. "I'm just that good."

"Well I'll be blown, it is you, 'the fox with the lightest touch.' You do realize, now I know who you are, what a dumb decision you've made in coming here." The fox grimaced further, to which the rabbit smirked, the roles apparently reversed. "Think about it, foxy, if I singlepawdedly arrest a criminal agent of your caliber, well, that's me on the fast-track to being given real espionage missions anyway. And since you apparently never pull a gun," he added, reaching into an inner pocket, "all I've gotta do is pull—"

Jake froze, the muzzle of a pawgun pressing into the small of his back, and the sound of a voice like soft velvet filling his ears, "Hey, sweetie."

"Oops," the red fox mocked with a forming grin, "didn't see ya there, Hun. Mister Smith, allow me to introduce a very close friend of mine."

"We've met," she mentioned, her mouth slipping close to the rabbit's ear, "haven't we, Hun-bun?"

The rabbit's expression darkened. "You'd have to be insane to shoot me," he breathed, "my contacts—"

"Your contacts don't count for shit against a bullet in the head," Mick cut in with a sudden display of temper, "not even all the king's horses and all the king's memmle could put you back together after that; so unless you've got some kind of pact with the devil, I'd suggest you start being a bit more helpful."

Though his ego hated him for it, the rabbit admitted to himself that the fox held a strong advantage. Moreover, he was offering exactly what he wanted. Taking his paw back from inside his jacket’s pocket, the black-striped rabbit put his paws on the table. Behind him, the vixen slipped the silver gun back into her bag.

"You have two options," Mick said, "— well, three technically, but I don't think pulling a gun and getting shot in the head is the best idea for you right now. So there you have it. One, you stand up now and walk outta here. No-one will try to follow you. You'll get home safe and sound. Tomorrow you'll be back filling out paperwork, and the two of us will never meet again. Otherwise..." Mick’s paw slipped into his outer breast pocket, from where he took out a small camera which he proffered towards the rabbit. "You do a little 'sight-seeing' for us."

‘Jake’ turned in his seat and gazed into the soft, blue eyes of the curvaceous vixen sat behind him. She smiled at him, winking. The rabbit turned back and his eyes locked with the tod’s glistening, intelligent emeralds. Without a word, he reached out and took the camera, which gave him a humiliating comment of, "Good buck."

"How will I contact you?" Jake asked as he stood.

"I will contact you."

The rabbit nodded, stepping away. "Well, Mister Wilde," he said with coldness, "it was a pleasure doing business with you."

"On the contrary, Mister Savage," Nick replied without turning, "the pleasure, was all mine."

Jack gazed down at the couple, Wilde's arm slipping around the vixen’s waist as she moved herself closer. The rabbit turned, slipped the camera into his pocket and paced away. When he reached the outer door, he drew his tan Ulster coat close around him against the rain and slipped into the cold embrace of night.

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

A line of thick crimson trickled from the corner of Nick Wilde's mouth. He drew his teeth back from the pinch around Jack's neck and shoved a tight paw in replace: sharp claws probing roughly into the windpipe of Savage's jugular. Taking the back of his free paw, the fox wiped at the red running from one corner of his mouth, thus, smudging blood across his muzzle. His hard eyes bore down into the rabbit pressed against the wall before him, while his grip tightened.

The rabbit sucked in a dry, drawn-out breath. It shook a little, but Jack managed to hide most signs of fear as he spoke, "Okay, Mister Wilde, you have my attention. What is it you wish to discuss?"

"You know exactly what I want, 'Smith'," Nick shot back, in the mood for anything but a light-hearted chat. "I want you to leave Hopps and me the fuck alone."

Jack masked a convincing smirk over his fear, alike as it was. "Such harsh words to hear from such a gentle mammal. Whatever would Hopps think if she heard you now?"

"She'd think, 'why haven't I slashed this little runt's eyes out yet?', that's what she'd think!"

"And if I told her everything I know about you? What then would she think of you?"

"You can't tell her," the fox argued, plainly, "and that's not an empty threat, it's a fact. If you let on about my past, then sooner or later you'll face the question 'how do you know?' And what are you gonna say? 'I'm a defected agent who spent three years selling MI-Z information to the Kray's for my own personal gain?' Not likely. Face it, either of us spill what we know 'bout the other; we throw ourselves under the bus too. Stalemate."

"No, it isn't a stalemate," Jack said, managing to appear threatening despite the large paw pressing into his neck, "after all, all I need to do is 'find' enough evidence to have you convicted for this drug spree, and anything you say about me will instantly be discredited as nothing more than you trying to take me down with you. I have the advantage."

"No," Nick breathed, his voice becoming a low growl as his grip around Jack's neck tightened, thus, Jack started to twist uncomfortably due to the lack of air. "No, that just makes me desperate. And a desperate fox is capable of just about anything."

"W-Wilde, killing me won't get you—"

"On the contrary, Savage. Killing you will get me just about anywhere." The rabbit's eyes started to lose focus, unable to breathe, with his heart pounding loudly and fruitlessly in his chest. Nick moved closer, bringing his face inches from Jack's, his voice a harsh whisper in the rabbit's ear, "This, is your first and final warning. You either leave me and my Hopps alone, or I'll show you just how savage a real predator can be."

Gazing grimly into Jack's face, Nick watched as the life started to fade from his eyes — something the fox had seen oh so many times in the past — before dropping the rabbit like dead weight to the floor. Crawling onto all fours, Savage clutched at his throat, retching and coughing as he forced air back into his lungs, while Wilde stood over him, watching.

"All— all these y-years," Jack wheezed, "and I thought you were d-dead."

"Yeah, I bet you had a real panic attack when you heard my name."

"Whatever did happen to you? For three years you came to me for information, pushing me higher and higher up the agency ladder in exchange for bigger and evermore sensitive information. Then, all of a sudden, you stopped. What happened?"

The fox was still for a long moment. "I had an epiphany. It came to me in the form of a near-death experience. It made me look at myself, my life around me, and showed me the things that really mattered."

"You think you're a damn poet now?"

The fox grinned. "Oh, I've always had this poetic streak inside me, Stripes. For instance: There once was a rabbit called Jack, he stabbed his country in the back, but when the Kray's went astray, Jack ran away, and I hoped he would never come back."

Nick stepped forwards and took firm hold of Jack's wrists, knowing him still to be too weak to resist. He raised them and lifted the rabbit onto his feet, before holding his arms straight up above his head, holding his wrists next to a water pipe on the wall, and cuffing both Jack's paws to it with a satisfying click.

"Hang around, Stripes," Nick said with a wink, "I'm sure the security guard will be along to let you out in an hour or two." The fox stood and started pacing down the corridor, a smirk on his face which turned to a scowl the moment his back had turned on the rabbit. He had intended to keep walking until he was far away from Jack, but then Jack’s low and ominous voice gave his legs frost.

"And what about when I get out of these things, Wilde? What then?" Nick’s snarl bathed the surroundings. "You can't hold off the paw of justice forever. You know that. And the fact you became a police officer, started calling yourself an 'honest' mammal and fooled that innocent child from the Burrows that you are in love with her? It makes me sick."

Nick fought for a witty response; tried to come up with a typically Nickish comment that could turn the tables of what Jack had just said, consequently, twist his words to his own advantage. But his mind came up blank, his silver tongue failed him and his ears fell flat against his head as he came to realize that Jack was closer to the truth than Nick cared to mention. He couldn't hide from justice forever, not now when Jack was on his tail.

Without a word, Nick turned from the black-striped rabbit and continued forward down the corridor, while Jack’s voice shouted at him in mockery that faded into the gloom. "Go ahead," he jeered, "keep on running, keep on hiding from who you are and what you've done. That's the only thing you or any fox has ever been good for."

Nick paced hurriedly down the corridor, the rabbit's words echoing in pursuit behind him. He turned a corner, Jack out of sight, and his pace slowed as a thought struck him. His ears pricked up a little. There was one detail the rabbit had failed to get right. 

A small smile formed and the fox spoke to himself under his breath, "'Fooled that innocent child?' I'm not fooling anyone. I love Judy more than I've ever loved anyone, even—" he trailed off as he floated to a stop with a stare on the floor. His eyes shut tight, and he breathed slow breaths in the silence.

All these years, and he still couldn't bring himself to say Scarlett's name in vain.

In the deafness, Nick heard the dull thunk of a drip hitting the floor. His gaze lowered to see, just as another droplet of red fell from his mouth to join the other. Nick opened his mouth and raised a paw to his jaw, wiping it, and examining the blood stained across his paw. "Crap," he muttered as the adrenaline wore off with a painful, throbbing sensation growing where the rabbit's kick had hit him. "Crap," he said again, more urgently, as he began sprinting down the corridor, picking up speed as the tingling numbness left him to be replaced by pulsating, hot pain in his mouth.

He spotted a doorway at the end of the corridor with the light on, and could see Judy moving about in the light through the glass windowpane. He jogged down the corridor towards it, also spotting the 'toilets' sign while clutching at his jaw as he ran.

Inside, Judy was just skimming through a hefty tome that listed all the companies established in a particular year, when the door behind her burst open. She dropped the book and turned, startled, and the door slammed open against the wall with the red fox rushing in. "Nick, there you are! What took you? Where have you been? What's going on?"

"I'm fine," he blurted as he rushed past her, darting towards the room marked 'toilets'.

"Nick, your mouth! What happened? Let me see."

"I'm fine!" he shouted, concealing himself as he vaulted for the bathroom.

Confused and deflated, Judy blinked at the bathroom door that it swung closed behind the fox. Slowly though, her sadness shifted into a different emotion... and her expression hardened upon the door, until it looked almost as though she could defy an inch of solid wood with the mounding fury in her gaze.

...

The door to the male's toilets burst open and Nick Wilde got in. Clutching at his jaw, he dashed for the sinks, lurched towards one and spat a large mouthful of blood into it. Cursing under his breath, Nick pulled back the corner of his lip to see the wide cut along the base of his gum and the bruise forming around it. It dawned on the fox that he was lucky not to lose any teeth, a little higher and he'd have lost two for sure. He probed the cut with his tongue, winced and spat a smaller mouthful of red into the washbasin.

Behind him, the bathroom door opened again silently and a rabbit moved across the hard, tiled floor. Nick was oblivious as he ran the cold tap and pushed his throbbing face beneath the cold rush of water, watching as the blood in the sink became diluted with the clear water, and then, behind him, a paw touched him on the back.

Acting without thinking, the fox span on his heels and his sharp claws sliced through the air at the rabbit's chest. The small figure of the rabbit caught the paw by the wrist and twisted it, slipping behind the fox, before bringing his paw up behind his back in an armlock, kicking his knees out and forcing him to drop on them.

"Ugh, Judy! Jeez, you’re strong."

"Better strong than weak," she retorted without amusement, while keeping Nick firmly in an armlock on the floor. "I'm sorry it has to be this way, but if you're not going to tell me what's going on through choice, I'll have to get it by force."

"Isn't..." he tried, meekly, "Isn't this a little extreme?"

"I've had enough of your dodges, enough of your vague answers and of your 'I didn't want you to get involved'. I am your partner: romantically and professionally. Do you have any idea what that means to me? Do you have any idea?!"

Judy pulled the armlock tighter and Nick beat his fist upon the floor like a wrestler tapping out. "Ouch, ouch, ouch! I'm sorry, Hopps, but please!"

"No! Not 'til you tell me what's going on."

"I've already told you, Hopps, I can handle iirrugh—" The rabbit increased the strain on the joints, and Wilde bent double, crippled on the floor. "Carrots... Carrots!" Nick warned, almost frantic, "you're gonna break my damn arm in a minute, Carrots!"

"I'm sick of your lies, Wilde," she shouted, unmoved. "This kind of behavior nearly cost us our relationship once already, and I'm not going to let it happen again! From this moment on, I am taking matters into my own paws."

"Alright! Alright, I'll tell you, jeez, I'll tell you. Just, arugh, just let me up!"

The rabbit's grip loosened... but she didn't let go quite yet. "Nick," she said again, no longer sounding angry, just tired, "please try to understand: I love you too much for you to do this to me. When I see you hurt, I'm hurt too. Your pain is my pain. Then you come running in, not only clearly very distressed, but bleeding too? And I can't even talk to you about it? Do you have any idea how that feels?"

"Oh, Judy... Judy, I'm sorry, give me a hug, I didn't mean it." The fox slipped out of the loose armlock, twisted and, still crouched on the floor, put his arms around the rabbit, while she didn’t even blink a response…

"And now you're using affection to try and make me forget all about it. You've used that little trick before." The rabbit sighed, her fear and sadness fading into simple irritation. "Oh well, I guess I'll just have to do things all off my own back. Just like it's always been."

"Hopps, look, I will tell you, I promise. But let's just finish-up what we're doing here," he said slowly, "and I, will tell you, about it, later. Okay?"

Judy growled. "Later," she growled, "it's always later. Why can it never be now?"

"Well, if it was always now," Nick started, and Judy could already tell it was going to be a pitiful joke or play-on-words just by the stupid smug grin he was wearing. That wry smirk, which she usually found so appealing, it currently made her bitterness all the more unbearable. Judy clamped her paw over Nick's mouth to stop the pathetic comment before it could start, and the muted Nick watched her in trepidation as her mood shifted from sadness to resolve, with her expression getting harder, her shoulders now squared and her body stood an inch taller. She pushed the fox away, who ended up splayed on the bathroom floor, and drew her dart gun from her utility belt.

"Erm, what— what's the dart gun for?"

"I'm gonna get the bastard who did this to you." Spinning on the balls of her feet, the rabbit marched from the room.

"Hey, wait! There is no-one, I did this to me. I, erm, I tripped! Yeah, I tripped an—"

"Sweet cheese and crackers!" Judy shouted, her voice hoarse as she turned around to face the fox, "Do you even want to marry me?"

"W-what?"

"You can only marry someone you trust," she shot, "but if you don't even trust me to look after you, you're not gonna trust me enough to marry you. So I ask again, do you even want to marry me?"

Nick was struck by the raw passion in the rabbit's words; the glistening tears building around her eyes. For all tension, the pain in his arm, the shouting, the accusing... there was only one answer he could ever give to that question.

A little wetness building in the corners of his own eyes, Nick knelt down on the floor before the rabbit and brought his head close to hers. He reached out a gentle paw, wiped a single tear from her eyes, and rested his palm on her soft, smooth cheek.

"Of course I do, Judy Hopps."

Judy touched the fox's paw on her cheek. "Then let me help you. Please."

"I don't know why I treated you like a little kid needing protection," he lamented, his paw slipping back to caress Judy's ear, "you're so much more than that. My love, my partner... my friend." Nick leaned slowly forwards towards the rabbit's face.

For all the heartache he so often caused her, for all his faults and his flaws, for all his lies and deceit... this was still Nick; this was still exactly where Judy wanted to be and this was still the mammal she loved. She didn't hesitate for even a moment before pressing her lips against Nick's in a long and regret-filled kiss. From then the rabbit knew they were all made up... but there was still one thing she needed to ask.

"No more lies?"

"No more lies."

"No more secrets?"

"No more secrets."

"... You promise?"

A smile grew on Nick's face. An honest smile. "I promise."

Taking the fox's paw, Judy helped Nick to stand. Paw in Paw, they made their way from the bathroom. Nick pushed open the door, and together they slipped out, making their way back towards the corridor, with Nick's voice being soft-spoken in its aim at the kind-hearted rabbit following beside him.

"Come on, Jules. It's time you knew everything."

Author’s notes:

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Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

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So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

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Chapter Text

A red moon rose over the desert sky. The city was ice-cold, black and still in the thin air. The only source of light and movement came from one of the small, upper-floor windows of the Lord’s Royal Tower.

Within the master bedroom, the Lord of Zistopia was drying himself with a white cotton towel. He dropped it down to the floor once dried and raised his arms, while Secretary Appelby helped him on with his gray nightgown from behind. "Is the furnace sufficiently prepared?" the Lord asked.

"Fully fueled and stoked," his valet answered.

"Good. Oh, and one more thing. Get my spy in the ZPD on the phone. I want to know of any more developments before my slumber."

"Spy, Sir? Are you quite sure that is the most applicable term?"

The black panther smiled, thinly. "The best spy," he asserted, "is an unwitting spy. Do you not concur?"

The badger raised a thick eyebrow. "Indeed, Sir."

"Then—" the Lord nodded to the telephone, "if you please."

"At once, Sir." Turning, the black-and-white striped badger drifted towards the telephone. He picked up the bakelite receiver and entered a number into the rotary dial from his seemingly boundless memory. The phone rang twice, and then it was answered.

"Hiya! ZPD reception desk, Clawhauser speaking. How can I help you?"

"Secretary Appelby here. My master wishes to have a word."

"Oh great! How is he?"

A wide smile came onto the black panther’s face as the badger pawed him the phone. "All the better for hearing your voice, my friend. Now tell me," he said pleasantly, "how are things getting on for you and that dreadful drug spree you've been telling me about?"

"Really great! We've just found out who Nyilas is; turns out he's some kind of professor!"

"Fabulous. And what of Hopps and Wilde, those two young officers. What are they up to?"

"Oh, erm... I shouldn't really tell you," Clawhauser whispered, "it's kind of a secret!"

"Come, my friend, I live on the other side of Zoophon! There's no harm in confiding with me. What influence could my knowing possibly have?"

...

Registry House was an old building, smaller than most in that area, for it had been designed with a smaller range of mammals in mind. For this reason, the chairs and tables were low enough for Nick to sit quite comfortably, with his legs resting on the floor and paws clasped on the surface of one of those tables. But this did nothing to alleviate him of the growing sense of concern that bubbled within him as Judy sat down opposite of him.

Even as Judy knew the cause of the cut upon her partner’s lip, and that the person responsible for it was currently 'hanging around' in the corridor outside, and while she naturally wanted to meet this 'acquaintance'... and show that little bastard exactly what happened when he’d mess with the boyfriend of a Hopps, she still was content of patience and finding out the whole truth through Nick, instead from his little, pawcuffed friend.

"So, erm," Nick drew uneasily, staring down at his paws as he fidgeted them unconfidently before him, "where should I start?"

"Start with whatever you feel comfortable with. We'll work from there." Nick looked up from his paws as Judy's own reached out to touch his. "And stop treating this like some kind of interrogation. I only want to know so I can help you, Nick. As a friend, I want to help you."

"You... might not like what I have to say. In fact I know you won't, and if the wrong people were ever to find out about it: Bogo, for instance—"

Nick leaned back in his chair and pulled his paws away, as a result, Judy all but leaped up onto the table to keep her paws clasped in his. "I promise you, Nick, I shall never tell another living soul about what you tell me here so long as I live. And I promise, I promise, I will not let it affect our relationship in any way whatsoever, except for good."

Nick allowed his paw to close around hers as he responded, "Judy, I know I've called you dumb about a million times in the past, but I've never really meant it. You know that. In fact, you're the smartest little bunny I've ever known."

She quirked an eyebrow at him as she disengaged her touch with a settle back on her prior spot. "Oh, smartest bunny? What are you saying? That bunnies are dumber than the average mammal? You speciest little—"

"Alright, wisebun, any femam-mammal! Any mammal of any gender, species or ethnic origin. You're the smartest of them all. Anyway, my point is: when I was telling you about my past, I mostly skimmed over exactly what I was to the Krays and in The Firm, and barely mentioned Scarlett at all. You know I skimmed over some important details, yet you didn't push me to tell you anything more than I was comfortable telling you and… I just wanted to let you know that I am very grateful for that."

"Wilde, I knew if you'd wanted to tell me, you would have. As long as I've known you, you've always had such a silk tongue, such a way with words; if ever you mention something, or fail to mention something, I know it was only with the best intentions at heart: trying to protect me; our relationship."

The fox smiled. "Well that's just it," he said, "my sharp tongue always was and still is my greatest weapon. Upon joining The Firm, I figured I didn't really need to pull a gun, so long as there was time for talking it over. After all, working with Krays, you could use house-sized bluffs with bells on and people would still believe you."

"But, bluffing aside, there must’ve been instances when talking didn't work."

"Oh, there were, but that's when Scarlett would come in useful. We had this little plan, you see. We stuck to it, and it never once failed us. I would take the lead role, drawing lots of attention to myself with all the smugness and self-assurance of a real mean baddie. Meanwhile, Scar is creeping-up behind them with a gun in her bag. If things take a turn for the worst, and my 'client' reaches for something, they get the gun-in-the-back treatment."

"And when that didn't work? What about when they threatened, I don't know, that their associates would be after you or something?"

"I had this line I used, what was it now? Something like 'even all the king's horses and his men can't put you back after you've been shot, so put the gun away' or something like that."

"Wow, you had it all worked out, then. I bet you did a lot of good work for those Firm guys."

"Yeah! Well, when word got around that there was a new guy on the block who could get people to do stuff only with his tongue, what took others with a gun, the Krays took an interest in me personally."

