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Ancient History.

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“Ninety-eight…Ninety-nine…oof!”

Judy collapsed on the floor of her room and sighed. She rolled over onto her back to stare up at the old, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Surprisingly, there was still some faint, yellow-ish glow and she spent several moments tracing the outline of the Bearcules constellation one of her older brothers had put up for her.

Bearcules had always been one of her role models as a kit. Granted, he was a fictional character in a child’s Mousny movie; but it was a movie that really shaped a lot of what Judy believed in. The character might have been 'naturally' strong, big and powerful – but he was still humble, kind and put others before himself. He was the sort of hero Judy had aspired to be.

Some of her sisters thought her crazy for idolizing the male character when there was the female character – Meg, his lover. Judy loved her wittiness, but couldn’t really identify with her. If anything - thinking on it, she seemed to resemble Nick a whole lot. Sarcastic, suave (and dammit he was) and…sexy. Her cheeks warmed and she covered her face with her paws and groaned.

She messed up. Big time.

Judy had been reading countless books, papers and medical journals trying to discern why and how on earth she had managed to mark a fox that she wasn’t even really dating let alone married to. She knew her family members were well aware of it and that was the reason her parents had been poking her recently, asking if she was going to be planning a wedding sometime soon. And for the most part, to her luck, Nick seemed to be blissfully unaware of it – probably rationalizing her scent on him was from the zealous hugs she gave him every day.

All she knew from her research was that extended periods of close intimacy, cohabitation, affection and mutual nuzzling increased the odds of a marking to occur. She supposed they ticked those boxes, but she was pretty sure Nick would have to be in love with her for that to even happen. And heck, was she even in love with him?

It was a question she has mulled over and over for nearly a year now. Judy hadn’t ever really been in love. She’s had crushes, she was sure. But she was certain those didn’t count. She would have to admit herself that she did have a crush on Nick – but a mammal would have to hang her by the ears and shake that truth out of her. But can you blame a girl?

She was certain he was a heartbreaker in high school. Charming, devilishly handsome and that laid-back, bad boy (well, bad being a debatable term) attitude that would make any mammal’s knees weak and inspire a special sort of disgust in Judy. So why was he any different?

Another sigh.

Lovely, she was turning into a love-sick bunny. Nick was way, way out of her league, she knew as much. Besides the fox and predator thing, he was much older than her and she was probably something of a kid sister to him. Judy didn’t mind the age difference, and if anything, found it somewhat attractive. He’d seen some things in his life and he balanced out her youthful naivete almost perfectly. At least that’s how Clawhauser had told her.

Besides, he probably preferred vixens. Judy had seen the manner he had gaped at Felicity. She was a gorgeous vixen and even Judy felt her heart skip a beat seeing her beautiful, ice-blue eyes. She expected to feel jealous and she supposed she did for a few seconds, but what surprised her was the overwhelming guilt that followed. Gideon seemed to sense that and bless the fox for not voicing out Nick’s mark.

“You alright there Jude? You face fell faster than my pop-pop the day he returned to the Ark above.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little tired. I guess I got used to living alone in the city all the time and now being around so many mammals is exhausting.”

 Gideon had an amused smile on his face.

“I’m pretty sure you ain’t alone Judy. You’ve got that city slicker.”

Judy blushed. It was true, she was hardly alone. Nick was almost always over in her apartment. Whenever he wasn’t, she was almost always at his.

“Now don’t you worry about Mizz Silverfox too. She’s a looker, but she’s raised good and sweet like any respectable Burrow girl.  Her mama and her used to make those delicious blueberry pies that got me into trying out the business. “

Gideon eyes glazed over and he seemed to have his mind wandered off in some direction. Judy’s mind immediately put two and two together.

“Gideon…you have a crush on her, don’t you?”

At that, Gideon’s fur seemed redder than normal.

“Well, any darn mammal with a brain and two eyes would.”

“So, for how long?”

Gideon’s eyes widened and his ears flattened against his head in embarrassment.

“Maybe since fifth grade. I don’t know.”

Judy’s eyes widened then. He’d been pining for that long? And here she was moping about thinking that she was having a hard time over a yearlong crush.

“Why haven’t you asked her out?!”

“Well, there’d been whispers she was… queer. I’d have to be a pretty little vixen for her to even look my way.”

Judy tilted her head at that while Gideon chuckled and patted his belly good naturedly. Even though it seemed like he couldn’t ever have the girl of his dreams, he seemed to be handling it a whole deal better than she was. If only she could have such a positive outlook on not being able to love someone.

She pulled herself up and brushed off her clothes. Her abdomen strained from the several hundred crunches she had done –she didn’t want those extra servings of carrot cake she had in the week to hinder her peak physical condition. Work began again on Monday morning, after all.  She padded over to her wardrobe and looked over her selection of formal dresses. It was finally the last ceremony of the wedding week and boy was she glad. Just the one multi-wedding, the big reception into the night and she can finally have that talk with Nick.

She didn’t even know how to broach the subject to him. What was she to say?

Hey Nick, I kinda…sorta…accidentally marked you for life. Haha. Don’t be mad at me, please?

She shook her head and pulled out a cream chiffon dress – one that Nick had gifted to her for her twenty-fifth birthday.

“Wow! It’s so pretty!”

Judy gushed over the gown as she held it over her uniform. It was made of the softest, flowy material and was handstitched beautifully. Judy didn’t think she would find a dress like this in a store.

“Well, Mama Wilde is going to be pleased you liked it. She sewed it herself and I picked out the design. Thought you’d like a dress that was fit for city bunny. Not those prairie dresses you wear to the weddings.”

Judy clutched the dress to her chest, looking up to him with her big, teary eyes and Nick rolled his eyes but chuckled and pulled her to a hug.

“You bunnies, so emotional.”

She smiled fondly at the memory and padded off to her bathroom to freshen up.


 

Nick straightened his silk necktie for the hundredth time as he looked about him. Weddings made him antsy – especially bunny ones. There were just so many of them. Thankfully, it looked like Judy’s “L” siblings wanted a small wedding. Well, small by bunny standards at least. There were only about a hundred or so bunnies milling about in the chapel with a handful of other mammals here and there. So far, only four or so of the elder bunnies have given him funny looks. That was a new record for the week.

“You clean up nice, have I ever told you that?”

A smirk immediately formed on his lips and they parted to give a smart retort. But as he turned around, his jaw dropped to the floor.

He didn’t recognize her at first but those striking violet eyes were impossible to forget. The cream cloth hugged her body in all the right places, before falling elegantly down to her feet. It had a high neck, which was perfect for a chapel wedding. But Nick knew that underneath the delicate lace shrug she wore, were bare shoulders and an exposed back. With the delicate flower crown on the top of her head and in the warm, candlelight of the chapel, she looked like an angel. He gulped hard.

Her face morphed to one of worry and Nick suddenly found it very hard to enunciate.

 “It’s the dress you gave me for my birthday…Does it look bad?”

“Uh…Um, you look…great.”

“You hesitated.”

It was Felicity. Judy felt her spirits fall just a smidge. Gideon came up from behind and both gave wide, playful smirks to the stewing fox. Felicity turned to Judy and gave her a bright smile.

“Girl, you look breathtaking! You might just upstage the brides tonight.”

Judy felt herself blush and looked over at her ensemble. She might have picked the wrong colour for a wedding and the lace didn’t help either. But she was running out of options and she did want to show Nick his gift and how much she loved it. She lifted her head and looked over at Felicity, returning the bright smile without much effort.

“Me? Have you looked in the mirror?”

Felicity laughed and shook her paw. Of course, the vixen looked dazzling even in a modest, Sunday service-worthy navy gown.

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Felicity Silverfox. You can call me Fell if you like.”

“Judy Hopps! Gideon did talk much about you.”

“I know who you are. You’re pretty famous here and back in the city. And I hope you’ve heard good things from Gid about me?”

Felicity gave her a wink at that and for a moment, Judy felt her heart stop. Her ice-blue eyes looked like aquamarines in the candle-lit chapel. Judy felt her blush burn to the tips of her ears and suddenly found herself questioning her sexuality. She understood now why Gideon (who, at the moment, was redder than his bowtie) was so in love with her.

“Of… of course! Gideon’s been gushing about you!”

This entire time, Nick could only watch on quietly. He’d kept his eyes everywhere but her and avoided making eye contact with her. Judy felt her ears droop.

“Judith?”

Her head turned to see the minister who had been officiating her siblings’ weddings.

“Yes, minister?”

The old hare only smiled politely to the other three foxes and gestured down the halls of the chapel while adjusting his spectacles.

“Will you accompany me to my office?”

Judy looked back to see Nick now in deep conversation with Gideon. Felicity gave her a friendly wave and a “See you later!” before turning back to them. Taking a deep breath, she turned and followed after the minister, thinking he probably just needed help with some wedding-related things.


 

“Close the door behind you please, dear. Thank you.”

Judy closed it and looked about her. The room reminded her of her father’s study – all wood desks and chairs and a great deal of books. Dusty ones, she could not help but note.

“Please, have a seat.”

“Is something the matter, minister?”

He was quiet for a bit and Judy felt a sense of dread. She looked over to him suspiciously, but lowered herself to the seat as he took his behind the oak desk.

“I’ve brought you here tonight to…discuss a certain issue.”

“What… issue?”

Judy knew of course, but she wanted to see how he would go about it. He didn’t seem to appreciate her supposed obliviousness from the look of him.

“Nicholas Wilde. Your…boyfriend, I presume?”

“Yes, we are dating.”

Judy discreetly gulped and felt the fur on the back of her neck stand. She really, really didn’t like to lie.

“We are well aware. Everyone is well aware…”

She felt her fur heat up but kept her chin up. She knew it was only a matter of time before the elders tried to talk her out of it as they had by trying to break up her brother Caleb and his boyfriend.

“I’m sorry, Judith. But I am sure you know what I’m about to say. If you have any intentions of marrying that mammal, we are going to have to voice our disapproval. Do you love this mammal, or are you just… what do the kids call it these days? …Casual?”

Judy’s mind already filtered out the expected speech from him. It was pretty much second nature to her now for she had rehearsed the moment she would introduce Nick to her parents dozens – no, hundreds of times in her head. Her mind, instead, was focused on his last question. Does she love him?

“I…I love him. I really do.”

Judy wasn’t sure who she was talking to now - the minister, or herself.

He only looked at her disapprovingly over the rim of his glasses.

“It seems you have only made that realization now. But tell me, honestly; does he love you? Has he told you so?”

Judy bit her lip and looked away. Nick loved her, she knew that. Maybe not in the way he was insinuating; but as a friend, for sure. He was not one to explicitly say it out loud, he was just that way. It did sometimes hurt whenever he didn’t return the words, but whatever that was unsaid was made up for with their private cuddles, ear stroking and of course, unbridled loyalty.

“I thought so.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Judith, he is a predator.”

Judy frowned at that and bristled. Adorable, sweet, country-manners Judy was gone; checked out ages ago. Lieutenant Hopps was in. Her voice carried a certain tone that she was sure if her mother heard, would earn a good ear twist.

“And?”

The minister’s brow rose but he calmly folded his paws before him.

“It is not natural- “

“Oh sweet cheese and crackers.”

Judy rolled her eyes and folded her arms. Her violet eyes blazing as she fixated them on the older bunny.

“You might think me as just another old mammal, Judith. But I am far more…open-minded than most. I have officiated inter-species weddings before, you know. Just a month ago, between a panda and a honey bear.”

Judy only quietly listened on, her arms still akimbo.

“But predator-prey? I’m sorry Judith. But that is just not possible.”

“Not possible, how?”

“He is a fox. You are a bright, young bunny. I am certain you know our illustrious history with their kind.”

Judy only shrugged.

“As far as I know, they make for pretty good cops and bake delicious blueberry pies. I’ve seen you help yourself to quite the share, minister. Shouldn’t you be minding your blood sugar rather than my affairs?”

The minister grew red-faced and Judy internally winced. She wasn’t used to being this snippy. She supposed she got that from Nick. Looks like beyond marking and carrying each other’s scents, they carried on each other’s traits.

“Well, Judith. You will have to be informed that I will not be able to officiate your wedding, should the time come.”

Judy’s eyes narrowed. As if she wanted him to be the one to marry Nick and her. And as if Nick and her will ever get married. His words did sting, but Judy was far too enraged with the flippant manner he spoke of her best friend.

“That is well and fine. Nick and I will turn to others should we choose to marry.”

“I doubt that would happen. I believe he was spotted… canoodling with a certain vixen past midnight at your family’s blueberry patch? “

Judy froze.

Vixen? Did he mean Felicity?

She thought she felt a flare of jealousy but immediately extinguished it before it grew. He was baiting her and she was not going to take bite.

“I’m certain it’s a misunderstanding. Nick and I practise honest, open communication.”

She was lying through her teeth and from the minister’s expression, he knew as well.

“It is only to be expected. Even Gideon’s father left his mother. They cannot be trusted. He will be disloyal to you.”

Oh, that was the last straw.

“With all due respect minister, I do not appreciate you speaking of my partner and my friend in that manner. Whatever happens between Nick and I is our own business.”

“I know that, Judith. But I have an obligation to Noah and to your parents to guide you away from evil- “

“Thank you, but no thank you. Good day, minister.”

She stood up as elegantly as she could and brisk walked away from his office.


 

Throughout the ceremony, Judy tried her best to be herself. She smiled wide for the pictures, diligently held on to bouquets, held her sisters’ lace trains, calmed down any hysterical family members (most of the time, her dad), shook paws and air-kissed muzzles. She was Judy the Trooper – always there for her family as they have always been there for her. She forced herself to keep her ears perky and up.

 But now, she sat at the edge of her parents’ meadow, away from the crowd. She was exhausted but as always, work always helped distract her mind. She took a sip of her wine and sighed, relaxing back against the cool bark of an apple tree. