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Bedtime Stories

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She’s been snapping at Nick more frequently, and it’s something he’s not entirely used to, judging by the looks he shoots her, like she’s shoved a carrot up her nose and started tap dancing in front of their team. Personally, Judy has no idea what’s going on with herself either.

It’s a month and a half after their honeymoon. She’s putting her uniform on in the morning and can’t find her utility belt; Nick’s already gone ahead to get his morning coffee before meeting her at the entrance of the ZPD headquarters.

When she snags the sneaky thing from under their bed, she winds it around her waist to find that… it doesn’t fit on her usual notch…

It’s too tight. In fact, it is one notch too tight. She blinks, tugs again at the belt, and then her heart begins to race. Maybe she’s crazy, but she’s pretty sure there’s a bump underneath her shirt, and, no, that can’t be right, because she’s a rabbit and he’s a fox and–

Her uniform flies off in a flurry, and she’s standing in front of their wall mirror, looking at herself from a profile angle. Sure enough, there is a bump. It is small, but it is there, and she tries not to faint as she dials Nick’s number, paws quivering. After three tries, she finally gets it, and his phone seems to ring for an eternity until–

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Nick, I’m preg–”

“Haha, gotcha! This is my voicemail. Sucks to suck, huh, buddy? Don’t worry, you can just–”

Of course. She forgot. She always forgets. Violet eyes stare venomously at the stupid device and she reminds herself that punching Nick at the office isn’t actually going to make her feel better.

When she storms into their workplace, people step out of her way for fear of being bowled down. “NICHOLAS. PIBERIUS. WILDE!” His head shoots up from whatever app Clawhauser is entertaining him with, eyes wide as saucers and he knows he’s got only a second to come up with some plausible excuse for whatever he’s done wrong this time.

Except she seems to lose steam as she gets closer to him, and by the time she’s standing in front of him, all she’s doing is breathing kind of raggedly for having practically sprinted this entire way. His green eyes look her up and down.

“You’re not in uniform, Carrots.”

She isn’t. She’s in her favorite red gingham sundress with the dirt stains at the hem, which have been curated over her youth at the farm, kneeling on the ground rummaging through berry bushes.

“Something… wrong?” He peers at her, leaning his head in a little. Nick’s familiar with the fact that sometimes she puts the dress on (or just stuffs her face into the fabric and takes a few deep breaths) when she’s feeling a little nervous.

There is no easy way to do this, so Judy just– “I’m pregnant.”

Clawhouser does a spit-take on his morning latte; the mouthful would’ve landed on Nick if the fox hadn’t reeled back in shock. Nobody says anything, they just stare at Judy, who can feel herself starting to get very hot under their scrutiny. Finally, Nick breaks the silence.

With laughter.

“Good one, Judes, you totally got me there. I even thought for a sec that maybe it was possible!”

Clawhauser begins to laugh as well, slamming his paw against his desk, although he looks significantly less certain than Nick does. In fact, his smile is a little forced.

“April fool’s, am I right?” Ben jokes apprehensively, eyes darting between Judy and Nick.

Judy frowns. She’d completely forgotten that it was the first of April. “I’m not kidding, Nick.”

This shuts her partner up so fast, his head seems to spin. Suddenly, he’s all business, as if he’d been prepared for the possibility all along. “Have you been to the doctor’s?”

“No, I just found out. I found out this morning and you were the first person–”

The poor rabbit doesn’t have a chance to say anything else because Nick grabs her arm and tugs her resolutely towards the exit. Clawhauser hollers out that he’ll let Bogo know that they won’t be coming in today.

After he’s opened the passenger side’s door for her and then lifted her in (which is unnecessary, as Judy can certainly get in on her own. She huffs a little at him, but he doesn’t seem to notice), Nick stops moving altogether. She can tell he’s tense, and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with his arms, which are kind of just floating a few inches away from her sides. “Tell me you’re serious,” he finally says, inhaling deeply and then exhaling slowly. He’s so close to her that she can feel the warm puff of air against her face. Smells a little like his favorite chocolate raspberry cappuccino, which usually isn’t unpleasant, but she feels a little sick suddenly and then she just knows. “Tell me you’re not just pulling my tail and this isn’t just a- a- food baby, or something.”

Judy looks at him like he’s started speaking in tongues. They just stare at each other for a second before Nick swallows, blinks, and looks away as he shakes his head, shutting her door and making his way into the driver’s side. The ride is quiet except for the hum of the engine.

This isn’t even their car, something she doesn’t realize until a car speeds in front of them and Nick almost hits the button that sets the sirens off. Judy grabs his finger and looks at him gently. “It’s gonna be alright, Nick.”

The look in his eyes is pure skepticism, but his tone is light when he replies. “The papers are gonna have a field-day.”

She laughs a little and pretends his paw isn’t trembling in her’s.

———

Thank god, Nick thinks. Thank god the gestation period for rabbits is one month and not something ridiculous like, say, nine months. He doesn’t know what he’d do with himself if he had to worry about being a dad for nine whole months.

Although maybe a little more time would have been nice, because sitting on his hands in the waiting room is doing nothing to solve his anxiety. He’s pretty sure he’s cut off the blood circulation to his arms. How long has it been?

“You can come in now, Mr. Wilde.” At the sound of the nurse’s voice, Nick starts a foot off his seat. His paws tingle from the blood rushing back into them.

It’s time, and he’s not ready. Suddenly it makes sense, that thing everybody says about how life doesn’t wait for anybody.

———

“Tell it again!” The kit laughs, clapping his hands together.

Judy is exasperated, but she tries to distract herself by readjusting the covers around the tiny little thing. “Thing” because he’s technically not a fox or a rabbit, and “funny” or “box” might be too strange for the public, even if it is a nice inside joke between her and Nick. But honestly, their kid looks kind of like Finnick, except with all of Nick’s coloring. The only thing he’s got from her are the ears, but even those point at the ends. “Sweetheart, the point of a bedtime story is for you to get sleepy.”

“Pleeaassseeee?” He whines, pouting and clasping his hands together. A pillow flies in his face.

His younger-by-two-minutes sister is standing at the side of the bed opposite to her mother. “I’m tired, Wes! And you’re keeping me up!”

“Mommy! Nat’s bullying me again!”

Judy sighs and raises her head to the heavens. She would ask Nick for help since Wesley always listens to him (for some reason), but her spouse is currently in the other room, doing whatever he usually does to get their other three offspring to sleep. It kind of pisses her off because, without fail, they will always be snoring soundly whenever he’s done with them. But not her– she’s stuck with these three.

Well, it’s really only Wesley and Natalie that are the problems. Diana is holed up in the corner of her bed, reading her latest novel. The kit doesn’t know it, but Judy can see the flashlight she’s sitting on, peeking out from underneath her rabbit-tail, awaiting its usage for some covert, under-the-covers reading when the lights go off.

“Alright, split it up you two, or else I’m getting your father.” Immediately, they scramble into their respective beds, drawing their covers up to their noses. Judy contains her smile of pleasure. When the lights go off and the door clicks shut, Nick appears right at her side, leaning against the wall with his hip. His legs are crossed, as are his arms, and he’s watching her casually.

“We can trade,” Nick offers airily. “I’ll take Diana for Jack.”

It’s a tempting offer, because Wes listens to Jack, and Jack listens to Judy. But she shakes the temptation out of her head, knowing what Nick is really aiming for. “Nick, you can’t pick favorites! Plus,” she grumbles. “Diana’s the only manageable one in that room…”

“Who said I was picking favorites?” He smirks at her, linking his hands behind his head as they make their way to their room.

“You can’t fool me,” Judy rolls her eyes at him and pokes his chest with a finger, grinning.

“She’s not my favorite anyways,” he pipes up, shrugging his shoulders.

She humors him. “Oh yeah? Who’s it this week?”

“Aw, Hopps, that’s not fair. I don’t change that often. And this one’s my all-time favorite.”

If she rolls her eyes anymore, they’ll fall right out of her head. “Mhm, and? Actually, no, let me guess.” She taps a finger against her chin, contemplating her options. “Gray? He did the dishes and didn’t break a single thing.”

“Nope.”

“Nat found your favorite sunglasses. The ones you’d lost two months ago.”

He seems to have forgotten this, because he hesitates for a second before replying in the negative.

“Jack?”

“Ha!” Nick barks. “Not this week. Not after that whole shenanigan. Try again next week.” Judy laughs and bumps her hip against him. He slips an arm around her shoulders, pulling her against him so that she’s fits snugly into his side.

“I give up.” Judy concedes. “Tell me.”

“Carrots.” He looks at her.

“Nick,” she replies, returning the look.

“No, I mean Carrots. Like you. You’re my favorite.”

The grey bunny looks up at him, blinks a few times as her mouth widens into a smile, and then breaks into a hardy round of laughter. “You’re so corny!”

“What can I say?” He grins at her. “You bring out the best in me.”

Five years ago, this would’ve devolved into a round of teasing. But now they’re both exhausted, so instead they lapse into a comfortable silence.

“Remember when you dropped Gray?” Judy asks quietly.

“Don’t remind me. I thought you were gonna leave me.”

Chortling, Judy threads her paw through his, which is still hanging off her shoulder. “Can you pick up the kids tomorrow? Bogo asked me to stay later. He needs my opinion on a suspect.”

“Sure thing, darlin’. Is it Fru Fru’s this time, or Clawhauser’s?”

“Stan’s not in town, actually, if you’d been listening to Clawhauser go off this morning,” Judy chides, wiggling her nose at Nick smugly. He flicks her snout gently. “Sounds like they’re having a bit of a lover’s quarrel.”

“Eh, they’ll get over it.”

“Mm.”

When they turn the lights out, Judy curls into his side, inhaling into his fur. “Night, Nick. Love you.”

He quips back sleepily and just a little slurred, “Mhm. You’re the wind beneath my wings, Carrots.” When she laughs, she catches the gleam of his teeth and she knows that he’s smiling.

———

“Mr. Big told me that–”

“Sweetheart, don’t listen to a word Mr. Big tells you.” Nick snickers, patting his daughter’s blonde head.

“Mr. Big told me not to listen to a word you said, daddy.” Diana is peering up at her father, face all straight and innocent and conniving and he knows without a doubt that the deceptively sweet girl got that look from her mother. “He said you lied to him once and gave him a skunk butt rug. Lying is bad, daddy.”

“Well, daddy’s going to have to have a word with Mr. Big,” he mumbles under his breath as he leads his daughter to the entrance of their community. Gray and Jack are already waiting at the gate, debating civilly about whether or not Judy (Fru Fru’s daughter) will trade her limited edition collectible card for a generous stack of their own. Of course, Wes and Nat are bickering and poking at each other’s soft spots until the older sibling is in tears and his twin sister looks more smug and less apologetic.

All in all, he’s got some pretty weird kids.

The shiny limo that had dropped the youngsters off slips away, sun bouncing off the silver trim and blinding any passersby.

“Natalie, stop antagonizing your brother.”

“I’m not doing anything,” she singsongs, skipping ahead with her backpack bouncing against her back and long, auburn ears swinging with the motion. “It’s not my fault he failed his spelling test!”

“Hey!” Wes sniffles resentfully, working himself back up into tears. “You promised you wouldn’t tell!” Nat sticks her tongue out at him.

Nick sighs and grabs the weepy kit, swinging his small form onto his own shoulders. “Don’t worry, you’ll be alright. It’s just a spelling test, buddy.”

The sniffing dies down for a second or two before picking up almost feverishly, and then dies down again. It’s a good thing Wesley can’t see Nick’s face, cause he’s struggling to fight the amusement off his face. He should be more sympathetic to his kids, but he can really only reminisce about what it’s like to be young and carefree again, when a bad spelling test was the worst of his problems.

“Tell me about soccer, kiddo.” The fox can immediately feel his son perk up.

Dinner is takeout because he’s lazy and Judy’s out a lot longer than he’d anticipated. He manages to prevent a food fight, and when he finally manages to get all five of them to bed, he falls onto the couch and reminds himself to breathe. Just as Nick is about to go up to sleep on his own, the door creaks open. Judy’s head pops through the opening, looking to her left, then her right. Her tired face brightens when she sees him.

“Sorry,” she croaks, then clears her throat. “I said something that set off the gears in Bogo’s head, and then he made me stay to figure it out with him. You know how he gets.”

He knows, because he’s been on that end before, and when he gets back, Judy is usually fast asleep on the couch, curled into the armrest with the light of the TV flickering over her. The remote is almost always on the floor, having slipped out of her grasp. Sometimes, Nat or Gray are sleeping at her feet as well.

Nick follows after her as she checks on every single one of their kids, smoothing the sheets down around them or combing a hand through their fur. “You’re a miracle worker,” she whispers. “Everytime. How’d’you do it, slick?”

He nudges an elbow against her at the nickname. “Not even my kids are immune to my charm.” Judy giggles, hooking a paw through his arm. That habitual quiet falls between them again until Nick exhales. “Wes failed another spelling test.”

Judy tenses immediately. “The other mothers keep suggesting this writing camp,” she sighs. “Do you think we should do it?”

“What’s the point? The kid hates it anyways. He’ll probably end up an amazing soccer player though. Like Lionel? Or Beckham?” The fox knows he’s said the right thing, because her hands loosen around his forearm.

“You’re probably right.”

“When am I not?” He laughs when she whacks at him.

They get ready for bed together, and when they’re lying side by side, Judy voices some of her fears. “Nat’s so… independent. I’m worried about her.”

“Independent?” Nick scoffs. “Dunno where she gets that from. It’s not like either of us have that in spades or anything.”

The sarcasm drips sleepily from his voice, but Judy is alert enough to reply seriously. “I was never that mean though.”

“Hmm, yeah, that might be my fault.”

Judy’s lips curve. “You turned out pretty ok, huh?”

“Yeah, she’ll be fine. Just let her grow up a bit.”

They fall back into reticence. It’s so quiet that their breathing is the loudest sound in the room.

“Five years, huh?” Nick murmurs.

Her purple eyes are closed, but her voice is clear when she speaks. “Mhm. Not bad, Nick Wilde. Whodda thunk you had it in you.”

“I didn’t think I did, that’s for sure.”

“You’ve done great,” she says sweetly, taking his paw. “You’re better at this than I am, and I had 275 siblings.”

Nick squeezes her hand. “Five years is nothing, Carrots. It’ll be twenty in the blink of an eye.”

Carrots groans. “Don’t say that, it’s scary.”

“Well, get ready, ‘cause–”

But he’s interrupted by a loud thud. Clearly there’s been some hustling while they’ve been gone. “I’ll get it,” Nick offers, sitting up before the bunny can even open her mouth to react.

His kids are all light sleepers (that’s his fault), and it kind of makes him want to bang his head against the wall when he sees them all huddled in one room. They’re circled around Gray, who’s rolled straight out of his bed in the middle of the night. “Fall out again, sweetheart?” Gray nods blearily, like he doesn’t know where he is or what’s going on. The night light winks in the background, and it’s a good thing Nick has heightened night-time vision. Each of the kits’ faces are tired, but verging on wakefulness, and he better get cracking before things start getting crazy again.

“I wanna hear the story about how you met mommy,” Nat whispers, clutching the comforter that’s wrapped around her shoulders as she lays onto the carpet.

“Me too,” Jack chimes. Diana doesn’t speak a word, just coils into her sister, struggling a little for something to cover herself with.

“Alright.” Nick takes a seat against Gray’s dresser, forearms resting on his bent knees. “Well, I was a pawpsicle hustler, and your mother had just graduated into the ZPD. Uncle Finnick and I were in the middle of swindling Mr. Jumbeaux when your mother hopped in.”

He’ll tell the story over and over again to anybody who’ll listen, because honestly, it’s still as much of a fairytale to him as when it first happened. By the time he’s finished, it’s three in the morning, and he realizes his kids have all fallen asleep a while ago. When he gets back to his own bed, Judy’s out as well, chest rising evenly as her nose twitches every so often.

Unconsciousness calls his name, but he’s startled out of it when he feels the bed sink at his feet. A small figure lumbers towards him. It’s Wes.

“I can’t sleep,” his voice is small and a little fearful, like he’s waiting to be reprimanded. Nick grabs him by his sides and pulls the little thing between him and Judy.

“Wes?” Judy asks, sounding like she’s got a mouth full of cotton.

“Yeah, mama?”

“C’mere,” she wraps him in her arms, and Nick is pretty sure the rabbit has no idea she’s awake and not dreaming. The thudding against his chest hurts a little, so he distracts himself by adjusting the comforter and draping his tail over the two of them.

After a minute of watching two (out of six) of his favorite people wrapped up in each other, sleep drags him under. He falls asleep to the thought that, yeah, life doesn’t wait for anybody. But he has five kids who love listening to his voice and hearing him tell stories, and a wife to share those stories with. So as long as life keeps giving him something to tell, everything is good.

Even if he can barely keep up sometimes, he’ll be fine. They’ll always be fine.