"And that's when you went to dinner with them?"

"Yep. They wanted to meet me and Scarlett on a more sociable basis so they could get a feel for who we really were. After eating, they spent about three hours talking to us. They asked all the questions, mind you, and after that, well, I don't really know. But they left and made whatever arrangements needed to be made. And a few days later I was approached by one of their manager types and offered the position of Chief Recruitment Officer."

"It was your job to hire new paws for The Firm?"

"Primarily, but as chief of that role, it was also down to me to manage and maintain the cover of our undercover operatives too. But for the most part, it was my job to locate suitable candidates we might recruit to our cause. It mostly depended on what the Krays wanted, that being anything from a safe cracker to a grave digger." The fox sat back as he continued the explanation, while Judy listened with interest to this new insight into the criminal circles prior unknown.

"Say the Krays were organizing some big bank raid, it'd be my job to hire some muscles who could fire a gun and who were greedy enough not to mind putting themselves at risk for cash. Now, the Krays themselves wouldn't say what they wanted exactly, they'd just say what they were planning, and it'd be down to my own initiative to decide exactly what they would need. I had to know where to look, what to look for in the individual and, most importantly, how that individual might best be bribed. With some guys it was easy: you just offer them a cut of the spoils. Other guys were a little harder. But, at the end of the day, everyone had their price."

Despite herself, a smile started spreading on the rabbit’s mouth. She was intrigued — and not a little in awe — of this newfound level of intelligence she never knew the fox had, and gosh did it get to her in all the 'wrong' ways. "So, mister psychologist," she needled with a sultry smile, "what would my price be? Say you wanted to get into bed with me, but had never met me. How would you go about making that happen?

Nick smirked. "What, other than seduce you utterly using my golden tongue alone, you mean? Then, I'd say..." Nick gazed at Judy with something of a smug smile as he ran through the options in his mind, but then his smile slowly crashed, his expression becoming serious as he dawned upon his conclusion.

"Your family."

Her amusement died, her nose started twitching and her voice was suddenly very small and meek… "What?"

"Bribes of money definitely wouldn't work. If you were stuck being a meter maid long enough, the promise of promotion might get some results. But your ego isn't so inflated and your morals are too strong for you to allow yourself to fall into the same trap Jack did."

"Jack?"

"I'll get to that. You're way too brave to be frightened, and you're relentless in your pursuit of justice. The only option I'd have left to me would be to threaten harm on your family."

"And... and if, just theoretically, I hadn't done what you wanted… would you—"

"No! God, no. I'm not a monster, Hopps, and I wasn't then. As I told you before, I've never killed and that fact extends to having people killed too. Look, at the very most I might have had one of your favorite sisters beat-up a little. But not too bad, and not unless there was any other option or way of getting things done. And I would never have had someone killed." Nick inched closer and reached out a paw, which he touched upon the shoulder of the startled and slightly fearful-faced rabbit.

"I promise you."

A moment of tension passed across her face and then Judy's smile returned a little, and she reached up to touch the reassuring paw. "Alright, Slick Nick," she finally muttered, "I believe you. And, just for the record, even if you had done some... less reputable things in your past, I still don't think I'd have it in me to leave you over it."

"Thank you, Hopps, for being so understanding."

"So, how exactly did you get this 'silver tongue'?" she asked with a peak of interest. "Were you just born with it or did it develop over time?"

The fox sighed in memory, sobering instantly with his gaze flicking-off to the side. "If you said the wrong thing within twenty feet of my dad, you'd get a smack. I think that has something to do with it."

"Oh. Nick, I'm sorry I—"

"No, Judy, you need to know this. Now, after putting me in a coma for a while, he never dared touch me again. So it wasn't all that bad. But after the little Cub Scouts incident, I started learning how to defend myself. Not physically, verbally. I started observing the school bullies, started noticing how single-minded they were when threatening or bullying the other kids. I realized it only took a little push: a few carefully chosen words and they'd more or less forget what they'd came for and would walk away thinking they'd won."

"So that's the reason? Right... I'd always, kinda, just thought it was, you know—"

"That it was just a fox thing?" he asked with a grin. Embarrassed slightly, Judy nodded as she bit on her lower lip, likewise, Nick chuckled to the crossing of his arms. "You know, Hopps. For someone so against acts of speciesism, you sure do have a lot of outdated ideas."

The rabbit blushed, shrugging her shoulders with a coy smile. "Hey, not that outdated. I'm dating you, aren't I? That's pretty modern thinking."

"Huh, futuristic I'd say! Any of your sisters date outside their species?"

"Well, a few married hares, and a couple of them married slightly larger mammals. But none that I can remember married a predator," she said, her flush growing as she added, "no less a fox." But then the subject of marriage brought her mind to another question, something she had been wondering about for a while. "So, how far did you and Scarlett actually go?"

"Did we spend a lot of time together? Yes, yes we did."

"That's all very well, Nick," Judy surmised softly, "but that's not the question I asked." Solemn silence cooed around them— of all the subjects she could have asked about, this was the one he was most uncomfortable discussing — but he had made a promise, 'no more lies, no more secrets', and he was going to stick to it.

"Alright, what do you mean 'go'? Sexually? Romantically? Emotionally?"

"Nick..." she whispered closer, breathing in a long breath before her eyes rose to meet his, "Did you marry her?"

For a moment, which felt to last as long as the dawning of a new era, their gazes held firm into one another, emerald into amethyst, with tight and tense emotion. After what felt like the passing of a generation, Nick slowly let out his lungful of air, while a small smile grew on his muzzle. "I'm glad you overestimated that, Carrots," he said, "rather than underestimate it."

The clouded fog of worry in Judy's mind started to clear. "You mean, you didn't marry her?"

"No, we didn't marry. But what I did do, Judy, was get engaged to her."

"You proposed to her?"

"Kinda. She told me to. Like, in the same way she told me to ask her out a few months after we first met, you know?"

"Yeah, I see. How did the two of you meet, anyway?"

"Not now," Nick blurted flatly, "not here, that's just... one step too far for the moment." Judy nodded as she skimmed down at the table, accepting that there may be some things from his past that would always be too painful for him to recount no matter how much time had passed, and which she just didn't have any business in knowing anyway.

"Actually, Carrots," Nick sighed with eyes focused elsewhere, his expression troubled while Judy's focus rose to meet him, "although we didn't marry, we still did a lot of, you know, the more physical side of a relationship. And, it's mostly because of that it took me so long to admit, just to myself, that I loved you."

"What are you getting at, exactly?"

"Come on, Hopps, you're smarter than that. You must know foxes only take one mate."

The rabbit's eyes started to widen as understanding slowly dawned. "I-I know foxes don't ever re-marry, I know that much. But if you didn't actually marry her then—"

"Oh, no, Hopps. It goes way deeper than that. We take one mate, not one wife. For, as a young and naïve rabbit once said to a bunch of frightened news reporters, 'it's in our biology'." Judy appeared unsure at the quoting of that wrong day. "Look, Carrots, you're a rabbit, so that means you inherently know more about the reproductive system than even I."

Judy snorted. "Actually, knowledge of the reproductive system isn't inherited."

"But still, you must know that during lovemaking, certain chemicals are released. For foxes, alongside all other monogamous species, a certain set of chemicals are released which sorta hardwire the brain into wanting to be with that person. That's the reason it took me five months just to accept I loved you. It's also the reason my mom stayed with my dad, despite the fact he was a manipulative bastard… Now, these chemicals are only released during the first time foxes make love, and after that they’re kinda stuck with that person the rest of their life. Whether they actually want to be or not is beside the point, they’re kinda bound to them; forced by their own psychology to stay. And it's impossible to re-create this 'binding force' with any other mammal once you've been bound once."

"Nicky, I— I want the truth here," she sighed deeply, "are you telling me that... that you can never love me as deeply as you loved Scarlett?"

Nick gawked at Judy in daze. He saw a thin trickle of wetness form in the corner of Judy's eye, and then, without a moment’s deliberation, he stood and shot at her, consequently, kneeling down on the floor before the rabbit, whose bottom lip had suddenly started to wobble, and threw his arms around her small frame. Judy closed her arms tight around her fox in return. She had meant to remain strong, while asking her questions, but the simple act of voicing them out loud had all but wrecked her emotional control, and so she started to quiver and hiccup small sobs with a burrow of her head into the soft warmth of Nick's neck.

Nick spoke to her urgently while holding her against his chest. "Now, you listen to me, you dumb, brave, beautiful-little rabbit. If there's one thing I've learnt from you, it's what true love feels like. What me and Scar had, it... it was a fling! I see that now. Just a young couple of young foxes looking for a little solace after a cruddy past. Looking for someone to hold them and say they cared for them. But what me and Scar had was nothing but a shadow of what I feel for you. Nothing more than two young, brash kids playing games."

"But— but yesterday," she quivered, "when you walked out, I know I slapped you… and I shouldn't have, but you just completely shut yourself off from me. I couldn't reach you, no matter how hard I tried!"

"I know Judy," he murmured, his voice turning regretful, "I know, and I can never forgive myself for that. It's just, when Fin mentioned Scarlett, somehow, it made the whole thing real. I wanted to believe I was ready to love again but… when her name was mentioned… it put my biology into overdrive, screaming at me that 'we' could never be. I'm glad my biology was proven wrong. And when you came back to me, on the roof... it proved to me just how much you cared."

Nick's hug around Judy's body loosened a little, and he sat back, so he could look into the depths of her eyes. Judy kept her arms securely around Nick's neck, a little wetness still present around her eyes, but a small smile present-still, nevertheless."

"As I said to you before," Nick continued, "you risked everything we had because you thought I needed help. You were prepared, selflessly, to sacrifice everything we had together, for me. Scarlett wouldn't have done that! I don't know if she'd have risked anything of great importance for my sake. And doubt I really would have for her. When I was twenty-five, I got engaged to her, but it wasn't until after my twenty-eighth she was... you know, ended… Why do you think we spent three years engaged without getting married? It was never meant to be. Personally, I doubt if we'd have lasted two months with one another if it wasn't for our biological binding."

Cradling her head, Nick gently lifted Judy's face and moved to gaze into her softly smiling expression. "But this: my attraction to you, my wonderful rabbit, is a love more binding and more powerful on its own accord than my attraction to her ever was. It's so strong, how I feel about you, that, in the end, it was impossible to resist it. Even though loving you rebels against every fiber of my biology."

The fox took Judy's paws in his own. He leaned closer until his nose was touching hers, and then, gently, he smoothed his muzzle across her cheek, smiling, as he marked her with his lingering scent. "I love you, Judy Hopps," he soothed, "with or without my biology's consent."

Judy drew her face away — her cheek now smelling resolutely of sweet fox — and brushed her lips gently against Nick's. A playful smile on her lips, her tongue peeped out of her mouth for an instant, and she licked the fount of his lips, both enjoying the lingering, musky taste in her mouth... and wanting more. Her lips parted as her head drew nearer, her eyes glistening as she made to meet Nick's mouth with hers — her tongue with his — and, as Nick's mouth also opened to meet, what he could already tell would be a deeply heated kiss, it happened.

"Hopps!"

"Ah!" Judy leaped back in shock, the chair tipping and almost falling, with a consequent Judy to the floor, had Nick not darted instantly and caught her in his arms to hold her from certain demise, while she desperately tried to seize the police radio that had escaped from its casing and was now dangling and bobbing up and down unhelpfully on its wire.

"Hopps," Bogo shouted, "come in. Report!"

Nick carefully lowered the chair back onto all four legs; meanwhile, Judy caught the radio and responded, "Hopps here."

"Are you and Wilde still located at Reg' house?"

"Yes, Sir."

"And what progress have you made?"

"None so far, Sir."

"And why not? You should have had ample time to find out some information. What have you been doing all this time?"

Judy blushed a little as she struggled with an answer, reminiscing only about the deep kiss which had almost come to pass the moment before her chief had called. "We... erh—"

"Oh," Nick cut in, "Hopps and I had to help give this old lady a paw crossing the road on the way over, and then she needed a paw doing her washing. So we helped her with that too. But she just wouldn't let us go without making us a cup of tea to thank us first. That's what took us."

The sound of Bogo's dismissive grunt cracked through, "That comment was clearly a farce, and I should deal you an official warning about wasting police time, and find out what you've really been up to. But fortunately for you, I don't care. Just so long as you get all the necessities for a warrant by sixteen hundred hours, so I can have it approved by seventeen hundred. That's all that matters."

"Don't you worry, Sir," Nick reassured smugly, "we'll have got it long before then."

"Glad to hear it," Bogo said, followed sarcastically by, "seeing as you are so sure of your ability to get the task done efficiently and on time, then it shouldn't bother you to know I am giving you another assignment." Nick's face fell, regretting his smugness instantly while Judy glared at him.

"What assignment?" she asked, her fierce eyes not leaving Nick's.

"Officers Grizzoli, Rhinowitz and Higgins have identified Nyilas. We want you to pull him in."

"Already?" Judy remarked, "It sure didn't take long to find him, huh."

"He didn't exactly make himself difficult to find. Obliviously, he never considered the possibility that one of his minions would spill his name."

"So who is he?"

Over the radio, they heard the sound paper being picked up. "A-hem. Victor Csizmadia Almássy Nyilas. A seventy-two-year-old billy goat. Born in Cieszyn, Poblanch. He moved to Zootopia at the age of twenty-four and spent three years studying Archaeology and Ancient Civilizations. It was a full-time course, and at the end he received a BA with honors. At twenty-eight, he became a full-time archaeologist. And over the next forty years, he held a successful occupation which took him all over Zoophon to study every major, ancient civilization in detail. Over the years, he also took-up several other smaller studies, including, most notably, the Study of Early Scriptures, Ancient Architecture and pole-dancing…"

"What?" asked Wilde and Hopps in unison with the shock of fluster.

"What?" repeated Bogo, sounding even more confused than them, before he shouted, over his shoulder by the sounds of it, "Who wrote this? Who? Clawhauser, stop grinning. This isn't funny; it's damned unprofessional!"

"Sorry, Chief," they heard Clawhauser say.

"Get out of my sight before I demote you to traffic warden," Bogo called. Over the radio, they heard a door shut loudly. Bogo then sighed and continued, "After over forty years in the field, during the course of which he married and had three kids, Nyilas, at the age of seventy, retired from archaeology and settled with his wife in Zootopia. Now, he gives regular lectures at the University of History and Arts. And just so we're clear, he never studied pole-dancing."

"Chief," Nick took the words, after a moment’s thought, "this might sound an odd question, but indulge me. Has Victor Chizz... Csizmold Allmessy... Allmerry—"

"Victor Csizmaldia Almássy Nyilas?" Judy gave a helping paw.

"Yeah," Nick said, "has... who Hopps just said, ever been to Zistopia?"

The line went silent as Bogo skimmed through the report. Nick and Judy heard the sound of pages to turn over before words accompanied the short pause, "Ah, yes. He visited Zistopia several times in his career, most notably to lead excavations in the desert sands just outside the city limits, shortly before he retired from archaeology and became a professor. That was one year ago."

Nick turned to look at Judy; Judy's brow had already furrowed. "So," Nick said, "what's the plan, do we know where he is?"

"At ten o'clock, Nyilas is giving a speech on Zistopian archaeology and architecture. It is now coming up to eight. That should give you enough time to find out what you can at Reg' House and get to the University of Arts in time for the speech. After, you will follow him back to his study, approach him, and arrest him. If all goes to plan, it should be a nice, quiet and organized arrest. He is sixty-three, after all."

"Chief," Nick warned, "we can't be all that sure we can get all you need for a warrant just from the paperwork alone."

"That should not be a problem," Bogo assured, "after you have arrested and brought Nyilas to ZPD HQ, you should still have ample time to infiltrate Erkin and attain as much evidence as we need. Bear in mind, of course, that I'll need an hour to have it approved and legalized, so I need it in my hoof by four o'clock. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Sir," Judy said, "we'll—"

Something clicked in the fox's mind, and then he grabbed the radio from Judy's paw and spoke in distress, "Wait, Sir. I don't think we have enough time to get what we have here done in the time we have. It might take us a little longer than that."

Bogo's reply came in smug quantities, "Then you will have to learn to be more efficient in your application of time, Officer Wilde. Two hours is plenty enough. Now," he added sharply, "back to work." The radio crackled and then went dead.

Nick stood slowly, crossing one arm over his chest and bringing the paw of his other up to his chin in brooding thoughtfulness. "Fluff," he mumbled, "we have a problem."

The rabbit frowned. "What's the matter?"

"It's gonna take us at least half an hour to get to the University of Arts with the traffic as it is at this time of day. That gives us only an hour and a half here. If you want to have a thorough talk with Jack, there's not going to be time to dig-up all the info on Erkin we need."

"And vica versa, I'm guessing." The fox nodded. "Well," she huffed slowly, "we're just gonna have to prioritize finding out what we can about Erkin. That's what Bogo thinks we're doing, after all."

"Actually," Nick interfered, "it would be an easy enough thing to speak to Jack and then bluff to Bogo we couldn't find anything useful about Erkin. If you wanted to speak to Jack, you can still do that, and Bogo will be none the wiser."

"But, if we can't find out enough evidence for a raid warrant, we're gonna have to infiltrate Erkin itself later. We might get caught. Killed even!"

"True, true. That is a risk. But for all we know, we might not get the evidence we need from here anyway, and those cuffs aren't gonna hold Jack forever. As it stands, we hold all the cards against him. That's a rare advantage to have over somebody. If we let him slip now, and if you want to speak to him later, then it'll have to be on his terms. And Jack's terms are always very one-sided."

"Let me get this straight," Judy asserted, "either we speak to Jack now and risk getting captured at Erkin Enterprise later, or we don't speak to Jack and thus find out what we can about Erkin. All that at the expense of losing any information he might have, and hope it's enough to get Bogo a warrant?"

"That about wraps it up," Nick approved to her summary, "speaking to Jack puts us at high risk later; not speaking to him puts us at low risk, but we do lose out a lot of information. And if we can't find what we need on Erkin now, we'll be at just as high of a risk later anyway, and will have missed out on what Jack might have had to tell us. So, how are we going to decide?"

"Let me think…" Judy murmured and lost herself in her musing, while her leg started thumping the carpet underneath to the tiny puffs of dust.

...

Author’s notes:

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Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

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Chapter Text

Judy paced irritably back and forth across the carpeted floor of the Registry House department of Manufactures of Electronic Components. The room was illuminated by a system of almost ancient beam lights, if only just, in dull yellow brightness. Every wall was covered with shelves, and the small room was an almost labyrinthine maze of skeletal frame-bookcases, the surfaces of which were packed with thick wads of files and stuffed full of yellowish paperwork with crisp and delicate pages.

Nick observed the rabbit as she paced back and forth in front of him, her arms crossed against her chest and her expression tight and troubled. The fox sat forwards in his chair, opening his palms out towards her. "What does your instinct say?"

The rabbit paused. "Research Erkin. Avoid danger later."

"Then that's what we should do."

"Oh," the rabbit groaned, pacing again, "but it's not as easy as that! What if we can't find anything about Erkin here anyway? Nothing incriminating, that is. We'd lose our chance to talk to Jack."

"Hopps," Nick urged, pulling his phone and checking the time, "it's already five past eight. We're running out of time; it's time to decide."

"Couldn't we just research Erkin now and take Jack in the car with us?"

"You mean uncuff him, drag him to the cruiser and cuff him inside that?"

"Yeah."

"Wouldn't work, Hopps. The moment we take him out of those cuffs, he'd escape."

"How?"

"He's an expert in like, I don't know, aikido or something. I mean all he'd have to do is incapacitate me and overbalance you for a few moments. And that would be it: bye-bye Jack."

"But..." the rabbit stressed, squinting, "but you managed to control him."

Nick snorted. "I had him by the throat, Hopps. If I'd given him half a chance, he would've turned the tables and had me on the floor in a second. What were you hoping to say to Jack anyway?"

Judy stopped moving and focused her attention to Nick. "I was going to tell him exactly what would happen if ever he is to damage a single hair on your body again!"

"Wouldn't it be enough to just knee him in the... undesiraballs?"

"I... guess," she sighed, faltering, "but I also wanted to get an idea of who he is and what he's like. Also, I wanted to see if I could make some kind of deal with him."

"A deal!" Nick blurted out by standing up, "With Jack?!"

"Hey," Judy complained, taking a step back from the irate fox, "don't take it like that."

"You can't make a deal with Jack! You... you dumb bunny! You don't even have anything to bargain with. He doesn't need money. He's already Agent One of the MI-Z. If he has a family, he never sees them. And if you try beating information out of him, he'll just have you jailed. You could probably use sexual persuasion to get a deal out of him, I guess. But if you so much as even think of going to bed with that jerk, I'm gonna take a blunt knife and cut off that little bastard's ba—"

"Nick, calm down. I'm not trying to bribe him or scare him, and I certainly wasn't thinking of going to bed with him."

"Well then what... how were you planning to do it?"

Judy felt giddy inside her stomach with a playful sensation growing new. It was childish and mischievous, and it made a small blush to grow on her face. "You know, if I wasn't an officer, my mom once swore I'd be an actress. I haven't actually done any performances for over ten years..." The fox raised an eyebrow to Judy’s grin. "But I think it's time I put those skills to use."

Nick huffed in lack of persuasion. "And what part do you plan to play?"

"The part," she swooned, "of the attractive, helpless, innocent little victim who needs protecting from the vile, big fox." Nick’s arms went slack as he gawked, gobsmacked, at the rabbit. "What?" She winked. "I'm only giving him what he wants: telling him what he wants to hear. Isn't that the idea of how to bribe someone; give them what they want?"

After a moment, the fox's bewilderment grew into amusement. "Bribing someone with words alone? You sneaky little minx." A sly smile infected Judy's face; the fox chuckled at her reaction. "If only I'd have thought of that one: bribing someone with words alone, whatever next?"

"Thanks, Slick," she said, turning to the door. "Oh, keys?"

"Right here," he confirmed and tossed them over.

"Thanks," she said as she made her way out, calling over her shoulder. "You stay here and find what you can about Erkin; this won't take long."

"Hey, Hopps." The fox beamed as Judy's head re-appeared from around the door frame for one last time. "Break a leg... preferably his."

A grin split on the rabbit's face. "If things don't go how I’ve planned them? Certainly." Judy's head disappeared, the door swinging shut behind her.

...

After having had found himself alone in the corridor, the striped rabbit had used the pawcuffs, that were securing his writs to the tall radiator pipe, to support his weight during the hustle up. Jack Savage stared down at the floor underneath him, dangling upside-down from the ceiling with his legs wrapped around one of the beam-lights above.

The rabbit jostled. He felt movement in the outer breast pocket of his suit jacket and froze as he felt it slip, because he only had one shot at this, after all. With one last little jostle, an unusually thick credit card slipped out of his outer pocket and fell into his waiting paws beneath. Smiling, Jack released his feet from the light, and he dropped back down to the floor. He fidgeted with the credit card; though, he was unable to see for the fact his paws had been secured behind him. But then he managed to slip open the credit card with the false bottom and access the secret compartment within.

By touch, he selected the two most appropriate lock picks and allowed the case to drop to the floor. Kneeling forwards slightly, holding his tongue between his teeth in concentration, Savage inserted the picks into the lock of the pawcuffs, he was held by, and started to work at the pins inside. He felt the first click into place after several moments of uncomfortable shifting. These locks were designed to resist being cracked, and so it was a difficult and complicated challenge which required all his mental attention and a great amount of dexterity. The second pin clicked into place, his paws becoming clammy with the strain. Only three more to go. He was about to start work on the third when a small, echoing thump from somewhere down the corridor grabbed his now-racing heart.

His ears shot upright at the noise of a door being closed. If his judgment was correct, it was the same door Nick had used, and by the sounds of footsteps coming towards him, it sounded like the fox had come to finish the job. Starting to panic a little, Jack withdrew the picks from the lock, grimacing as he heard the pins snap back into place; he stood upright as he slid the secret-compartmented credit card beneath his leg, so it was now hidden under his foot.

His ears twitching left and right as they adjusted on their target, Jack's brow started to furrow. By the sound and noise the footsteps were making, he would have assumed it wasn't a fox but a smaller mammal. And by the apparent speed they were walking at, it appeared whoever it was, they were feeling more apprehensive and concerned than brash and bold like Nick would have been.

A silhouette started growing up the wall. The silhouette of a small yet large-eared mammal not unlike himself. Jack's eyebrows raised in surprise as a grey doe came into view. She turned the corner into Jack's line of sight, but didn't appear to spot the black-striped creature, looking up and down the length of the adjoining corridor nervously. She turned to scout down the corridor Jack was in, and her eyes met his. What happened next surprised Jack to the core of his existence.

"Oh, thank goodness, I've found you!" Judy shouted, bolting down the corridor towards Jack. She reached the startled rabbit, and the moment she did, she threw her arms tightly around him. "I'm so frightened," she whimpered, "you have to help me. I don't know what I'll do if you don't."

The offensive front Jack had made dissolved at her embrace; he swallowed. "Miss... Miss Hopps?" He didn't know if it was surprise at the manner of her appearance — or the pleasure of the doe’s arms around his waist and her nuzzles into his cheek — but Jack’s voice was suddenly very soft and smooth, "What... what happened?"

The doe’s arms came tighter around him. Jack wondered if she was crying, because she wiped her eyes against his neck. "He... he's a monster."

"Wilde?"

She nodded, taking her arms from around his waist and wrapping her paws, softly, around his neck; hence, she rested her head submissively against his chest... something Jack didn't mind one bit. The buck subtly breathed in a little of the doe's appealing scent, while she brushed her head against his chest, making his legs quiver a little as he spoke, his voice gentle, "Tell me, what's he done?"

"He scares me, bullies me, makes me feel insecure."

"But I've been listening in to the two of you at his apartment. It didn't sound like you were unhappy with him."

"He..." Judy paused slightly at the words, but then she whimpered and continued, as if a giant weight was pulling on her every word, "I have to constantly pretend I'm happy to be with him, or else, he says he'll beat me."

"So why do you stay with him? Why don't you report him; arrest him, even?"

"He said he'd get my family if ever I told anyone."

Lowering his head, Jack placed his nose between the base of Judy's ears, taking in a lingering breath of her scent and no longer worrying about making it obvious.

Judy fought to control a smirk. "You like my scent?" she asked, timidly.

"I like you." Judy drew her head back to look into Jack's face, waiting with hidden amusement as she watched his pupils dilate. "I think you're beautiful; I've thought that since the moment I saw your photo in my report. You know," he continued slowly, drawing his face closer to hers... "Foxes can only take one mate in their whole life. Rabbits, however... rabbits like you and I... are not so unfortunate. When this is all over and Wilde's behind bars, how about I take you out to dinner somewhere, take you back to my place for a drink and... see what happens?"

Jack moved his head forwards to press his lips against Judy's. Luckily, she had expected this move and managed to swiftly avoid the meeting of mouths by adjusting her lips close to his ear.

"That sounds really great," she whispered through gritted teeth, "but first, we need to figure out what we're gonna do about Nick."

"How long do we have?"

"Not long. I'm only able to talk to you now because he's in the bathroom tending to the cut you gave him."

"I went easy on him," Jack muttered, "I won't let it happen again. I should've broken that damn fox's jaw. Okay, we'll meet up later. There a café near your place?"

"There's a little restaurant called Joe's Place I know of."

"Right. Do you think you'll be able to get away from Wilde long enough?"

"Oh, I think that should be easy."

"I'll see you after the raid then. Yes?" She nodded, and he delightfully beamed at her. "I swear, this will be over before you know it." Judy took her arms back from around Jack's neck and got her key out of her pocket; consequently, she stepped closer to Jack to reach behind him and undo the pawcuff locks, but she regretted her decision instantly. Jack's head shot forwards and his lips pressed firmly against hers; as a result, Judy froze, a mixture of uncontrollable fury and panic instantly building within her. Jack withdrew himself, while she remained in the shock of motionless silence to his self-satisfied smirk. Without a word, she swiftly undid both cuffs and stepped back from the buck, amidst her urge to gag.

"Now, get going," Jack said smoothly, mistaking Judy's shock for surprised pleasure as he rubbed his wrists, not even glancing at the rabbit he had just kissed, "Wilde will be out of the bathroom soon. You don't want him knowing where you've been."

If Judy had opened her mouth, she knew only curses would follow, so she just turned sharply and marched hurriedly away.

Jack's face rose with satisfaction as Judy disappeared, collecting his lock picking set. He sure hadn’t lost his touch. Barely ten seconds alone with a doe, and he was already practically in her pants. Might’ve been a new personal record. The buck turned, licking his tongue along his lips, while he walked, running through, in the back of his mind, a few of the positions he might like to take her through later. Maybe he'd strip her, lie her down on the bed and give her a nice massage... maybe give her something a little rougher... maybe even borrow those pawcuffs for a while.

He grinned, continuing to consider all the things he might like to do to his new plaything. It didn't matter what the fox did now; that doe was his. Jack knew he had charmed Hopps into wanting to have sex with him, and there was nothing to be done to change that now.

...

Nick Wilde jumped as the door slammed open. "That stuck-up, jerkish, black-striped little bastard! Do you have any idea what he just did to me?" she screamed, "Do you have any idea?"

"Er—"

"He kissed me, the bastard." Judy spat at the floor and started furiously wiping her mouth on her sleeve. "God, I stink of him. Nick, come here and mark me."

Nick blinked. It was unusually good fortune for any mammle to have a femammle practically ordering them to mark them with their scent, but he wasn't about to argue. Judy stepped towards the fox, as he knelt down to her height, and pressed herself readily against him, furthermore, his muzzle started to roughen and smoothen against the side of her neck. "It's all sorted out though," she sighed, her anger subsiding, "he thinks I hate you. We're meeting up at Joe's Place later, and he's going to tell me everything he knows."

"So all in all," Nick summarized, "you played him like a violin."

"Yeah. I still taste him on my lips though. Give me a kiss." The fox obeyed, parting his lips for her as her arms hooked around his head and pulled him deeply into the heated affection she gave. Nick wasn't sure if the kiss was as thorough as it was simply because Judy wanted it, or because she wanted to be sure that all of Jack's scent was gone... but either way, he didn't mind.

After a long and heart-pounding moment, Judy drew her lips and her tongue back from Nick's. "How long do we have?" she asked, her eyes now sparkling a little with emotion.

"A little over an hour. Plenty of time if we don't get distracted."

Glee grew on the rabbit's face, and then it morphed into a chuckle. "Aww, you sure we don't have time for just a little fun?"

"Much as I'd love to say yes, Carrots, in my experience, we do seem to be quite prone to accidentally going further than we intended to. Let’s just see what we can find," he said, fully aware he was sacrificing a make-out session with Judy for the sake of some paperwork. "And save all the fun stuff for this evening."

Judy sighed, a little sadly, but accepting the situation as it was. "Okay," she persisted as she drew her arms back, "what have you found?"

"Take a seat." Judy did as instructed, while Nick thumped down a thick, old book down on the desk in front of her, opened it to a bookmarked page and took the seat beside her. "Well," he began, "this thing is the Companies Registrar. It lists all the businesses set up in Zootopia in the past twenty years. It doesn't tell you anything about the company itself, apart from the year it was started, its name, and its company number. That’s like the company’s fingerprint, kinda thing."

"You've found Erkins?"

"It's, erh," he erhed, leaning into the book and running his finger along, "zero, four, six, three, eight, seven, two, seven."

"Oh, good... and that helps us how?"

"Everything in this building is, or should be, kept in numerical order. And now that we have the number, we should be able to find everything a lot quicker."

"So," she asked, her brow furrowing, "what is it we're looking for, exactly?"

The fox sat closer, slowly. "In all honesty, Hopps, I don't have a clue. This is the realm of legitimate business procedures; it all goes over my head."

"But what might constitute enough of a reason for something to warrant a raid?"

"I guess we could look at their import and export sheet, and see if there are any inconsistencies. I mean, I doubt they're gonna write 'eighth of March, imported three thousand grams cocaïne', but we might get something. The real problem here is that, we have to remember, we don't, technically, know for sure that they are criminally involved."

"But the coyote Mister Black talked to—"

"Is not going to stand up as reliable evidence when taken into consideration by the judge. If we want them to sign a warrant card, our evidence cannot rely on what ole Shaggy told us."

"That puts us back to square one?"

"Essentially, yes. But at least we know where to look."

"Okay," she finalized, resolutely standing, "you look at their import and export, and I'll root around and see if I can find some kind of employees list."

"Yay," Nick jeered, dryly, as he stood… "paperwork."

...

More than half an hour passed without eventfulness, and the two officers started feeling as though they were spending as much time looking for paperwork, in this large, jumbled mess of files, then they were actually reading it. The two officers sat facing away from one another on separate desks... which, by the end of the half an hour, were both packed to an overflow with files and folders.

Judy slapped down yet another file on the desk with a heavy grunt. "I don't understand this stuff. I mean, why do they have to write it like this? Why do that have to make it so damn complicated?"

"What does it say?" Nick asked from a desk behind her.

Judy lifted the file. "Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section three, section A, clause two-one-four of the Administrative Procedures Cortland Act nineteen seventy-eight, it is proposed that, in so far as the implementation of statutory provisions is concerned, the resolution of anomalies and uncertainties, as perceived by the responsible department, shall fall within the purview of the Ministry of Administrative Affairs. What does it mean?"

"It means what it says."

"That's not helpful, Nick."

"What it basically means is 'we're a big company who know lots of long words'. It's just like that to confuse the average publican, Hopps. It doesn't really mean anything if taken at face value."

"But it's all like this!"

"Carrots, as an ex-conmammle, I know that most of what politicians and big companies, such as this, rely on is obfuscation: the art of confusing and fatiguing a listener. It's meant to bore and baffle us to the point we stop reading. Or at least stop taking it in, so that when we reach the part we're looking for, we either can't be bothered to read it properly and miss it, or never reach it at all on account of having given up and gone home for a lie-down."

"But how do we beat it?"

"We can't 'beat' it, per se. Everything government-related relies on it. We just have to keep looking until we find the bit they don't want us to see. How'd you get on with your list of employees?"

"It came back with some pretty interesting results," she said, lifting documents out of the way as she sought for it. "I don't know quite what to make of it, but it's definitely worth looking into. Ahh." She found the file and lifted it out, standing and crossing to Nick's desk before pawing it over and pointing to a particular part.

"Well, this is interesting."

"Yeah, the whole original staff was made redundant three weeks ago and replaced by new guys."

"Huh... I wonder what caused that."

"Well," Judy said, "the only reason I could think was if a new guy was in charge, and he wanted a clean slate to work from. But I had a look at this Previous Owners thing, and it didn't say anything about a recent change in management."

"You didn't. You're quite sure?"

"Yeah, I'm absolutely sure!"

"So... it was undeclared." The fox's head turned, gazing into the middle-distance as he thought.

"What is it?"

"I saw something about that," he trailed softly. His ear twitched, his gaze lowered to the paperwork and suddenly his paws were in a frenzied rush as he routed through the many pages of paperwork. "Here!" Lifting out a file marked 'Management', Nick set down the single sheet of paperwork on the desk. Judy stepped close to him and examined the sheet, while Nick rested his paw on Judy's back affectionately as she gave scrutiny. The rabbit leaned forward a little to get a better view at the page... and so the fox let his paw slip down to rest quite comfortably on the smooth slope of her rump instead.

"It's the name of the fella who apparently runs it," he realized. "You see how it's the same piece of paperwork from four years ago, but the name's been crossed out and re-written?"

"The management's different now, but they haven't filled in a new sheet. Is that it?"

"Precisely. I just assumed it was accidental to begin with, but with what you've found about the recent redundancies, I'd say it was done intentionally. And if that's the case, then this file relates to the old owner. But it has no information about the new one, apart from a name."

"So what are you saying?" Judy tried to understand, "The company was bought up, but the new owners wanted to keep it quiet?"

"Yep. And there's only ever one reason why a company might want to keep something quiet: they’re up to something."

"You sure this is the most up-to-date copy? You sure they didn't realize they'd made a mistake and wrote out a new one?"

"This must be the most recent one. Paperwork like this, which includes phone numbers and addresses for an individual, are always rearguard as sensitive information and are kept for 'need-to-know' only. That means it's only kept so long as the information is required. And once it's no longer required, it gets shredded to protect that individual’s information."

"I get it," the rabbit said, "after all, if you've pawed over your business to someone else, you don't want people phoning you up with complaints years later, do you?" The rabbit smiled for a moment in satisfaction... but then dejection came to be. "Nick, is this actually getting us anywhere? I mean, it's interesting in a way, I guess, but it's hardly incriminating."

"Well that depends, Hopps. Look, in the past month, Erkin Electrics has changed paws. It used to belong to some guy called," he glanced down at the page, "Joshua Jerome. But now appears to be owned by some larger company called, erh... dataDyne."

"DateDyne? Never heard of them."

"No. But you understand it's no longer owned by the same people, yes?"

"Yeah."

"It's being passed off as just a change of management. That means whatever or whoever now runs that joint is no longer Erkin; it's just a company of the same name. That means, unless they sell exactly the same stock and provide exactly the same service as Erkin originally did... we have them proved guilty."

"Guilty? Guilty of what?"

The fox smiled like mad. "False advertising."

...

Moving efficiently, Appleby pulled back the corner of the thick bedsheets, standing patiently beside the bed while his master slipped from his gown and stepped into the expensive, soft mattress. "Your conversation with the receptionist was informative, I trust?"

"Most informative indeed."

The badger pulled the bed sheets over his master, speaking softly as he reached for the chord that would turn off the light. "Do you wish me to take steps to prevent Mister Nyilas' arrest?"

"No, let events take their due cause. Nyilas was losing his edge, after all, and a blunted tool is of no use to my cause. He is merely a ball-ball now, a pawn, to distract the ZPD." He chuckled, settling back into the sheets. "Tomorrow, and for weeks to come, Bogo and his little insects of police officers will be busy patting one another on the back, telling each-other what a very good job they did. They’ll be so caught-up in their own pathetic, little celebrations... they’ll fail to see what's really going on until it's too late."

The badger pulled the chord and the lights flicked off, leaving only the floating glimmer in from the corridor outside to hold back the growing darkness. "They will take Nyilas thinking him the king, when really, he is but a pawn. It is a plan of highest excellence, Sir."

"The idea was yours, was it not?"

"Oh, I make no claims to fame of my own, Sir. I may have suggested an appropriate course of action to you, but it was not I who processed and developed the idea into the faultless, diversionary device it has hence become. My part in this is but that of servitude, my Lord. As it should be."

"As it should be, Appleby. Yes, everything is proceeding as I have foreseen it."

"Glad to hear it," the badger said, "I can't tell you how..." he sought for the right word... "happy that makes me feel. Good-night, Sir."

"Be seeing you."

Appelby swung the thick door shut, extinguishing all light from the cold, black room.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

With unclearness of curiosity, Judy edged closer to the fox of grins. "False advertising?" she repeated, "How?"

"Look at it this way, Carrots. Say some billionaire bought-out the Hopps Family Farm and turned it into... say, like, a bakery or something, right?"

"Yeah. That's one hell of a big bakery, but go on."

"I know, it was the best I could think up at short notice. Anyway, if they did that but didn't alert the proper authorities that the company had changed paws, then all the paperwork would still say that the Hopps Farm was still a farm."

"So, if they then started selling bread instead of farm produce—"

"They'd be guilty of false advertising, yes."

"And if they're only using Erkin as a legitimate front to cover up a drug-shipping enterprise," Judy pondered aloud, "it's not likely they offer an all-that-professional service for fixing light bulbs."

"My point exactly. The problem we have is finding a way of seeing what service they do provide, without letting on about the raid tonight."

"How long do we have?"

"About twenty minutes. Why, you got an idea?"

"Yeah," the rabbit said in the foam of thoughts, "we just phone them and ask for some repairs. Create a semi-difficult job and if they turn up and can't do it, we'll ask why. If they turn up and can, you distract them and I'll snoop around in their van. If they refuse and don't turn up at all that gives us the ammo to make some further inquiries."

"But, Bogo said we weren't to let them know we were raiding them later. Wouldn't making inquiries raise their suspicions?"

"That's the beauty of it. You see, if they decline service, we can make a 'citizen’s inquiry'. They won't even know we're cops."

"Hopps," the fox said, leaning back on the desk behind him, "how do you even remember all this stuff? I took the police exam too, you know. But even I don't know half of all the sub-clauses and provisional exclusions you do."

"Nicky," she cooed sweetly, "when you were taking your police training exams, did you learn the information because you had to, or because you wanted to?"

"Because I had to... like any sane person has to."

"Not me. I read up on it because it interested me."

"You are so weird sometimes."

"Like you're any better."

"Me?" he chuckled, "What's wrong with me? I'm not the one who enjoys revising and having exams."

"True though that is... you're still the weirdest predator I've ever met, for one, simple, reason."

"And what might that be, prey?" he mocked, crossing his arms with the playfulness of a kid.

The rabbit stepped closer, reaching up and taking the fox by his tie, hence, pulling his head down level with hers and whispering into his ear, "You've got a thing for rabbits."

Nick couldn’t fight-off his grin, thus, revealing his rows of teeth and sending a tremble down Judy’s body. "On contrary, my carrot-eating friend, I have a thing for but one rabbit."

"Oh... if that's the case," she breathed slyly, worrying the fox who knew that mischievous tone... "how do you explain the box of rabbit-porn under your bed?" Nick’s world hung slack. He knew she had seen those mags, but damn he wasn't expecting her to outright say it. His mouth wrenched open as he struggled with an answer, while Judy's freshness grew by positive degrees with every moment.

"Erm... F-Finnick asked me to look after... no... I found them in a... they... I never saw them before."

"You never saw them before...?"

"No," he stated nervously, drawing an 'x' over his heart with his claw. "God as my witness."

"Is that your final answer?"

"Erm—"

"After all, you still have fifty-fifty and phone a friend open to you."

"Carrots, stop mucking me about and—"

"I'm sorry, that's not the answer we were looking for. Perhaps the next contestant will have better luck."

"Judy—"

The fox was cut off by the crackle of Hopps' police radio, "Hey, guys! Am I interrupting anything?"

"No, Clawhauser," Nick called, hurriedly grabbing at the radio, "you're not interrupting anything. It's good to hear from you. How've you been? Anything interesting been going on? Tell me everything! We've got plenty of time." Judy scowled as her weariness rose to glare at the fox and his pathetic attempt at getting away from that subject. But she couldn't be mad at him, even if she wanted to.

"Well, ughm," the cheetah stuttered, "that's— that's a lot of questions. I'm not sure I've got the puff to answer all of them without a donut or two in between."

"Well, don't worry about it, Claw," Nick assured, casting a cautions eye towards the rabbit, "you just take all the time you need."

"Clawhauser!" Judy piped-up and pulled out her own radio. "We're a little short on time here. What is it you need?"

"Oh, right, right, right! Sorry, yeah. I managed to find the paperwork for the Erkin van you requested. Some idiot had filed Erkin under R instead of E."

"I through that was part of your job?" Hopps clarified and the line lingered silent for a time.

"My... my recycling bin tends to get quite full."

Both Nick and Judy shared a baffled glance. "I might have misheard that, Ben," Judy desperately guessed, "it sounded almost like you said your recycling bin gets quite full."

"It... it does. And it gets kinda distracting when it's full of cardboard donuts boxes. I can't think straight, and cleaners only empty it once a day and it gets quite full, and—"

"Alright, Claw, we get it," Nick cut in. "You can blame the cleaners for doing the paperwork wrong. We'll believe you."

"Just, please," Judy said, "we're pressed for time enough as it is. Just tell is what you found."

"Right, yes, sorry, yes. You guys pulled them over for a faulty rear number plate about three months ago. You filed an official warning and sent them on their way. You left a report of the stock they were carrying. Looked like boxes of electrical components, soldering equipment, circuit boards, wires, computer monitors and other miscellaneous, electrical equipment."

"So nothing out of the ordinary?" Hopps asked.

"I don't know," the cheetah chuckled, "what do they do?"

"They provide and repair electrical components to other businesses," Nick answered. "Office blocks, apartments, all that. They do bulk order stuff, you know? I think they even provided the ZPD with a few printers a while back."

"Well," Clawhauser's voice crackled in reply, "in that case, I can't see anything in the report here that looks out of place."

"And when did you say this was?" Judy asked with tall ears.

"Seventy-eight days ago."

"Just over two and a half months," Nick recounted to Judy, flicking the radio off. "So Erkin wasn't owned by dataDyne at that point."

"So we can assume they were a legitimate business back then." The rabbit flicked the radio back on. "Okay, Claw, anything else we should know?"

"Ughm, I don't think— yes! Yes, Bogo asked me to pass on a message. Well, I say asked, he kinda just shouted, but anyway." The duo heard the cheetah fussing with sheets of paper, mumbling to himself under his breath. "I mean I put it here so I could find it, so why isn't it here now? Is it under the box of chocolate-coated— ah, here it is! A-hem, 'please ask Hopps and Wilde to go to the university if they wouldn't mind, please'."

Judy glanced to Nick, skeptically. "Bogo said... 'please'?"

"Not exactly, no. That was just my interpretation. Actually, his exact words were: 'tell that rabbit and her shifty fox to get their tails down to the university pronto, before I dump their arses in three weeks parking duty'."

"Okay," the rabbit said, standing, "we'll be leaving in just a moment. That should give us plenty of time to—" The rabbit drifted off as she looked about at herself... at the two very high stacks of paperwork which littered the tops of two large desks.

"Hopps?" the radio crackled, "Are you still—"

The rabbit flicked the radio off. "Sweet cheese and crackers, Nick, what do we do? It's gonna take us an hour just to put this stuff back!"

The fox sought about at his surroundings. "Leave it to me, Carrots."

"Leave it to you?" she repeated, almost shouting with worry. "What do you mean leave it to you?"

With nothing more than a wink, the fox stood, turned and paced from the room, to which Judy began shouting at him in fury as he slid past the door and into the corridor, "Nicholas Wilde, you get back in here and help me with this!"

"Take a breath, Hopps," the fox called form the doorway, "count to ten, relax a little. You won't do yourself any favors getting stressed out like this. Just wait here, and I'll be back in just a sec'."

The rabbit plopped herself down on a chair and crossed her arms to the disbelief of her indignation.

...

Judy's ears pricked-up at the sound of voices approaching from down the corridor. That was Nick's voice. "So, Marvin, how's it hanging?"

"You probably ought to know, I'm feeling very depressed."

"Well, I've got something that'll take your mind off it."

"I doubt it. I have an exceptionally large mind."

"Come on, mate. You'll enjoy it!"

"No I won't."

"You will. You'll find yourself with a whole new life stretching out ahead of you!"

"Oh, no. Not another one."

The door swung open, and the weary-looking porcupine-security wondered into the room... followed by an even more weary-looking fox who was forcing his voice to remain cheerful as he spoke, "It's full of excitement and adventure and other wilde things."

"Is that a pun?"

"Yeah."

"How horrid." Marvin took one sweeping look of the mess. "Yourself and the rabbit have to go and you don't have the time to clean up the paperwork yourself, so you want me to do it... is that it?"

"Yeah," Nick answered glumly, "you got it straight..."

"Well I wish you'd just tell me, rather, than try to engage my enthusiasm. Because I haven't got any."

"Okay..." Folding his arms, the fox let out a long, sorrowful sigh as his head lowered jadedly down to his chest.

"I'm not getting you down at all, am I?"

"No, Marvin, you're fine."

"I wouldn't like to think I was getting you down."

"No," Nick repeated, "trust me, it's—"

"I wouldn't like to think I was getting anybody down."

"You're not," the fox repeated, coming close to a whimper, "but please, could you just make a start on the paperwork?"

The porcupine took one small step into the room, before, turning back to the fox. "You sure you don't mind?"

"No," Nick reassured again, "it's just... that's life."

"Hello again, Marvin," Judy entered brightly as he came in, "thank you for—"

"Life? Don't talk to me about life."

The rabbit's cheerful expression wilted dimly. "Oh—"

"You don't have to pretend you're interested in me, you know. I know perfectly well I'm only a menial public servant." Stepping towards the first tall pile, he began to tediously sort through the masses of disorganized mess. "I only have to talk to somebody, and they begin to hate me. But if you just ignore me, I expect I shall probably cease to exist altogether."

The rabbit blinked with the disability of reacting anyway to anyhow.

"All my life I've been doing this job," he continued. "The first ten years were the worst. And the second ten years: they were the worst too. The third ten years I didn't enjoy at all. And the forth was just awful. After that, I think I went into a bit of a decline."

"But, Marvin," the rabbit asked, "why don't you just quit and get a new—"

"But the real problem is that I'm just so vastly intelligent that nothing can hope to occupy even the smallest degree of my intellect. I am at a rough estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me give you an example. Think of a number, any number."

"Erm... five?" Judy humored him in the befuddlement that was transpiring.

"Wrong. You see? It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level."

"Oh-kay... but why—"

"It's the people you meet in this job that really get you down. The best conversation I had was over thirty-four years ago. And that was with a coffee machine."

"A... a coffee machine?"

"It hated me."

"What?"

"It hated me because I talked to it."

"You talked to it? What do you mean you talked to it?

"Simple. I got very bored and depressed, so I walked over to the coffee machine and talked to it at great length and explained my views on life and the universe to it."

"And what happened?"

"It committed suicide."

"Well, okay," the rabbit tried again, "but why don't you resign and become a—"

"Do you know what they say to me? 'Don't let drunk people in, Marvin.' When is a drunk ever going to want to come in here? 'Make sure all the doors are locked by nightfall, Marvin', 'Marvin, tidy up this paperwork, can you?' I'm a security guard, I tell them, not a cleaner. But no-one ever listens to me."

Silently, the rabbit started to back away from the room, the door shunting softly behind her.

...

Jogging, Judy caught up with the overly amused fox. "Wilde, you cruel, wicked fox. Dumping all that filing on that poor—"

"He loves it," Nick interjected smoothly, putting his arm loosely around the rabbit's shoulders. "You should've seen the way his little eyes lit up when I told him."

"I somehow doubt that."

"What? It'll be a little excitement for him..." Taking back his arms and unbuttoning the lower few of his shirt buttons, the fox reached underneath his shirt and withdrew his paw, now holding a large, black file... "Especially when he finds out some of the paperwork's missing."

Judy fell out of step, gawping at him. "N-Nick, did you just steal that? How did you get it in your shirt, I was watching you the whole time?! Do you have any idea of the—"

"First off," Nick interrupted, holding out a raised index finger to silence her. "Yes, I did unlawfully borrow this file without permission, but I do intend to give it back. Second, I'm an expert pickpocket; of course you didn't see me take it. And third, yes, I do know the penalty for theft from a government building. But it's never going to come to a court of law, since I just 'accidentally' put it in my briefcase and 'accidentally' took it with me. The briefcase was actually my shirt, I grant you, but still, the most that'll happen is I'll get a slap on the wrists from Bogo."

"But, you can't just take stuff like this, Nick. You need to fill out all the paperwork and—"

"I think poor Marvin has enough paperwork as it is. Besides," he added, slipping the file back into his shirt, "we don't have time for that."

"That's no excuse!" the justice-obsessed rabbit cut in, stepping towards him and shoving her paw into the space between Nick's shirt and his bare chest. "Now you and I are going back to that porcupine, and you are going to apologize for taking this file!"

"What..." the fox breathed, softly... "what are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing?" she scolded, her paw rooting here and there across the fur of Nick's chest, "I'm looking for that file!"

The fox's eyes drifted shut. Did she even have an idea of how good this felt? "And for... for that you're willing to do... this?"

"Yes!"

"... And if I told you it's slipped into my boxers?" Acting before she had processed the implications, the ticked-off rabbit made as though to shove her paw into his joy department; for half a second, the fox actually believed she was about to reach for it. Then, the rabbit froze, a sanguine blush quickly growing as her bulging eyes rose to meet Nick’s coolly calm expression, his rather smirking face mere inches from hers.

 She withdrew her paw quickly, turned and marched away, trying to get out of earshot before the fox said something along the lines of, "Aw, was it something I said?" She glanced over her shoulder as she walked, seeing the fox idling in the same position and now quite a distance away, with a pouting, disappointed existence on his exterior.

"Are you coming or what?"

"Erhm, not at the moment," he answered, hopefully, "but put me in a dark bedroom, alone, with you... and I could be."

"What? Nick!"

"Don't tell me you haven't thought about it too, Hopps. I know you have."

Judy stopped dead, half curving to the fox with small amusement taking roots. "Okay, foxy, I admit it. I have thought about it. I'm even willing to admit that I've thought about it a lot."

Nick's grin began meeting defeat, while Judy advanced with the motion of sultriness-playful. "If it wasn't for my parents’ sex after marriage teachings, I would have had you the moment I knew you felt about me the same way I feel about you. I have desired your body, lusted for you, for almost a year now and... Guess what?" She waited patiently for his answer, thus, giving him the chance to quip some humorous little joke which she already knew would never come.

His mouth opened with a sudden dryness; therefore, he licked his lips and forced his mouth to make at least some sort of sound, "W-what?"

"This urge, this desire I feel deep down inside me whenever I lay eyes on you. This aching, yearning drive to take you inside me and to feel your love within me... it's insatiable, uncontrollable, enthralling. I don't know how much longer I can fight it: how long I can resist something I want so bad that it hurts... when all I would have to do is reach out... and take it."

Nick just remained in his muddled state of mind, while she went on with her words of heart’s desire. "Tonight, I am going to share my body with you, doing everything I can short of breaking my parents’ wishes. I know that probably stops short of doing anything other than just looking and touching one another. But if I had my way, Nick, I would take you home this very second, lock the door, be damned with the world and throw away the key. I would take your body, and I would make love to you again, and again and again. I would hold you against me with love, with passion and with care..."

Now being directly before the fox, Judy reached out and held his paws in gentleness… "And I would never, ever, let you go."

Nick felt a throbbing sensation in his heart and in another part of his body, as the rabbit's words fell softly into his ears.

"But anyway," she changed direction abruptly, taking her paws back and turning sharply and marching away while calling to the fox over her shoulder, "the alternative of course is that you propose to me this afternoon, marry me this evening and we can spend the weekend doing something far more interesting than just touching one another!"

"H-hey," Nick called after her, "what?!"

"Come on, Nick," replied the now-distant figure, "we've got work to do."

"B-but, Judy," he shouted, trotting to try to catch up, "what was that you said? Just before? About... proposing?" Nick's trot became a run as the rabbit picked up speed and started to sprint — sprinting so Nick couldn't see the bright red blush, which had grown all across her face at sharing with him the oh-so-wonderful 'secret fantasy' she had for so long wished might come true.

Marriage.

...

Outside the building, concealed from the scorching heat of day in the shadows of a blind alley, a pair of slit eyes observed the back door to Registry House as it swung open and the figure of a grey rabbit sprinted out, followed, a second later, by the figure of a red fox.

The duo ran, while the sounds of their laughter and their gigglings carried across to the white figure's erect ears. The rabbit reached the car and started frantically trying to pull open the locked door, but the fox caught up and tackled her to the ground, before, pressing his lips against the rabbit’s deeply, something that the rabbit didn't appear to mind. This went on for but a moment, before, both mammals leaped up from the still-scorching road and rushed to get into the ZPD cruiser. They got in and the engine swiftly roared in start; hence, the car began rolling down the road.

The white figure moved, while his pale eyes observed as the car was driven around a corner and out of sight. He pocketed his phone and pressed the sequence of buttons he had been trained to press; consequently, His face appeared on the screen.

"Wulf," He greeted, "is everything running according to schedule?"

The albino wolf grunted. "Glad to hear it. Your target is now en route to the university, north of your position. But do not attempt to intervene there. Just keep an eye on them; wait until this evening. Our Master wants the fox left alive, so you'll have to wait until they're separated. Given their record, that could take some time."

The wolf grunted again, leaving the shade and starting to move in a generally northern direction, while failing to notice or care about the thickness of the air around him or the burning temperature of the ground beneath. "And, Wulf," He added, "use caution. But do not take too long. As I have explained before, further action cannot be taken against the fox if the rabbit is still alive. Good luck, and good hunting."

The phone went dead.

...

"But I'm quite used to being humiliated," Marvin continued, "I could even stick my head in the public toilet and flush it if you like. I mean if that's what you really want." The porcupine half-turned and addressed the empty space behind him, earnestly. "Would you like me to stick my head in the public toilet and flush it? You're not answering?"

He now turned fully to the realization of the situation. "Ohh, you've gone. Well pardon me for breathing, though I can't say I blame you. I suppose I'll just be getting on with sorting this paperwork, seeing as you can't even bare to— god I'm so depressed." Putting the files back down on the table, Marvin addressed the universe in general.

"Life... loathe it or ignore it. You can't like it."

...

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Chapter Text

Nick had once told Judy that he mused best while in the car, being driven, that is, not driving. It wasn't that he couldn't think at all while not driving, it's just that his head always seemed somehow clearer with the background noise and slight jostling which driving entailed.

For this reason, it was mostly the rabbit's job to do so. She liked driving and understood that with the right setting Nick could think more deeply and more single-mindedly about a subject then she ever could. And right now, by the look on the fox's face... Nick was thinking, hard. Judy returned her eyes to the road as the silence between them lingered. The pair had soon settled down into driving quietly after their first few moments of giddy silliness, but since then a kind of heaviness had descended upon them and en-chained them with weight.

Judy turned the wheel as she drove the car down yet another road towards the outskirts of Precinct One — electing to drive through the more widening, but uncontested, roads rather than the more direct, yet packed and slow-moving, traffic in the center of the city. The rabbit bit her lip a little, because she knew what the fox was thinking about: the same thing currently occupying her mind: a certain desire she had let slip, in the heat of the previous conversation, in the corridor at Registry House.

That desire.

Once again, she felt a wave of sudden warmth roll through her which left her lungs short of air and her head brimming-giddy. She sucked in a long breath and wound down the window a little as she tried to keep a grip. It wasn't that she regretted what she had said to her partner — it was the truth after all. It was just, maybe, she could have put it a little more... delicately? The fox cleared his throat and started to draw breath beside her as though about to speak, and the rabbit's heart started thumping just a little louder in her chest at that realization.

Nick twisted his head to her, while she watched out of the corner of her eye without him knowing. She observed as he looked at her, his mouth still open as though to talk, apparently taking in all the features of her expression, before, slowly closing his mouth and drawing his attention back to the road at paw. Judy knew what he was doing; he was planning his next move, and planning it carefully, given that both had been silent for the past five minutes. The rabbit parted her dry lips to try and start something, "Nick—"

An ear rose and his head angled towards her slightly, but then she ran out of words and closed her mouth. Silence descended upon the car once again as the rabbit continued down the road. At length, Nick sighed, crossing his arms and resting back in his seat with a heavy grunt, while his eyes fell closed despondently. He finally cracked the deafness, dryly, "You always have to be so difficult."

"Nick?"

"I've known you more than a year now," he unrolled, turning to her, "and I still can't figure you out."

"What do you mean?"

"That, is what I mean."

"What?"

"How can you not know what I mean? What do you think I mean? How is it you can be so open about something so incredibly life-changing and important... like marriage... as though it was nothing?"

The rabbit glanced to the fox, wondering if she'd given him the wrong impression. "I... I don't think of marriage as nothing, Nick. I was just—"

"What, teasing me? Is that what that was?"

Judy went through some deep mortification. "What is with you?" she asked, squinting. She wasn't sure, but that sounded an awful-like the tone of voice he had taken after her speech about the Nighthowlers case.

"Teasing, it's always teasing: I tease you, you tease me; it's how our relationship's always worked. Well, if it's teasing then it's not serious," he added through gritted teeth, "and if the idea of marriage is just a joke to you, how do I know our entire relationship isn't just some kind of prank?"

"What? You— you're blowing things out of all proportion."

"I'm not," he shot, "or do you mean I'm blowing the importance of this relationship out of proportion?"

"Nick, you know what I'm trying to say. Don't be such a dumb fox."

"Well I'm sorry!" he shouted, "but this is a hell of a big deal to me, Judy!"

The car fell deathly uncomfortable, with Judy's eyes widening as they stared at the road in front of her. Her ears slowly drooped behind her head; Nick groaned dejectedly, edging closer, his paws clasped in front of him as he turned to her and held her gaze, even while she fortituded staring at the road.

"I'm sorry," he said again, his voice far quieter. "And I'm sorry I shouted at you just then. I'm just... trying to figure out what you want." He played with his claws for a bit, before, moving on, "I mean, how the hell do I know?" he added, softly. "I've been going out with you, what, a day? A day and a half? I know we shouldn't even be thinking about marriage this early on. And yet, one way or another, the subject just seems to keep coming up. But how can you be sure it's what you want? How can either of us be sure so soon? You'll tire of me some day," he added gloomily, his head slowly limping into his paws.

"I know you will. The day my teasing ceases to amuse you and just pisses you off instead. And when that happens, I'm screwed. You realize that, right? That's all I got going for me. That's the only way I know how to talk; to joke and to tease and to dodge the question and avoid the answer, because it's always been easier to do that than to square-up to how I really feel."

The fox wiped his eyes with the palm of his paw, so enwrapped with his thoughts he didn't even notice that Judy had pulled the car to a stop. "I've been living on my nerves for the past twenty years now. It gives you energy, sure, but it's paper thin; there's nothing beneath it. If I try to change my ways now... it'll ruin me. I don't have the strength to be open about who I love and the things I want so bad, it just keeps me up at night. It's just not something I am able to do, Judy. I've been wearing a mask for too long, been playing the part of the untouchable fox so much. I can't remember how to stop acting anymore. It's become me."

Judy couldn’t hold her relief away as she tugged a subtle and understanding smile. "Nick, I know who you are. I've seen into the darkest, most wretched parts of your life. I've seen you at your very best! The day you graduated from the academy, the first day at work together, last night at your apartment... and I've seen you at your very worst. I've seen you stand up to me, completely fearless, in the face of Chief Bogo. I've seen you throw yourself in front of me because you thought I was in peril. I know you've gone without so I could have what you felt I deserved, and without ever seeking any consideration or thanks in reward.”

“I have seen the Nick behind the mask. I know who you are on the inside. I know that, while the fox on the outside is a great guy and a real charmer... the fox on the inside has a heart of pure gold. And the moments I've spent with that Nick... have been some of the happiest moments of my life."

The fox grabbed the rabbit's paw and held it, forlornly. "And what about the day you want to have kids, Judy? Kids of your own flesh and blood? I certainly can't give them to you!"

"We’ll get to that when it comes, Nick. But for now, all I want is to be with you. That's the only thing that really matters to me."

"But, Ju—"

"And I'm sorry to cut this short, but this really isn't the time or place to be talking about this."

His ears lowered at her words glumly, but he nodded after a moment and released her paw. "Why can't this just be easy?" he muttered to himself.

Judy smiled at him, gently. "And since when has either of our lives been easy?"

The fox chuckled as he wondered out of the window, his head resting on his paw as Judy re-ignited the car and started back down the road. Nick turned to her, honestly, "I do want to talk to you about it all though."

"Me too, Nick. There's a lot I want to get figured out tonight."

"After the raid?"

"I'm seeing Jack at the café, remember?"

"Oh... yeah."

"Sorry."

"Doesn't matter. I can do that overtime I still owe Bogo for taking Monday off."

Judy nodded, a little disappointed that she had to push that conversation aside, but realizing that if they talked about it now, it would either be rushed or result in the two of them being unable to locate Nyilas in time to prepare for the raid. "So, what's Jack like?" she asked.

"Huh, what's the politically correct term?"

"A bastard?"

The fox chuckled. "Well, that's a start, Hopps. He's a femammlenizer for sure and corrupt to the soul— at least he was at one point, even if he has always denied it."

"What do you mean he denied it? To his seniors?"

"Well yeah, he denied it to his seniors, obviously. But what I meant was that he denied it to himself. All the while, when he was working as a bent agent for me, he believed what he was doing was in the law's best interest. Always prattling on about how this was just some 'supreme sacrifice' he was making. I always found it hilarious, listening to his little speeches about how he was gonna fix the city and save the world, just after he'd sold vital government secrets to the largest criminal gang in Tundratown for the sake of his own advancement."

"He never caught onto what you were doing?"

"Oh no, it was worse than that. He knew what I was doing. He knew exactly why it was in my interests to push him as high up the ranks as possible, and he still believed he was doing the right thing."

"But, if that's what he believed, and that was the reason he did the things he did… doesn't that make his intentions... honorable?"

"Not exactly. What you believe in is one thing, but... look, as Freud once said, ‘Every desire has its cause, but the cause may be obscured from plain sight, altered, rationalized by the subconscious part of the brain to justify it’. Some are simpler, some are more complex, and some we don't even consider. For instance," Nick asked, matter-of-factly, "why is it you always want to be so physically close to me?"

"Because... well, because I love you, Nick."

"Wrong." The rabbit blinked in befuddlement. "At its core, and I'm talking its very core, all other emotions and desires completely stripped away: it's your sexual drive trying to get you to mate with me so we can have kids and carry on the species." A heavy blush grew on the rabbit's face, a wave of heat flushing through her. Did he know? Did he know that she wa—

"And while Jack always made a big song and dance about how important the safety of Zootopia was to him, a statement he believed, I'll give him that. What it all boils down to is wanting to be the guy everyone looks up to and says, 'You saved us. You saved all of us. We are indebted to you and we will be grateful and love you forever'."

"So what are you saying, he has an inferiority complex?"

"Essentially, yes. He feels the constant need to prove his worth: to himself more than everyone else, and seeks praise from wherever he can get it."

"So what caused it?"

"I'd hate to think. I never knew him socially. But from what I gather, his early life wasn't the happiest of times. He seems totally committed to justice and doing the right thing... but he doesn't always seem to quite realize when he's crossed the line in the pursuit of justice and ends up doing more bad then good."

"So he's like a black knight?"

"Or a guardian demon."

"Oh. Any examples?"

The fox paused for a moment as he considered, then spoke, "Alright. Once, about half a year after I recruited him, the MI-Z assigned him with the task of capturing and interrogating an ex-policemammle who was reported to have joined a small criminal gang in Precinct One. The Ministry wanted him to find the defector and get him to spill the names of the other members of the gang. Now, as the relationship always was between Jack and myself, it was a favor for a favor. He pawed over plans for some kind of prisoner transfer we could intercept… I forgot the details. And we, in return, found his defected copper. We took him to a place only Firm members could get to and tied him down to a chair and gave Jack half an hour to do whatever he felt necessary to do without being disturbed.

"Now, unofficially, the MI-Z know that interrogations sometimes get a little rough. You'll never hear them admit that, obviously, but what Jack did... God." The fox paused, taking a breath which shivered a little in the memory of what he had seen that night before he continued. "The interrogation had turned into torture Judy. And Jack had beaten him to death with his bare paws." Taking a breath, the fox calmed himself.

"I was stood just outside the door when it happened. I heard shouting and screaming, which didn't surprise me. And then it just stopped, and everything went deathly silent. I opened the door and stepped in; there was Jack facing away from me, the corpse of the mammal lying in a heap on the floor. When he heard the door opening, Jack turned to me, and his face was just..." the fox cringed, visibly. "He turned around, walked up and just threw his arms around me. He hugged me tightly, so tightly, for over an hour while crying his eyes out into my chest, wailing like a child. I've never seen him so weak as in that moment. I don't think he meant to kill him. I don't think he knew what he was doing. I think he just went into a blind fury, forgot where he was, and let all his rage and his malice and his emotional insecurity loose on this poor mammal… who turned out not to be a defector anyway.”

"But it was all done with the best intentions! All done for a cause Jack knew was worth fighting for: the law. And he was prepared to do anything, break any rule, go as low as he needed to catch and deal with anyone who was a threat to the safety of Zootopia. Even willing to join a criminal super-power to do it." Nick paused in the swamps of his life. "To me, this speaks of a lack of understanding between right and wrong, something most of us learn from our parents. This gives me all kinds of ideas as to what his early life might have been like."

He leaned away, gazing at the roof. "The best I could come up with was that his parents were lawyers or cops or maybe secret agents themselves, even. Two good people with a lot of respect for justice and doing the right thing. Then one day, on a mission or on patrol, something happens to them... and Jack never sees them again. The authorities take him into protective care, a foster home or orphanage. And the young Jack Savage, like millions of kids in that situation do, just snapped and went out of control.“

“If that is the case like I suspect it is, he would have been moved from orphanage to orphanage: never happy, never able to settle, always picking fights and getting into trouble and getting kicked out and moved to the next place. When he reached eighteen, the state would have dropped him like a hot potato and left him to fend for himself. Now I don't know if any of that's true… I had my best mammals spend weeks looking into his past, and they couldn't find a thing. Not one trace of who he might once have been. In fact, the only thing I know for sure is that he sure as hell didn't used to be called Jack Savage." Judy glanced to the fox; he nodded towards her, meaningfully.

"But, the thing is," he forged on, thoughtfully, "is that we... you, only know him as the mammal he is today. The double-dealing, self-obsessed, traitorous femammlenizer. When really, Hopps, the truth is... he wasn't all that different from you at one time. All he wanted to do was make the world a better place. But in truth, it was the world that changed him..." Judy glanced to the fox and saw him staring down at nothing, his eyes lost to a distant memory, his voice as cold and absent as his thoughts... "I changed him." The fox's voice dropped low as he glared at his paws clasped in his lap.

"It was late in the year in wintertime. About three, four years after I recruited him. He phoned me one day, asked if we could meet somewhere private. It was arranged and we met up later that day." Nick's eyes lost themselves up at the sky outside. "He said things to me I never thought I'd hear, not from him. Not Jack: the fantastic femammlenizer who shared a bed with a different girl each night, and who hated and loathed and despised me with all his soul."

Her voice was soft as she asked, "What did he say?"

"I remember every detail of what happened," Nick continued without noting Judy’s question immediately, "the way he shifted from foot to foot, how he kept fidgeting with his paws, kept trailing off and stuttering… his expression, his tone, the way he kept looking off to the side before looking back—"

"But what did he say?" Nevertheless, she wasn’t given an answer, as Nick was lost in his memories.

"And I laughed at him," Nick added, sickly. "I just stood there, and laughed at him." His gaze falling, the fox's eyes closed remorsefully. "Out of everything else that was going on in his life at the time, everything that made him look in the mirror and wonder who the heck he was, made him question his values, his faiths, beliefs. After everything he had been through, it was this... me... that finally broke him."

"Nick, what did he say?"

"Sorry, Hopps. That's not my secret to tell."

"Oh." The car fell silent, while Judy drove, now heading back into the city as they neared the university. "You said before that my ego isn't so inflated and my morals are too strong to allow myself to fall into the same trap Jack did. What trap was that? Nick?" Judy turned to the fox. His eyes were vacant and distanced as he roamed at the space before him, his face blank, his mind obviously sunk in thought. "Nick," she prompted again, reaching out a paw and touching him on the shoulder, "it's okay."

He slowly moved, smiled at her cheerfully and spoke, his voice up-beat and jovial — Judy knew it was forced, "But enough about me, let's go back to that infinitely more entertaining conversation about our future together."

Judy breathed softly. The change in conversation was hardly subtle, but then, that wasn't the point. Nick wanted her to know that he couldn't talk further about his past dealings with Jack, whatever they were... if only she knew what they were, maybe she could’ve helped him! But, if there was one thing she'd learned the hard way, it was that if there was no more give in Nick's leeway, it was time to stop pushing.

"Alright," she relented, aware she had just discovered another thorn from Nick's life she didn't even know was there, but also knowing there was nothing more to be done about it yet, "you win. Let's go back to the tedious topic of discussing all the people who are gonna hate us if we ever get married."

"Married?" he exclaimed, managing a chuckle which was now only half-forced, "who wants to talk about marriage when we can't even do that yet? No, Hopps, no. I'm thinking of something far more... current."

Although the rabbit didn't yet know what he meant, clearly a small part of her did because his words sent a light tingle down her spine. "Wh— what were you thinking?"

Nick leaned towards her, his grin now truthful. "What we're gonna do tonight."

"To— tonight?"

"As I think I heard a certain bunny say," he revised, adopting a high-pitched, fluttery impression of Judy's voice, "'I am going to share my body with you, you handsome devil, doing everything I can short of breaking my parents’ wishes'."

"I— didn't say that."

"Oh? Well as my mom always said, ‘if it looks like a rabbit and sounds like a rabbit, it's probably Judy trying to wriggle out of something.’"

"I'm not wriggling out of anything," she shot, quickly, "it's just, what I said to you… it wasn't all that well-thought out, and I lost something of what I meant to say in the way it was—“

"No, my love," he interjected, slyly, "you're not getting out of it that easily. Whether you meant to say it or not, that is what you said. So I ask you, Judy, what exactly constitutes your parents’ wishes? At what point does sex become sex?" The rabbit's heart started thumping louder; the blood rushing to her ears and her cheeks, and making them tinge red with a blush.

"There you go again," the fox smirked, "venting your desires."

"I'm sorry, I—" The rabbit huffed, heat enshrouding all around her collar. She tugged at it and then undid a button... "I haven't been feeling quite myself."

Nick raised a brow. "How do you mean? You ill?"

"Erm, sorta."

"You okay to work?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine."

"Well, what are the symptoms?"

"Oh, this and that…" she mumbled vaguely in dismiss. "Light-headedness, a little dizziness, upset stomach..." The rabbit cleared her throat, moving her head closer to the steering wheel as though hoping she could crawl in and disappear within it… "Mood swings, heat flushes, inability to concentrate."

"Hell, mood swings? What the heck causes mood swings?"

"I'm fine, Nick," Judy assured nervously, "just... fine."

"Like hell you are. Heat flushes, inability to concentrate? We need to get you to a hospital, Hopps."

"I'll be fine, Nick," she repeated, her volume increasing.

"You're not, fine," he asserted, tersely, "you're sick. Now, if you're feeling light-headed, at least let me drive the car so we don't—"

"Nick," she shouted, "listen to my words! I am fine. Do you understand me?" The rabbit snapped sharply to the fox's saddened expression, and she scolded herself for doing so, thus, turning her eyes back to the road as she tried to calm herself.

"Judy, I'm... I'm only trying to help you."

Growling, Judy's grip grew excessively tight as she tried to control the shaking of her paws. "Nick, I... I'm—" The rabbit's body flushed with warmth and her head became faint. She drew in a long breath and let it out in a loud huff which shook with nerves as it was blown out of her... "I'm in heat."

Nick’s reaction was of full slack. "I-I-I mean soon," she stuttered, "well, now, I guess. I'm in heat as of now, thanks to you. Not that it was your fault," she added, starting to ramble through her anxiety, "I mean, it was due any day now… But you're the one who’s kicked it into overdrive and it's just... it's—" A small chuckle interrupted her. "Damn it, Nick, how can you be laughing?"

"Sorry, Carrots, sorry. It's just... so, that's what I've been smelling all day?"

"... What! Ha— have you always known the days I was in heat?"

"No, Fluff, no. But then I've never been able to get quite so close to you before now. And your heats aren't normally this bad, I'd wager?" The rabbit growled, but nodded to Nick’s new amusement.

"It was when we were rolling around on the floor this morning I first noticed something a little different about your scent; it's slowly been getting more, erm... potent, through the day. But I didn't know what it was because I've never smelt it on you before. Though, I admit," he whispered, mildly, "there were one or two occasions where I thought you smelt somewhat more delectable than usual.”

”And getting shut in a confined space, sitting right next to you after that intimate little chat we had sure hit the point home." The fox angled towards the rabbit and drew a small, appreciating sniff. "You do realize the car's been full of it since you got in here, right?" The fox sat back in his seat smugly as he waited for Judy's retort. None came. A brow picking up, he inclined forwards and looked back towards the rabbit who had focused all her attention, very deliberately, on driving. Nick smirked. Yeah, like he was letting this go that easily…

"So, Carrots," Nick continued in a patronizingly impartial voice, "a rabbit in heat. What does that mean, exactly, huh?"

"You know what it means," Judy grunted.

"Actually, I don't know all that much about it. It's something to do with the math’s season, isn't it?"

"No! Mating season, Nick. Mating, not maths!"

"Same thing, surely."

"How are they the same thing?!"

"They both involve a certain amount of... multiplying." The fox grinned wider as the rabbit groaned, her open paw meeting her face as she huffed loudly. "Ohh," Nick groaned, mocking arousal, "why, Hopps, you sound tense. Need me to give you a 'release' for some of that 'pent-up' stress?"

The rabbit put her finger in her mouth and bit it, hard. "Nick," she warned, "this seriously isn't the best time to be playing with sex jokes. Do you have any idea what it's doing to me right now?"

"Well," he answered smoothly, "there's an easy way to find out." With that, the fox slid his paw across the distance between them. He placed it on Judy's knee to a small gasp from the rabbit and began to slowly stroke it up and down her leg — taking it a little higher each time. "Just think what'd happen if I tried to take things further."

"Nick, you jerk, stop!"

He tipped in, his voice a hot breath in her ear. "Just think what would happen," he said again, his thumb tracing along her inner thigh. "You know... I'm horny too."

Judy tried to pretend it was all his paw's doing, but she knew it was the simple fact of Nick voicing his desire that sent yet another flush of heat through her, his paw creeping closer to the center of that apex-craving. "Yeah, that's right," the red fox breathed, "that's what you like."

"Nick... please..."

His paw halted. "Do you want me to stop?"

"Yes..." The rabbit choked a slow breath, trying as best as she could to keep her focus on the road. "... and no." The fox got in close to the rabbit, his paw edging up just that inch closer to the source of all the rabbit's pent-up frustration and desire.

"Maybe," he whispered, "a little bite is what you'd like. A little nip from the hungry predator."

His eyes mooned, then he leaned closer-still and pinched his teeth lightly on Judy’s shoulder, making her gasp with a shiver.

"Nick," she shouted, frantic but failing.

"Because I'm the predator here, Judy," he rumbled, tilting his head up a little more and pinching the exposed fur on her neck where she had undone her top buttons.

"Nerh... Nick—"

"And you're my prey."

"Ohhhh," the rabbit groaned, pulling down another road, her eyes suddenly widening with realization as she noticed a large sign. "Oh look," Judy shouted, "we're here, Nick, we're here!" She shoved his head away with her paw, a forced grin on her face and her voice several octaves higher-pitch than normal. "We're here now, so, we have to go, a, and—"

She trailed off, practically ripping her seat belt off and diving for the door handle, her heart pounding at an uncontrollable rate in her chest, while her whole body practically rippled with flames.

Her paws reached for the door handle, but then an auburn one stopped her. The larger paw clamped tightly around Judy's wrist. The rabbit froze, a low and animalistic sound rumbling out from right behind her, a sound which sent her mind right back through the generations of evolution and right back to her primitive ways.

Growling.

Her head turned slowly, gasping at seeing the fox's face with his mouth twisted in something between a grin and a snarl, every one of his gleaming teeth on display and his emerald eyes a beacon of untamed, unstoppable, unsatisfiable... lust. In a snarl of sudden activity, the fox grabbed his prey by the waist and pulled her effortlessly across him. He set her down on the dashboard in front of him, her paws either side of his head on the headrest, while her feet were on either side of his knees.

"Nick?" Judy cried in surprise and worry, "Nick!" In an almost frenzied rush the fox's paws worked at the rabbit's belt, undid the button, slid down the zipper, parted the rabbit's legs with his large, red paws and pushed his muzzle deep between the rabbit's thighs. "Nick!" she cried again.

The fox inhaled. He inhaled deep and he inhaled long. He inhaled until his lungs were full of the rabbit's intensely appealing musk, and then he held the breath within him. The fox breathed out through his mouth slowly, a long and deep groan of pleasure escaping his lips. His glazed eyes rose to look at the rabbit, whose scent of arousal he could taste on his tongue, while he was only half surprised when he saw her. Her every muscle was tightened and her eyes were clamped shut. Her jaw was set hard and her breaths were still. She sighed, whimpered just a little before she spoke in a weak and breathless tone, "How... how long do we have?"

"Not long enough for that, if that's what you mean."

A soft, panting chuckle escaping her, the rabbit crossed her legs around the fox's neck. "Nuh-not even a little?"

The fox lowered his snout, touching his nose gently down on the moist material of the rabbit's black panties, hence, making her groan at the sensation as he again inhaled her essence.

"If I go any further than this," he dissuaded, his hot breath a warm purr against the bunny's folds, "there is no 'just a little'. There is no 'going back'. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't have enough self-control to stop."

"I don't want you to stop."

"— We have to." The rabbit opened her eyes for the first time since this happened, trying to focus on the fox as he sat back and mooned at her steadily in predatorial need. His voice was pained and sorrowful, wretched almost, but earnest and resolute. "I don't want our first time to be in a car, Judy." His head shook, slowly. "That's just not right."

The rabbit stared into the fox’s face with a questioning expression for a few moments longer... then she collapsed with a heavy groan, her head falling with a thump onto the car dashboard, her legs spread either side of the fox's head. "You... big... jerk."

Nick waited from between her legs. It would be so easy to just inch forward, twitch aside that thin layer of material, take his tongue and... without a word, the fox raised his large paws. He touched them for a moment upon the rabbit's inner thighs and then tenderly, reverently re-covered the rabbit's modesty — the rabbit huffing and panting, her eyes closed, just before him.

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

As softly and as subtly as shadows move in the darkness, the door to the Lord's Royal Tower's bedchamber opened. There was no light from the corridor, nor was there any light from within but for the palest of illuminations from the cloud-shrouded moon outside, which shone in an almost ethereal light upon the black, polished megalith.

From without an otter slipped in. Disguised all in black, light material and crawling on all fours, he made towards the master bed; wherein, he could see the form of Zistopia's Lord sleeping beneath the sheets.

A thin smile grew on his lips as climbed the foot of the bed, and he pulled a small knife from beneath his dark outfit as he approached, a gleam in his eye while he crawled closer to the closed eyes of the silken-black panther. Angling forwards, the tip of the otter's dagger touched upon the panther's neck to which his eyes opened.

"Your reign of terror is over," the otter whispered mockingly, "oh-mighty lord."

The panther moistened his lips. "Look behind you."

"Ha, you think I'm falling for that? I'm disappointed. I was expecting something far more elaborate. Say goodbye, my lord," the otter jeered underneath the raised knife.

Behind him, a shadow moved against darker dimness. The towering frame of a black and white mammal lurched from nowhere and grabbed the otter harshly around the throat. Without a moment's delay, Appleby half turned and hurtled the small creature against the wall. The otter hit the hard stone head-first and his skull split open, his lifeless body falling with a pathetic splat to the floor… "Goodbye," the Lord expressed with empty apathy.

"Pardon the intrusion, Sir," Appleby apologized, picking up the corpse by a limp leg and pacing from the room, "I'll have a word with the chief of the Nightwatch and see to it he doubles his patrols."

"They appear to be getting more frequent, these assassination attempts."

"This one was rather skilled, Sir, was he not?"

"What do we think: individuals working on their own, or another cult trying to end me?"

"I think the latter is more likely. It might be wise to purge the streets again, Sir."

"Again?"

"If there is a group of mammals working to end your life, Sir, do you not think it would be in your interest?"

The Lord paused and thought for a moment. "No, we'll shortly be needing all the mammal-power we can get when we initiate Stage Five. Speaking of which, operation Mincemeat, is it a go?"

"Not quite, Sir. I was just going to make the phone call, when the silent alarm was set off by..." he held up the limp body of the otter... "this little fellow."

"Appleby," the Lord interjected, settling back beneath the sheets, "just see that it's done."

"Indeed, Sir. I foresee Mincemeat will be an astounding success."

...

The University of History and Arts — like all good places of learning, like libraries and like churches — had an aura of dense and heavy learning. Walking through its high-ceiling corridors, gazing upon its stainglass windows, stepping into the grand lecture halls and wandering through its on-campus garden, one could not help but feel as though they were moving through the masonry halls of a grand cathedral.

The dormitories at one end were a small complex of hexagonal rooms, each against another; wherein, the students would study during term time if they had nowhere else to stay. Three floors above them in a wide, octagonal tower were the older, yet statelier, living quarters of the university dons.

Each door bore a brass plaque with, engraved upon it in an official typeface, the name of the don who lived there. On one, 'Henry Croft (Dr.)' on a second, 'Terry Lateford (PhD)' and on a third... 'Victor Nyilas (BSC)'. Behind this wooden door, the room was dimly lit, the blinds pulled down and furnished with quality oak furniture. The figure of a goat rested in his padded chair, his arms lingering on the surface of the cluttered table. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hoof, he gazed bleakly at the framed photograph he had placed on the center of his desk. Sighing, the aged creature leaned forwards, his back stiff, and picked up the photograph, running a single finger across the faces. His wife, his two sons, his daughter… A thin smile grew but it was tainted by old wounds of pain.

The phone rung; the professor started back, grabbing the receiver and holding it to his ear, while not daring to say a word. The line was silent for a few moments of static, and then, "Secretary Appleby here. Nyilas, is that you?"

"Appleby," Nyilas greeted, nervously, "is nice to hear from—"

"I have your master’s commands. After your lecture, you're to go down to the city docks and oversee the next drug shipment import."

"I... so soon after the—"

"After that you will be leaving with the boat back to Zistopia. From which point, your contract with us will be over. Am I understood?"

"You mean— I can leave?"

"Is that not what I said?" the badger replied, wearily.

"And my family? You'll let them—" With a click the line went dead. His mouth quivering, the goat slowly lowered the phone and gawked at the receiver. His eyes fell to quiver upon the photograph of his wife and kids. Dropping the receiver onto the wood, his head fell into his hooves, stifling something between a moan and a sob as both fear and fury grew within him in equal measures.

There was a knock on the door from outside. "Professor?"

Pulling himself together quickly, he called out without the effects of his emotional turmoil, "Yes?"

"It's time for your lecture. Do you need a paw?"

"No, boy," he asserted, pulling himself to his feet, "I is fine, thank you, today."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

Social Links:

Chapter Text

The university lecture hall was thick with heavy silence. The students looked down from their desks which were encircled around the teacher’s lectern like a roman stage — with many desks on many levels so those at the back could see over the heads of those in front. The structure was all made from wood as old and hardy as the stone foundations of the building itself. The University of History and Arts was one of the only buildings in Precinct One not to be built from glass and metal. Over six-hundred years old, this building — which once served as a place of worship for the pagan mammals of old; the first of their kind to believe that predator and prey could live in harmony together — now served as the center of education for the whole metropolis.

A clock hung upon the wall, flanked on all sides by scuffed and scarred blackboards, its pendulum swinging rhythmically back and forth to the morbid rhythm of its soulless tick, tick, tick. The silence, of the otherwise noiseless room, was broken by the crack of the latch and the creek of the entrance door as it swung in, followed by the hunched figure of an aging billy goat. He paced to the center of the room — behind his desk and surrounded on his front and sides by rows upon rows of students — and began to speak in his strange accent: a voice comprised from a little of every major language in the East.

"Good afternoon, class," he began with the pierce upon the impatience, "thank you all for attending. Now, I know the last thing any of you want is a lecture on pre-historic architecture last thing on a Friday afternoon. I know you would all rather be off playing football or enjoying the company of your femammle companions, but what I have for you today is something really quite remarkable. “

“The Zistopia Council Tower. Otherwise known as the Spike of the Desert, the Tower of the East and, most controversially, as Xibalba, owing to the torturous function of the tower in during the medieval times." The billy goat paused, spotting a raised paw near the back of the class. "Yes, Jamie?"

"Mister Nyilas, is it true Zistopia's ran by a dictatorship?" he called.

"That is indeed a good question, Jamie. You refer, of course, to the rumor that the government there has been subverted and taken over by High-Secretary Hayes? I can tell you today that this rumor is not true."

"But you visited there recently," the boy called out again, "you lead an archaeology team on a dig in the gardens around the tower. You must've seen the brute force the guards use when dealing whit—"

"Pure speculation, my boy," Nyilas cut in. "It is true, the quality of life in Zistopia is not precisely as great is has been said to be, but that can be said for any city. Zootopia itself is no exception."

"But I heard—"

"We are not here to discuss politics, boy. We are here to speak about the architectural construction of this most ancient building."

...

"Nick, hurry," Judy called over her shoulder as she carried on jogging down the corridor, her voice an odd mix between a shout and a whisper, as she called out to the fox abiding silently behind, "the lecture’s already started; I didn't want to be late!"

"Fluff," Nick called in a whisper behind her, "you do realize we don't have to be on time, right? I mean, you do realize we're not actually on this course?"

"There's no harm in being on time, Nick. And there's no substitute for being punctual either."

The fox chuckled as they reached a large, gray door which lead to another corridor, helping the rabbit pull it open as she checked if the place was clear, before, going through with the fox slipping in behind her. "I don't think that's quite the reason, Hopps," he inserted, nudging her with his elbow as they moved with the search.

"Why, what... whatever could you mean?"

"I think there's another reason you're trying so hard to keep your mind occupied. A particular recent event maybe? A singular little something that happened in the car just now—"

"Nick! We don't have time for this," she shot, "now, the lecture started five minutes ago which means we only have twenty-five minutes to find where he is and make an arrest."

"Then how about, my love," he said, tersely, "we go to reception and just ask?"

Judy's hurry slowed to a halt. She paused and shuffled closer to the fox. "It could really be that easy?"

"We don't live in a spy thriller, Hopps. At least, I don't think."

The rabbit looked off to the side, a small smile growing and a single chuckle leaving her lips. "Well," she beamed, "what do you know? You get so good at thinking your way through tough situations, you forget just how simple the answer can sometimes be."

The fox encouraged her with a nod, while her attention returned to his. She rounded briskly, grabbed him by the wrist and hustled back down the corridor in the other direction. "Come on, Nick," she called as the fox stumbled and struggled to get his footing, "I'd hate to miss all the interesting bits."

...

Picking up another Polaroid, Victor Nyilas loaded it into the projector and an enlarged image of a black, stone staircase appeared on the blackboard behind him. "This is another point of interest," he confirmed, addressing the students before him while pointing to the photo of the staircase behind him. "There are one hundred and seventy-seven steps in total. Seven flights of seven steps, five flights of eleven, three flights of thirteen and two flights of seventeen. They are spiral and, together, act as the main stairway up to the roof of the tower. And I'm sure all of you can see the mathematical pattern and understanding this shows. A mathematical understanding we did not realize they possessed when this tower was built."

He paused for a moment, listening to the scratching of pencils and the tapping of computer keyboards as the students made notes — knowing this may well be the very last lecture he would ever make.

"These steps have, like the rest of the building, been calved with the utmost care, skill and attention. Every surface of every step is a perfectly flat and smooth. The steps are a constant size and width, with each step being the same steepness and distance from every other. The workmanship is unflawed in every way. This, coupled with how entangled the staircases are with one another and with the many rooms of the tower, it certifies the fact these long-forgotten craftsmemmle had some kind of skill or technology we no longer remember today. Some so-called 'experts' claim that this is the work of other worldly bodies. This is, of course, utterly ridiculous."

"But what about the theory that this rock came from outer space," a femammle from down the front called out, "doesn't that have some merit?"

"A valid point, Samantha," the goat answered. "It is true that no scientist, of physics or of geography, have been able to identify where in all Zoophon this piece of rock even came from. Or how it was dragged across several hundred miles of desert, stood erect and then buried thirty-five feet underground. Your suggestion and the suggestion of others: that the tower was originally a great meteor is not only partly plausible, but also explains how it came to be so deeply embedded in dry sand. Not an easy material to dig by any means. It could be that this rock was, at one stage, many times bigger than it is now. But it burnt up while entering the atmosphere, embedded itself in the desert and then was chiseled and shaped into the building we find today by a race of ancient people."

Pacing to one of the blackboards, Nyilas picked up a piece of chalk and started to scratch out a few lengthy calculations. "But this is not an all-that-satisfactory answer," he continued, "as, if we take into account the mass of the tower today, estimate the size it would've been when it entered the atmosphere and when it landed… multiply that by the velocity with which it would have hit Earth, times by the area of the base to give us the pressure of impact..."

...

Not far from the lecture hall, a pair of gray doors burst open and a rabbit hurried through, the door suddenly swinging back upon the fox who was following close behind, almost knocking him off his feet, before, he managed to slip through the rapidly closing space between.

"Come on, Nick," Judy said hurriedly as her eyes darted about her, "which way did the receptionist say to go now? Up the stairs? Straight on?"

"Up the stairs and then a left," Nick repeated, rubbing the sore patch on his arm, "but, Carrots, why—" The fox trailed off as Judy rushed up the stairs, failing to hear him or notice him talking. "Judy!" Nick called after her, making the rabbit stop at the top of the staircase and turn to him expectantly.

"What?"

"Why the big hurry? We've got time."

"What do you mean? We have no time. Sure, we don't exactly have a deadline we need to have Nyilas arrested by. But the sooner we can get him behind bars, the sooner we can focus all our attention on getting Bogo a warrant which we do have a deadline for. You with me?"

"I guess."

The rabbit crossed her arms. "Nick, where's your enthusiasm?"

The fox focused absently off to the side, still rubbing the pain in his arm unthinkingly.

The rabbit's eyes flicked from his face to his paw, then back to his face again with a small smile spread on her being. "You hurt your arm on the door, didn't you?"

"... Yeah."

Skipping down the staircase, she came to a level where her head was equal with his own. She leaned towards him suddenly and kissed him on the nose. "Come on," she encouraged, hurrying back up, "stop being such a cub. We have work to do."

Smiling at her nervously, the fox obliged, while the rabbit pulled the door, at the top, open to step through and, this time, held it still for the red fox following suit.

...

Chalking out a final, long number and underlining it several times, making all the mammals with a good sense of hearing wince from the terrible scratching noise it made, Nyilas wrote out the result of his sums. "If an object impacted Earth with this kind of tremendous force," he stated, sternly, "then the tectonic plate would have been split in two, the desert would be turned into the largest volcano in Zoophon. Half the continent would have been coated in lava and the other half would have sunk beneath the sea. The massive changes in the climate would, ultimately, have ruptured the planet core, therefore, ending all life on its surface."

The goat turned to the raised paw of a leopard in one of the wings. "Yes, Jerome?"

"If it really is that implausible, why do some scientists believe it?"

"Simply because it is the most logical theory of all the ones which present themselves. It is impossible that this piece of black marble came from within the desert itself. This is one thing at least all theorists agree on. So it either came from space or was dragged across an absolute minimum distance of three hundred and eighty-seven miles of sand."

In one corner of the room, between the slots of two desks on one of the upper levels, a set of large, gray ears poked out from behind a rafter, while another pair of smaller-red ones just peeped up beside them.

"I myself once tried to calculate how many people it would take to move a piece of stone this size across such a great distance, and found the number impossible to comprehend. Not with all the paws in Zootopia and Zoophon could we move this stone an inch. Not one jot. Not only because of its enormous size or weight, but also because it is so heavy. It would constantly be burrowing down into the sand, making it almost impossible to shift without digging it all out again. What's more, given the scorching temperatures in the daytime and the freezing winds at night, the death toll would have been in the millions."

...

"Great hiding place, Nick," Judy whispered to the fox beside her as she glanced about at her surroundings. Behind the tiered platforms of desks was a disorganized tangle of structural supports — wooden beams and iron polls — to keep the structure supported; it was here where the two officers had found a hiding spot in a crouched, quiet observation. All underneath the feet of all these oblivious interns.

Judy tilted her head a little to the side, trying to watch the professor between the legs of a student. Nick observed Judy for a bit; she had definitely been busying herself with their getting here to avoid unnecessary thinking, there was no denying that fact at all. Sure, Nick had enjoyed the moments of raw passion while it had lasted, — he loved it — but he was beginning to regret giving into his desires like that.

The fox watched as Judy's attention on the teacher started to blur as her thoughts turned inwards. Her focus fell just a little as her musings deepened and, eventually, her gaze fell from the teacher altogether as she considered what had happened back at the police cruiser.

Nick spoke, trying not to sound concerned as he asked, "You look troubled, Hopps; you okay?"

"Yeah... I'm just—"

"If this is about what just happened in the car," he sighed, "then—"

"It's not that," she interposed firmly, "it's this. It's just... I don't know. It just doesn't sit right is all. You know?"

"I know," the fox agreed. "You're wondering why a well-respected billy goat with a wife and kids, who's long past the age of settling down, decides to get into bed with a bunch of drug dealers."

"Yeah."

"Well, that's something I can't answer, Hopps. I may be pretty good at judging peoples’ past, but I'm not a mind reader. All I can do is agree with you," his voice turned slow and distant, and his thoughts deepened. "Why does a well-respected archaeologist get into bed with a bunch of drug dealers?"

"We can always ask him later," Judy said, "and remember, we're not here to scare him. So no shouting 'you're under arrest' or anything like that. It'll only make things harder, when we could just ask him nicely if he'd come. We clear?" There wasn’t an instant answer and she noticed that Nick was too deep in thought to have even noticed her words, let alone formulate a thorough response with fruity ideas. She looked back to the front, watching as Nyilas — apparently just a pleasant teacher by all accounts — politely engaged with another student.

Her lips tightened. She couldn't believe this elderly mammal at being the head of a massive crime operation. This somewhat bumbling professor of archeological sciences just couldn't be. It just didn't work in her head; it just didn't sit right — none of it. Her mind drifted back to what Nick had told her recently, 'Everyone has their price.' Could it be that Nyilas was just a pawn in this? The rabbit found her heartbeat rising as the thought entered her brain. It was a big leap to make for sure, but it sure as hell wasn't Nyilas! She wondered about what Nick would think if…

The rabbit turned to him, sharply, just as Nick did the same towards her. The fox's eyes set upon the rabbit's expression, his brow furrowed with reflections. There was silence for a moment and then he nodded slightly, his voice dry and resolute, "You think so too?"

"There has to be more to this than we're seeing."

"We don't have any proof, Hopps," he said, although he clearly agreed with her.

"I know, Nick… But someone has to be the head of this drug operation. And it sure as hell isn't Nyilas.

"I know, Judy," the fox sighed, grimly.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," he said, "I'm just worried is all. Just how big is this gonna turn out to be?"

"I don't know, Nick," she sighed, putting her paw on his, "but we're going to find out."

The fox's paw closed on the rabbit's; her gaze rose to watch the elderly mammal at the front. "It doesn't matter what leverage, whoever really runs this operation, has against Nyilas," she said firmly with heaps of confidence, "once we take him in, it won't be long before we can convince him that we can help. He'll tell us everything he knows about the operation. I'm sure of it. And whoever is really in charge will, with a little luck, be apprehended by the end the day."

"Like it's gonna be that easy," Nick muttered beside her.

"Hey, it might be," she said sweetly, stepping closer to her fox and slipping her arms around his waist. "Come on, have a little faith. Nyilas is bound to have some information on whoever it is. All we need is a name and address, and we can put an end to this struggle."

The fox surrendered his arms around the sweet-smelling rabbit needfully. He still couldn't fight off the feeling of trepidation he had woken up with. His first thought that morning had been that this was going to be a very long and difficult day. And that sense had stuck with him and had been growing steadily stronger with every moment that had passed. He tried to ignore it — he was good at ignoring it due to the lots of experience — but the fear remained all the same, and so he clung extra firm to the rabbit, denying the truth that he already knew: that something bad was going to happen.

...

"But we come, now, to perhaps the most striking fact of all. Whatever technology these ancient people had to be able to carry this gigantic rock across such a vast dessert landscape, no matter how skillful they were in chipping and calving the rock, regardless of what system they used to make sure every floor was flat and level and every wall was perfectly vertical... all facts pale away when we consider the strength of the rock itself."

From his pocket, Victor Nyilas pulled a small piece of gray rock which he set down upon his desk. "This," he stated loudly, "is a piece of marble similar to the kind the tower is made from. In other words, your average piece of marble. If I were to take a three pound lump hammer and hit this rock, it would shatter into shards. If this piece of rock were of the same material as the tower, however, I could take a ten pound lump hammer and the handle would break long before the rock would."

"But, sir," interrupted a voice from about the center of the group, "how can you know how strong the stone is? I thought taking samples was illegal."

"It is," Nyilas replied, "but I was blessed." He paused for a moment, a smile growing. "As you know, there has been very little in the way of archaeological finds in that area, hence, why there are so rarely digs there. I, however, thought there would be no better way to end my carrier as an archaeologist then one final dig around the Zistopia Council Tower. I was, during this dig, contacted by High-Secretary Hayes. As it transpired, he had heard that this was my last dig and, as a retirement gift, permitted me to use laser technology to remove a piece of stone from its outer surface. One centimeter in size and half a millimeter in depth.

"As soon as I returned to Zootopia, I took this shard down to the laboratory here in the university and began to examine it. Its intermolecular structure is like nothing I have seen. It's almost as though this rock is an alloy between marble and crystal. In the same way bronze is an alloy between copper and tin. But the technology to create an alloy from two non-metallic substances does not exist, nor did it ever exist. For it is as impossible to make a single substance from crystal and marble as it is to make lead into gold.

"The strength of this structure also poses some interesting questions. For instance, if a modern day builder were to sit at the foot of the tower with a bag of sharp chisels and a mallet, he could sit there all day and blunt every single one of his chisels before making so much as a scratch to the surface. This material is impervious to damage from any paw tool, can strongly resist most kinds of electric tools, can withstand small explosives without taking any damage and is effectively bulletproof. In fact, by my calculations, it is my belief that it should, possibly, even be able to withstand a head-on collision with one of the smaller types of missile, without sustaining enough damage to compromise its structural integrity.

"The front door is no less thick and, once sealed and barred from inside, is practically as impervious to any kind of damage as the rest of the building. So," he added with a hoof raised in the air, "if you find yourself locked outside, there is really very little you can do to get back in, short of calling in a tank and three hundred pounds of TNT. When this place was used as a fortress in the medieval times, it was considered literally impregnable once the doors were locked."

Clearing his throat, Victor pulled the last of the photos out of the proctor and flicked on the lights. Blinking as his eyes adjusted, he proceeded to shut off the proctor, wipe his calculations off the board and then addressed the class as a whole.

"Class, thank you all very much for attending. I am sorry to inform you of this, but it may be impossible for me to provide any more lectures. I know I did not mention this to you before, but I didn't want to leave without just telling you what a privilege it has been to teach here." Almost choking up, the goat forced his voice to finish what was started, "Good-bye, all of you. And I wish you the very best of luck in the exams."

With that, the goat turned and swiftly left the room. Darting back from their viewing portal, Nick and Judy rushed to get out. They knew... the chase was on.

...

Nyilas stepped from the lecturing hall for what he knew would be the last time. He began pacing down the first-floor corridor slowly, looking about at the wide hall and tall ceiling as though never having seen  it before.

A door swung open, some way up the corridor behind him, and a voice called out, "Mister Nyilas, may we have a word?" His brow raised, he rounded to see who it was. What he had expected to see was one of his students, wishing to bid him a personal farewell. What he saw instead was the very rabbit and fox he had been warned about.

"Officer Wilde and I were—"

"— Great Scott!" With that, the goat nearly tripped and sprinted away with all the speed a sixty-three-year-old professor of archaeology could muster — which admittedly wasn't much. It took a moment for them to process what had happened, but when they did, Nick and Judy exploded into motion behind him. The few seconds head start had given him a little time, but it would be only seconds before the two officers would catch up.

The goat reached the end of the corridor and knew running wasn't going to get him anywhere. He couldn't out-fight them; he couldn't out-run them. His frantic search darted around for an answer. It came.

Sidetracking to the fire extinguisher at the end of the corridor, Nyilas yanked it from the wall, pulled the pin, pointed it in the direction of the fox and the rabbit as they came to within grabbing distance of him, and he unleashed a bellow of freezing gas towards them.

Nick and Judy stumbled back from the intense frost, covering their faces and blinded by the icy smoke as they backed instinctively away. Still spraying the extinguisher's contents towards them, the goat backed hurriedly away. Glancing to his side, he spotted the fire alarm and broke the safety glass with the butt of the heavy canister.

As the alarm rang out in piercing loudness, the officers tried again to approach him, but were unable to negate the wall of icy cold between them. Moments later, the fire extinguisher ran out of gas and Nyilas dropped it like a dead weight, before, bolting off down the corridor.

"Hurry," Judy called, recovering quickly from the cold, "after him!" But just as the officers started giving chase, the doors to the many lecture halls in this corridor crashed open and a horde of students filtered out — summoned by the call of the fire alarm. Within moments, the entire corridor was packed with a slow-moving procession of students steadily filtering towards the staircase down. Far too slow for Nick and Judy, as they tried to get through the mass of bodies.

Nimble though they were in darting through spaces and in between legs, their speed was still severely slowed by the panicked crowd; thus they lost sight of Nyilas almost instantly. "Damn it," Judy muttered while trying to squeeze past a rhino and an elephant, with utter failure and an obvious danger to her life. "Nick, quickly, think of a plan to get us out of this."

"Too late," murmured Nick from just behind her.

"What do you mean 'too late'?"

"I mean we've lost him," he said, flatly.

"Nick, I—"

"Look." Judy turned her head and noticed that Nick was no longer moving, but just staring out of the upstairs’ window. She made her way back towards him, following his eyes’ aim as he gazed solemnly outside.

"Is that Nyilas?" Judy asked.

"Yeah."

"Getting into the back of that black car?"

"Uh-huh."

Leaning forwards, Judy looked at the drop. "Nick, you think we could jump down from here, get to the cruiser and follow them?"

He gave her a sideways glance of wobbliness. "If you want to break your ankle or your neck, I guess you could. But I’d rather you didn’t."

"So what do we do?"

After a moment of thought, Nick inhaled a long breath and let it out in a slow sigh, his voice low and dry, "We phone Bogo and tell him we lost our lead."

Both mammals watched in their own little bubble of failure, surrounded by the excited chatter of dozens of mammals and the wailing bellow of the alarm, while the elderly goat visibly rushed into the back of a low car with tinted-black windows, before, being driven quickly away in escape.

Both officers just idled without emotion, until Judy's expression rose to look at Nick's expectantly; Nick reacted down at her, despondently. He twisted away from her as he finally gave reaction, "Come on, Hopps," he spat as he paced away, "let's get out of here."

Judy's mind returned to the window, at a loss of what to do or how to feel, while the black car drove up the road and disappeared out of sight. Raising her paw, she touched it upon her chest.

"Coming... Nick."

...

"D-do you think t-they're following us?" Nyilas asked through his frantic heartbeat and ache within his exhausted lungs.

"No."

"Are you sure? What if they—"

"Just shut up!"

Sitting back down in his seat, Nyilas let out a controlled lung of air as he tried to figure out what had just happened. The car was empty but for the driver, a coyote, who he asked, "How did you know to pick me up?"

"I was just instructed to. Apparently the boss already knew Wilde and Hopps were gonna try and arrest you."

"He sent you here to save me?"

"It's looking that way." The old professor was speechless for a moment long, thinking on how he might strike up a conversation with this rather unpleasant fellow.

"It's George," he deducted carefully, "isn't it?"

"None of your business, gramps."

"What happened to your paw?"

"Some dog stuck a knife in me."

"Oh. So, where we going now?"

"To the docks."

"Won't the police still be there?"

"Until nightfall. But the boat's ready to make dock as soon as they're gone."

"How do you know?"

"I just know, alright?"

"But," Nyilas tried despite the threatening behaviour, "someone told me you have to keep radio silence to stay undetected."

"We do," the coyote affirmed, "but I was on the boat. I came ashore on a little rowing boat with an advanced party. It'll be our job to open the gates for the vans later."

"You came on the boat?"

"Isn't that what I said?"

"Are you the captain?"

"No, but I am in charge."

Nyilas refrained from retorting, until a mutter came under his breath, "No, you're wrong. The Lord of Zistopia... he's in charge."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

  • Ten points to whoever can tell me the mathematical significance to the staircases mentioned by Nyilas. A further hundred points if you give me your pin number, bank details and account number.

Social Links:

Chapter Text

A current of cool air flowed through the chief of the ZPD's office. Its source: a small, electric fan set upon the desk beside the large cape buffalo. A small smile grew on the buffalo's face, as he scratched marks onto the blueprints he was examining with a red pencil, marking out the main entrance and exit points to the building and deciding how best the raid might proceed. His focus traced along the map of the Erkin Enterprise building, but then his radio’s beeper buzzed beside him to a slight jolt of surprise, derived from the disgruntlement of whirring peace.

He reached out a hoof automatically and pressed the respond button. "Yes?"

"Chief," he heard Clawhauser say, "it's Wilde on the line."

"Well tell him to get down from there, damn it."

"Erm... no, Sir. I mean on the radio."

"Oh." Bogo remained motionless for an instant, then, "well, put him through then."

"Right, Sir." There was a click as the line was changed.

"Chief," Wilde greeted.

"Officer Wilde, how goes business? I trust Officer Hopps is with you?"

"Actually, Sir… she had to visit the ladies room."

"Very well. You call in to report you have Nyilas, I assume?"

"Well, not exactly, Sir, no."

The Chief glared into a spot on his desk, yet he snorted and asked, as if believing that Wilde was just being the usual of jackass, "Pardon?"

"In actual fact, Sir, we, actually… sort of, lost him, Sir, actually." Bogo tapped his pencil on the desk and was about to huff from annoyance, yet something in his stomach dropped and a new sort of heat was starting to envelop the gap between his fur and clothes.

"Say, that, again."

"What I said was, Sir, we... we lost him." After an eternity of listening to nothing but the sound of his own rapidly beating heart, Bogo pierced the unyielding gloom…

"I see." A shiver ran down the fox's back and all the way to the tip of his tail. Bogo was never this calm; only when he was very, very angry.

"I'm sorry, Sir," Nick kinda squeaked suddenly, "it wasn't our fault. Nyilas managed to set the fire alarm off, he grabbed an extinguisher, and—“

"I'm sure it wasn't your fault, Wilde," the Chief assured with an impossibly calm voice, "it was my fault for believing you and officer Hopps could handle it. I'm—"

"Hey," Nick cut in, his voice sharp as a razor, "now you can not bring Judy into this. She works harder and longer than any other officer in the ZPD and you know it. Punish me for this by all means, but don't even think of—"

"Only someone very brave or very stupid stands up to their chief like that. Fortunately for you, Wilde, I know exactly which of the two you are."

"Sir," Nick tried again, "I—"

"Know that there is nothing directly personal in this, Wilde. But if you and Hopps are unable to detain a goat in his seventies then this throws serious doubt upon the wisdom of promoting the two of you to Detective Inspector."

"Chief—"

"And while I do appreciate the faith you have in Officer Hopps and admire, somewhat, how readily you stand up to her at a moment’s notice, even against your own boss, you must remember that her safety and yours are my chief concern." The fox sighed. He may not have liked it, but it was true. "Call me mean if you must, but it is imperative I do not overestimate yours or Hopps' abilities. And I cannot have detectives who fail to apprehend elderly dons. The two of you are supremely capable, yes. But you do not have the experience to go with it."

Bogo knew that Nick was going to articulate some kind of retort, thus did not allow such to happen, "Whatever the excuse may be, I am legally obliged to reconsider. Do you understand the position I am in?"

"I guess."

"Do you understand!" Bogo bellowed into the phone.

"Yes, Sir."

"Good." Bogo paused for a moment, sitting slowly back in his heavenly padded seat. "Now, Wilde, answer me honestly: are you and Officer Hopps capable of getting me this warrant?"

"Of course, Sir."

"But are you also capable of doing so without putting yourselves at an unnecessary amount of risk? With assurance that you will show restraint and the ability to control a difficult and dangerous situation?"

"Sir," Nick said, bringing all the self-assurance into his voice as he was able, "you can count on us."

"Alright, fox," Bogo shot, "but listen. I am putting a tremendous amount of trust in your and your partner’s abilities here. You must get us this warrant legislated tonight and within the appointed time, else word that we are onto them may somehow reach gangs’ ears. They will relocate and there will be even more crime on our streets. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good. There have been enough drug-related deaths in the past few weeks without adding more to the list." Bogo grunted, grimly. "If only I had spotted the signs sooner, moved in and quell this before it began. All the same, if you and Hopps are unable to see this through, well... it'll be more than just your promotions that'll be brought into question."

The fox forced down an audible gulp. "Understood, Sir."

"So you failed to arrest Nyilas. I hope to hear you found something from your investigation at Registry House wasn't all wasted?"

"Not at all, Sir," Nick beamed, "in fact, we had some quite interesting results."

"Enough to have the warrant put through?"

"Oh, err, not quite, Sir."

"Then what have you found?!" Bogo roared with the thinning of his nerves.

"The management," Nick said, hurriedly, "the management of the company's changed. But it's still down as being owned by the same mammal. Pretty suspect, huh?"

"That's it?"

"Well, Sir, I—"

"You honestly think a minor administrative error like that is going to convince a judge to sanction a search warrant?

"But—"

"No, Wilde! Follow your original orders as planned. You have three and a half hours and counting."

"Sir," Nick tried to assert, "I have some ideas in how we might—"

"I don't want ideas, Wilde! I want results. We— you are rapidly running out of time on this matter and I need to know, without a shadow of a doubt that, that you will be able to get me this warrant to me on time. Am I clear?"

"I—"

"Good!" The line went dead. The fox stared down at the lifeless radio in his paw. He sighed and pulled himself to his feet; hence, he gazed about at the empty lecture hall he was in, — the students and teachers still fussing over the report of a fire — before, slowly pacing his way towards the nearby door. He pulled it open a notch, whistling softly to the rabbit waiting patiently outside and sat on the bench like a misbehaving schoolgirl about to receive a telling-off, while Judy’s ears slacked and her head drooped; her legs swinging slowly back and forth on the high chair.

Judy shifted to him with one tall ear and smiled sadly, but fondly, as she stood and walked over towards him from her prior seating. "How did he take it?"

"As well as could be expected," the fox replied, flopping back down on the office chair and smiling at her easily. A beat passed and then Nick's set smile twitched, for a moment, info a frown. "Not to bore you with details," he added, his voice cracking just a little, "but, suffice it to say, that promotion might be out the window by this point." His forced joy broke as his confidence fell to the floor and he raised a paw to rub his eyes.

The rabbit took the fox's paws in hers, waiting until his gaze rose to meet hers again. "Thank you," she whispered, "for making that call for me."

The fox looked on falteringly for a few moments, but then acceptance, true acceptance, broke upon his face. "It's alright, Hopps. Anything for you. You know that."

"Yeah," she grinned, "I know." Her main desire in that moment was to crawl up into the fox's lap and simply stay there for as long as she could, but she knew she had a job to do. Not only that, but they had to get back into Bogo's good books. She shuddered visibly. If their promotions were already on the line, what would happen if they were to mess Bogo’s warrant? If they were the reason for the raid falling apart, the reason for—

The fox squeezed her paws, reassuringly. "I'm here, Fluff," he said, earnestly. "We'll make it through this, whatever happens."

Her divided attention returned to his, and she took in his warm expression and breathed the foxy scent which filled her head. A different desire made itself known to her. It was the damned heat… With a tremendous display of emotional strength, she managed to hold down the desire — telling herself they could sort everything out in a few short hours after the raid — and spoke to the fox, formally, "So, what are our orders?"

"Well," Nick trailed to memory, "turns out a, so-called, 'minor administrative error' isn't nearly enough to get the judge to ordain a warrant. Perhaps if we had more time—"

"There's no point in thinking of the might've beens, Nick. Let's just focus on the here and now."

Nick nodded. "We're to follow our original orders as planned. Find a way to infiltrate the warehouse without being seen, find incriminating evidence, photograph or record it and get it back to HQ."

"So was the trip to Reg' all a waste of time?"

"I've been thinking about that one, Hopps. It might be a bit of a longshot, but it might just work."

"Well, what is it?"

"I'll explain on the drive over. Bogo wants us back by four and it's half past ten now. That only gives us three hours to work with. If you count the time it's gonna take to get us there and to the HQ… So we'd best get a move on."

"Okay," Hopps huffed, starting to make her way from the lecture hall with the fox following suit. "I'll drive again and you run me through your plans."

"Follow me, Hopps," Nick said with renewed enthusiasm, "I'm right behind you."

...

Author’s notes:

Hesitance jumps around your mind,

Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

Your thoughts most succulent of snack,

All delivered by luscious feedback.

So don’t hide like a tiny shrew,

Thus share that belovable review!

  • Side note: in the previous chapter there were seven flights of seven steps, five flights of eleven, three flights of thirteen and two flights of seventeen. Arrange these into numerical order and you're left with: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and 17. In other words, a list of the first seven prime numbers.
  • Oh, by the way, happy Friday the Thirteenth everybody.

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Chapter Text

The beaming sun glowed as midday approached. Its golden rays shone down upon the hot earth with a warm buzz, which gladdened the heart and made the world look all that a little bit more glossy and healthy. A thin wind had stirred in the previously breathless air, bringing with it a subtle relief to the stifling warmth of before. The joy of the sun — no longer intense and offensive — now joisted down more softly, shining off the black-tainted glass of a small ZPD cruiser as it was driven through the city streets. That joy was managing of reaching the driver within: a red fox.

The sun reflected coolly off the fox's black, aviator sunglasses, drawing a bright and mischievous gleam to his stylishly, sleek shades. His small, lazy smile was brought up clearly in the light with the features of his handsome face cleanly and crisply defined. His blue ZPD uniform looked fresh and tidy like the blue sky above, neatly pressed and creaseless. Its cut fitted the fox faultlessly and displayed remarkably the wideness of his shoulders. He did not have a particularly muscular body by any means, but the simple way, in which he wore his shirt and how the sun seemed to brighten everything positive about him, made him appear just that little bit more masculine than normal.

The tips of his obsidian claws glinted in the daylight as he drove, polished and sparkling like fine diamonds. His auburn, almost black paws were large, yet delicate, and seemed to be holding the steering wheel softly, like one would hold a lover inside the rough, yet tender, pads of their paws. The red fox had rolled up his sleeves to his elbows in reaction to the incandescence, revealing yet more of that fine, russet fur which in this sunshine shone and glowed like firelight, capturing and mesmerizing the eye, captivating the interest of anyone who might have had the fortune of looking upon him.

His tie had been loosened roguishly and the top few of his buttons were undone, revealing just a little more of that creamy fur on his chest which lead down from his muzzle. A creamy fur which was thicker and far softer then the russet one, a kind of softness that’d make you want to burrow your head close beside him and just enjoy the sensation of feeling his fur. A creamy fur which Judy remembered being so blissfully warm against her own that night. A creamy fur which lead all the way down to the base of his chest, where it tapered below like an arrow to the base of his belt, pointing and directing the eye further to the lump of meat in his trousers that she could clearly see in her mind's eye. The muscle she wished so desperately to feel thrusting deep inside her as she lain there on her back, her legs spread wide apart for her lover to enter and bringing her closer and closer with every frictionful plunge to the sweet release of org—

Judy swiftly shifted away and bit her lip as she tried to stop herself thinking endlessly about Nick and Nick's incredible body. She knew it was a losing battle: she had been thinking about him pretty much constantly since she realized her heat had started. Her mind turned to the windshield and, again, she tried to ignore the constant urge to mate with her partner. She was suffering, thus, forced herself to focus on nothing but the road in front. Beside her a predatory nose twitched when the slight tang filtered into the air.

Wilde licked his lips — partly in preparation to talk, partly as a natural reaction to the delectable essence roaming about — and opened his mouth to do so, purposefully pouring all the honey and syrup into his words that he could scavenge, "You okay there, Hopps?" he asked, his voice rich and smooth as the finest hot chocolate, oozing hotly into the ears and melting all Judy's other desires, but to mate with him, away.

"Oohhhh," the rabbit groaned, apparently barely noticing that the fox had spoken and merely reacting to the pure allure of his notes of tongue, hence, she slipped down lower into her seat, her expression slackening as all the bottled-up desires multiplied, in return, at least tenfold. "Fluffing heat," she muttered.

"I'm really that attractive that you can't even keep your paws off me for five minutes?" Nick teased.

Judy brought a paw up and rubbed her forehead. "Nick, if you were suffering as much as I was right now, you wouldn't be teasing. You'd be begging me to let you fu—"

"Oh I doubt that, Hopps," he cut in, "I think you'll find I have way more self-control than you do. I'm not even thinking about what it'd be like to take you down," he continued, his voice becoming lower, "to press you flat against the bed beneath me, to strip you of you—"

"Nick," she warned breathlessly. "For five minutes, could you not be yourself?"

He grinned. "After all," he added smugly without taking her words into consideration, "I'm not the one in heat at the moment."

"I know that," Judy huffed, "and that's why I'm asking you to stop—"

"Just think, Carrots," Nick whispered as he drove, "just imagine it: you and I will be alone with each other tonight. You'll want me inside you like nothing you've wanted before, and yet the most we can do with each other is a bit of touchy-feeley."

"Oh, don't remind me of my parents—"

"Now just picture for a second what'd happen if we forget about your parents, and just let what happens... happen." The car fell silent. Nick glanced across to Judy with a satisfied smile at the result of his words, and he saw the rabbit with her head buried in her paws, her legs crossed tightly together as though trying to hold her arousal within her, the muscles in her thighs and arms tense with the restrained energy-infinite. "Just imagine," Nick breathed with another whisper in the intoxicating air, "what it would be like to—"

"Nick, please," she yelled, suddenly, "I am so close to losing my control right now! Your jokes have got to stop."

"Losing your control? What happens if you lose your control?"

"I'm sure you can guess," she shouted as she shoved the fox in the ribs.

"No, go on, Hopps. What happens?"

"I don't know, Nick. But I'll only do something I’d regret."

"You're saying that you would regret it if we mated?" Nick asked with a new edge of flatness to his tone.

Judy was stunned into silence for all but a second, and then she groaned as she ground her teeth together. "Walked into that one, didn't I?" she grumbled before continuing, "Nick, you know that wasn't at all what I meant."

"So what are you saying," he pressed on, the slightest of teasing qualities re-entering his voice, "that you would like to mate with me? Is that it?"

"Nick, I am not giving you the satisfaction of hearing that. And I thought I told you to stop teasing!"

"Who says I'm teasing?"

"What? Of course it is! This is all just a big joke to you, isn't it?"

Wilde allowed his demeanor to shift into that of offense. "And what is it I'm supposed to be finding funny?"

"— What?"

"You said this is a joke to me," he firmly quoted her own words. "That means you must think I'm finding some part of what's going on hilarious."

"You say that," Hopps snapped, though doubt starting to cross her mind, "but I know you're laughing on the inside."

"And why would that be?" he asked in a tersely scowl that was starting to chisel upon Judy’s confidence on the matter.

"Because you always enjoy teasing me!" Judy shot, shouting again, "our whole relationship is built on teasing each other. We will take advantages of one another’s weakness for the sake of a few laughs. And I bet you can't think of anything funnier than watching me fall apart in a miasma of heat and sexual frustration."

Nick didn’t respond for a while. "So what about the question I asked before, about what'd happen if you'd lose control?"

The rabbit glowered at him with lots of stubbornness. She folded her arms, looked out of the car and tutted resolutely, "Fine… if I lose control entirely, I'll be begging you to take me to your bed, okay?" Wilde blinked, facing the road and saying nothing, yet fully taking it all in. "And every single little joke and comment you're making is bringing me closer and closer to that point. And I know that's what you're trying to do," she shouted in a perfect example of how heat caused mood swings. "I know you only keep teasing me about for the sole purpose of trying to make me lose that control. If I lose that control, I'll be begging for you to have me, and I know that's what you want to hear," she added, bitterly, "just for the pleasure of being able to smugly remind me of the agreement we made to follow my parents’ wishes."

"Okay, Judy... okay," Nick apologized and tried to find a way around his next step. "So, I admit, I was aware there was a limit to how much control you had over your desires. And that if I kept pushing you, you'd eventually lose that control."

"Hah!"

"But... let me ask you something. You think I only want that so I can tease you about it? So that I can laugh at you for losing your control before I did?"

"Yes!" she shot.

Wilde allowed the car to decelerate to a stop before a set of traffic lights. He shuffled closer; his voice was soft as he spoke, but also, Judy noticed the subtle strain within. "And what if that assumption isn't the case?" Judy stared at him with fluster, while his expression didn’t even twitch. "And," he continued slowly, "what if... it actually turned out I’d lost my self-control before you did?"

Hopps blinked at him again with an array of emotions that slowly played out across her face, mixing from surprise, anger, puzzlement, hope and, finally, pure and simple fatigue. Her body slumped in front of the observing fox. If he had seen that look from her at any other time, he would have assumed it was either a sunstroke or concussion. The truth of what it was — and the fact that he was the sole cause — only goaded the fox to carry on. "Nick, I... I don't know what any of that meant," she muttered with a sort of slur, "but, I can't do this anymore."

A hot streak of blind panic lunged at the fox's back, his mind screaming that she was referring to the relationship and that she was going to dump him. "W— what," he stuttered without steadiness as he tried to convince himself it must’ve been something else. "You... you mean the raid tonight?"

"No, Nick, not the raid."

"Then... th— then what?" The fox watched out of the corner of his eye as the rabbit pushed herself back into her seat, a single paw slipping down towards her lap. For an instant, Wilde thought she was about to slip her paw beneath the cloth, as it were, and start touching herself right in front of him. But then her paw pushed further down and dug into her leg where it became a fist of pent-up frustration and desire.

She spoke again, her voice oddly hoarse, "As I said," she managed through grit teeth, "a lot of what you said just then didn't make a lot of sense. Were you saying that you were just teasing me, or that you actually do want to mate with me? I can't tell. Are you saying you've lost your control too, or that you think I have? And, most importantly," she added with no small amount of emphasis, turning her head to face him with the obviousness of weakness, "are you still saying we should still stick to what my parents teach?"

The fox steadily put the car back into motion as the lights changed green before them, allowing the lingering deafness to fester clean. He used his apparent busyness with driving as an excuse not to talk, while he fought through the thick, emotional desires to find the right words to say — fearing that allowing himself to submit to those desires and saying the first thing that’d come to mind would cause him to lose control over the situation completely. Eventually, he took in a long breath of the cool, air-conditioned air. "What do you want?" he simply asked.

Judy wondered with an expression of softness and sadness within the same spectrums. "Honestly? What I want is this heat to end. What I want, is to forget all about all the things I want to do with you. But I can't. What I want, is to be able to stop thinking about sex for just thirty-fluffing-seconds. What I need is..." She shifted slowly towards him, openly gazing at the tall lump which had recently grown between the fox's legs. "Something different… entirely."

Wilde cleared his throat. "Well, I'm not surprised, to be honest. I mean, I know I told you earlier I don't know all that much about a rabbit’s mating season, but that's not the case. Over the past year I've done, well... let’s just say I've spent quite some time looking into those matters. And I'm pretty confident I have some idea of the kind of drive you're resisting at the moment."

"Huh. Think holding back a freight train with a teaspoon," Judy contrasted with impatient indignation at herself.

Nick couldn’t resist the chuckle of a chortle. "And with what you go through when you're in heat… even just a normal heat, I get that it makes things hard for you to control in that respect, but... But, this time, as well as all the other things your biology is trying to get you to do right now… you also have to be stuffed in a hot car with me hour after hour. And, as you said, it was my intention to try and break your self-control. I'm sorry for the way in which I tried to do that. But it was the only way I could think to get you to do it."

"Yeah, it's not—" Judy cut herself off. "Wait... get me to do what?"

"But, what I'm saying is, Judy, is that I get what you're going through. I get that it's hard to fight something, when it's what you want, so bad that it hurts. I get that you're finding it hard to resist doing what you want to do with me. I get that it's hard for you to stay true to you parents’ wishes, and that you only have a finite amount of resolve to resist breaking those teachings. And if you're saying that your resolve has ran out, I understand, Hopps. Really, I do."

"But, you... it was your intention to break my resolve; you said so yourself, so why—"

"Most of the time, I'd try and consolidate you; I'd try to gently ease your mind away from going through with it for the sake of your parents and your relationship with them. Normally, I'd try and dissuade you, with whatever little slight of paw I'd need to use to get your mind off that subject, and get you thinking about something else—"

"Normally? And what about now; this time?"

"But do you know what, Fluff? Do you know what's stopping me from saying that?"

"What?"

"I've lost my resolve to."

The rabbit's confused expression cleared gradually. Her squinted eyebrows rose to bewilderment as her mind processed the meaning of the statement. She licked her lips. "You've lost your resolve too?"

The fox's expression was unusually grim, a hard frown set upon his muzzle. "Yeah. I mean, it had to happen sooner or later. There's only so many times I can refuse an open offer of sex. I'm only mammal. It takes a lot of strength to refuse what you've offered, knowingly or unknowingly… several times in the past couple of days." Nick drew in a long breath and slowly let it out of his mouth. "And I don't have the strength to resist it again. Not a single, time, more."

Judy hesitantly reached out a paw and touched it upon her partner's leg, finding herself oddly calm now that the words, she had been waiting for and dreading, had actually come to pass; calm in her demeanor and her self-assurance that this was the right thing to do. The rabbit stared at him, relentless, until he slowed the car at the next lights and turned to face her. Then a slack smirk grew on her glazed expression. "So, tonight is the night?" she asked with a new emotion that had taken the form of mild impatience.

Wilde didn’t respond for a long time, trying to find the most emotionally neutral response he could think of due to fearing that allowing even a fraction of how he was feeling right now would result in a sudden fit of passionate lovemaking right there and then, followed by an almost immediate collision with the car in front

"Yes, Judy," he said at last, "tonight is, indeed, the night." The smirk grew to a grin and her resolve to resist the fox was all used up, her parents’ wishes and teachings abandoned, all the frustration and anger was lifted from the rabbit's body and she was filled with trembling, giddy excitement. It dawned on her quickly that right now, having had made the giant step, there was no real reason to have followed those beliefs in the first place! Sex after marriage, it was such an old-fashioned outlook anyway.

"Hey, Nick! I've got something to tell you." Judy tried to keep her breaths level, even when her heart rate had accelerated exponentially within her. Her eyes traced down to her paw on Nick's thigh. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip, as she slipped the unsteady paw upwards in softness, bringing it to press against the bulge between his legs, thus, embracing its warmth and hardening swell...

"I've been looking forwards to tonight for a very long time," she nervously divulged, for the aroused fox fiercely grinned at her. The swelling rose almost instantly and hardened-thick against her touch. For no other reason than she wanted to, the rabbit lifted her paw to the rim of Nick's trousers, where she flattened it and slipped it inside without a moment’s delay.

Wilde gasped deeply in bemusement as her small fingers found their way around the length of his desire. His head fell back against the headrest with a thunk, while her soft and twitchy paw closed around his foxhood and squeezed it gently.

Judy's grin shifted to a state of intense and primal craving while the spongy flesh inflamed her paw’s further curiosity. "And... by the feel of things... I'd say you have to."

...

Author’s notes:

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Grooms decision thus chosen blind.

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Chapter Text

'T' minus 195 minutes and counting...

The chill wind had picked up indeterminably as Hopps and Wilde maintained their drive towards the industrial sector of Precinct One. The wind was not yet enough to cool the heat of the day, but was sufficient to suggest of a shivering night to come. After reaching a decision about Judy and a particular teaching of her parents, Nick and the rabbit had forced themselves to return their minds to their jobs. Seeing that time was limited, they needed to get that warrant because now the stakes were too high for comfort and security, especially after the failure of capturing that elderly professor.

"Nick," Judy said in the slowness of the traffic itself, "if we've got the time... could we pop into my place quickly?"

Nick peeped to her, a sharp grin on his muzzle. "As much as I'd love to, darlin', we seriously don't have the time for any of that."

"No," she mumbled nervously with a small blush sprouting. "I just have something I want to pick up: a couple of pills."

"Pills?"

"Uh-huh. The relaxant kind."

"Oh, for your heat?"

"Yeah. I knew I should've brought them with me this morning but… Like I said, my heat wasn't supposed to start for another day or so."

"I know," Wilde acknowledged with a glance towards the digital clock on the dashboard. "Well, we should just about have the time for that. Shall we?"

"Please. I'll need to pick them up sooner or later. If we get them now, it'll save time later. You know: a stitch in time; all that."

"You mean," Nick corrected, while maneuvering the car to the outside lane and taking the next left he came to, as he made their way towards his partner’s apartment, "we can head straight over to mine after the raid?"

"And after I've talked with Jack. Any idea what you'll do while we're talking?"

"I was planning on taking a seat in the back somewhere, hiding behind a newspaper so I can keep an eye on the two of you."

"Hah, you mean like the old spy thing with the eyeholes cut out of the paper?"

"Something like that. But, erm..." he added with caution, "taking a step back in our conversation, we could, you know… save even more time." Nick didn’t utter anything more, as though that alone should’ve been enough for the rabbit to catch up to what he had meant.

Naturally, she didn't and turned to him with a bewildered expression. "Save more time for what?"

"Well," he explained with a forced chuckle, teasing the steering wheel uneasily as he gave clarity, "I think we both agree that it's a little awkward having all your clothes round yours and none round mine."

"I could pack a few spare outfits," Judy said strangely, still unsure if she had the right idea of what Nick was implying.

"Okay. Yeah, okay," he continued, "but erm, you know… you'll still have all your possessions over at your apartment, like the pills for your heat and all that. I think it would save a lot of time for both of us if your things were, erm..." Nick trailed off, while Judy was left to give wonder to what he was trying to say in the jumble of words. An idea began to surface tho, and it appeared as if he wanted to take a very large step with her, or maybe it was just her imagination?

"And it's not the cleanest of environments you live in. There are certainly nicer areas in Zootopia to live in. Plus, I'm sure you have better things to spend your wages on than your rent, and, an—" Wilde gulped softly and his voice broke, "and… my place is more than big enough for two."

Understanding dawning, Judy lightly turned to face the fox with seriousness incarnate. "Nick... is this going where I think it is?"

He maintained staring out of the front window. "Where do you think it's going?"

Judy's voice fell deathly hushed, "I think you're about to ask me to move in..." She observed his body language, but he was in a blank trance of immobility and lackluster words. Doubt crawled towards Hopps' mind with the passing of these long moments. She was unsure if she had jumped to conclusions that she had no right to make, and entered worry that this sudden silence was Nick's attempt of saving her from the embarrassment of being rejected, hence, Judy looked out of her window at the busy streets and tall buildings; the average citizens were going about their daily lives. But truthfully, her mind was entirely occupied on tonight and on what she and Nick would later be doing.

Her eyes drifted shut, and she couldn’t hold-off her heavy sigh. Whether Nick wanted her to move in or not, what they had planned to do with each other tonight was still very real. Was she ready for this: that was the thought going round and around her mind. Was she ready to share her body with Nick's, with a fox? It wasn't that the rabbit doubted her feelings for the red, handsome tod, and it certainly wasn't because he was a fox that put her off; it was simply the insecurity all fememmle had, fememmle who had been in the same situation of pure inexperience whatsoever, with the next steps looming close to the result in what she and Nick had planned for the hour of the wolf.

Judy rubbed her forehead as she thought, a low groan escaping her. Then, she felt warmth on her leg and noticed the auburn paw resting in sooth on her knee. It wasn't an intimate or teasing touch, just one of support. "Feeling alright?" Nick asked with deep care.

"Yeah, just... well, huh, you know."

"I know, Hopps. Trust me, I know."

The rabbit's face brightened a little. "So, what was your first time like with Scarlett?" She didn’t receive a positive reaction, thus, came the quick drooping of her ears and sever of eye contact. "Oh. Sorry, I probably shouldn't have asked that one..."

Chuckling softly, Nick’s sharp glare grew into a smiley flower. "It's okay, Hopps," he assured, "you just surprised me is all. I guess you have a right to ask, but erm... I don't think recounting every move and every word would quite be respectful to her memory."

"I understand. Don't tell me if you don't want to."

"Not much to tell really… there seemed to be a lot of tension in the air that night as I remember. A kind of tension that made the ears pop. We didn’t have a place together yet, so it must have been her little flat The Firm provided. She phoned me at my place one night and asked me to come round for a visit. It was late by then, late in the year too. But I wasn't about to argue."

Slowly as he talked, the fox's voice gradually became less vague and more vivid, his gaze apparently lost in his old memories, with a kind of reverence entering his words while he drove absent-mindedly. Reverence, fondness and a touch of sadness too. "I took a drive over to hers, entered the flat, walked up the stairs, went in and found her in her bedroom. She was there in the corner, draped over the edge of the bed and wearing this loose, duck-egg-blue nightgown that was so thin you could practically see her fur through it. Not only that, but it brought out the color of her eyes and made them glow in the candlelight."

"Her eyes were blue?"

"Yeah," he reminisced dreamily, as though talking from afar, "the softest pair of blue eyes you ever could see. They were so calm and cool when it was just the two of us alone. And yet, if we were in company or if she felt threatened, they would blaze up so sharp and cold. I was the only mammal who she would ever let see her true self, and vice versa… until I met you." Judy took that with a nervous rub of her paws.

"You really did love her, didn't you?"

Wilde snapped from his trance. "Oh, obviously, but not as much as I—"

"It's fine that you did," she interjected with the attempt to make him see that it was fine. "After all, it would be selfish and immature of me to think I was the only femammle in your life. Of course you would've had other love interests in the past."

Nick rested his breath at her with fortunate consideration. "Thanks, Hopps."

"So, what happened then?"

"Well," he said with a newly forming grin, "when I asked her what this was all about: the candles and the nightgown and everything, she just smiled and told me I should slip into something more comfortable. I, the immature young goof that I was back then, innocently asked, 'Like what?' Then she let her gown slip to the floor and just stood there, looking at me in her nakedness. Then said, 'Like me.'" Wilde was silent for a moment, then chuckled. "Ooh, she was a temptress alright."

"I can see why you liked her," Hopps quietly added.

"Huh. You can see why The Firm liked her too. When they eventually caught on to just how good at her job she was: twisting males 'round her finger. They started finding her other jobs to do along those same lines. And it was on one of her, shall we say, more challenging jobs that she first met me."

"Which was?"

"That's another story altogether, Hopps. Let's just say it didn't take long for us to realize what a great team we made together. And for The Firm to personally assign us to one another."

"They assigned you to work together?"

"Yep."

"And was that before or after the two of you, you know, found each other?"

A small smile grew on the fox's muzzle. "If I remember right… just a few weeks before."

"So," Judy wondered, her voice now a conspiratorial whisper, "how did it happen? When did you and Scarlett admit you loved each other?"

"That's yet another story. And one which we certainly don't have time for right now. We'll be at your place in a minute. Anything else you want to know quick?"

"Yeah: what did she actually do for The Firm, anyway? You mentioned it involved her being something of a temptress. But I don't quite have you down as the type to date a call girl."

"Well, you'd be right there, Hopps. Scar could easily have made it as a fille de joie, but she had smarts enough to keep well-clear of that kind of thing. No, she found her own little niche to work at."

"Which was?"

Wilde regarded Judy for a moment at a set of convenient traffic lights. "Do you honestly think I should tell you?"

Hopps turned to face him, her expression radiating nothing but innocence towards him. "Only if you think I should know."

"She was basically a hired girl-on-the-arm. At least, that was her cover. See, The Firm owned a number of high-class casinos back in the day, and it was her responsibility to tend to the wants of all the wealthiest casino-goers. She'd make sure they were supplied with free drinks to lubricate the flow of cash, use her feminine ways to persuade them to play another game or bet a little more. And if they tried to walk out the building with too much cash, she'd slip them a little piece of card with a name and an address on it, which would lead them to a very 'special' kind of establishment."

"You mean one of... 'those' kinds?"

"A whore house, yes."

"Right..."

"If she'd done her job right, the wealthy millionaires would be so tanked-up on alcohol that they'd be straight over to buy themselves some fluff... and all the money her targets had just won would be spent on prostitutes, and would fall straight back into the Krays’ pockets."

Judy shook her head in disbelief as Nick drove. "One thing that always strikes me about those kinds of criminals… some of them sure did have brilliant minds."

"Yep. While they may never be seen of as anything but crooks, those twins were both geniuses in their own right." Wilde grimaced, shifting in his seat. "And to this day, the thought of those bastards still makes my fur crawl."

As the car rounded the corner and her apartment came into view, the rabbit took in a breath and prepared herself for what she had to further say. "Nick, whatever happens tonight, whether what we do works or doesn't work: you will always be my fox; I will always love you. Even if it goes wrong, and… and we—"

"Honestly, Hopps, what could go wrong?"

Judy sighed. "I wish I was relaxed about this as you are."

"Oh yeah?" the fox chuckled dryly, holding out one of his own paws in front of her nose and startling the rabbit with just how much his own paws were shaking too.

Hopps snorted. "But, you seem so relaxed!"

"I'm driving… I've got something to focus on to distract my attention. But, erm... you know," he mumbled in nervousness," it might hurt you a little. I mean, the first time."

"I know…" Her nerves felt prickly, despite her confidence of the abilities of her own tough body. "They talked about that back in sex ed. I'm prepared for the fact that our difference in size will cause us some... complications. I'm just a little nervous you won't fit, or it'll hurt like hell or—"

"Hey, Judy," he stopped her and slipped his paw into hers, "don't worry. I'll take things as slow and as gentle as I can. I'll let it take all night if I must. But I promise you, I will do everything in my power to make this evening as pleasant and painless as I can. You can trust me."

Hopps smiled, taking his grip with a mix of intertwined grey, auburn fingers. "I know I can." Paw in Paw, the fox pulled the car up to a stop in front of Hopps' apartment. The rabbit slipped from the car, winked to the fox, about-turned and started skipping up the steps just outside her flat’s door, the fox watching her fluffy, white tail fondly as it swished its way up the stairs and through the door which clicked shut with the rabbit on the inside.

"Okay, Nick," he whispered easily to himself, settling down a little in the car seat as he waited for her to return, "maybe you were wrong. Maybe tonight will pan out just fine after all..." A warm smile growing, the fox reached and clicked on the radio.

"I messed up tonight, I lost another fight—"

Wilde winced. "God awful song," he muttered, flicking the radio immediately over.

"— heads held high, touch the sky, you mean everything to—"

"— once more if we don't comply, with the locals wises I—"

"— put that thing back where it came from, or so help me, so help me—"

"— then woop, oh lordly, I kissed her again because, she had kisses sweeter than wine—"

"— and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage—"

“— wild slogging and boundaries and all sorts of rubbishy things. And now Nat Newton of Notts is running up to bowl to Cowdery... he bowls... and no shot at all! Extremely well-not-played there. Yes, beautifully not-done-anything-about. A superb shot of no kind whatsoever. And that's the end of the over, and drinks, so that's all from me at Lord's and now back to the news."

"Thank you. Well, it's six minutes past one and nearly time for seven minutes past one. On ZBC Two, it'll shortly be seven and a half minutes past one. Later on this evening, it'll be four o'clock and then at four forty we'll be joining ZBC Four in time for four forty-four. And don't forget tomorrow, when it'll be nine twenty. Those of you who missed eight forty-five on Friday will be able to see it again this Friday at a quarter to nine. And now ZBC Radio One, it's time for something completely differ—"

Nick clicked the radio off once again as the figure of a rabbit caught his attention. Winding down the window, he called to her as she stumbled unsteadily towards him. "Hey, Hopps! Ready to go?" Judy continued stepping wordlessly and looked as if she had seen a ghost, her sluggish, step-by-step stumble bringing her closer. Nick noticed the wildness of her eyes and the silent formations of words flicking across her lips. "Hey, Fluff, you look terrible. Something the matter?"

"Bu, but, bur, b, d, dh, dhe—"

"And where's your pills anyway?"

"Dhe, der, drh, derr—"

Nick developed a confusion of nervousness around this bizarre behaviour. "What, fox got your tongue?"

"— der, darh, deard—" Now it wasn’t nervousness, it was straight-out worry. Undoing his seat belt, he slipped from the car and dashed towards her.

"Fluff, spit it out!"

"Derh, dead!"

Wilde blinked. "— dead?"

"D— dea— dead guy, in... in m-my flat, m-my room."

Nick squinted. "Dead guy in your flat...?" The mist cleared suddenly and the fox's realization turned-startled. Nick hastily crossed to the pavement’s side and took the rabbit in his arms, leading her unsteadily back towards her apartment.

"Show me, Hopps," he insisted with a haste of step, "let me see."

...

On the edge of the city, a low, black car pulled from around the back of a line of old boatbuilding yards. It drew to a gradual stop just beyond the edge of a fenced-off area of harbor, while two blue-uniformed police officers stood guard by the front gate. "Now, this is the main way into the Zootopia docks," came the gruff voice of the driver.

"But what of the police?" came the soft, Eastern-accented response.

"They'll have to move sooner or later. In the meantime, we stay put."

"But what about the harbormaster? The dog put the hole in your paw?"

"I know the one you me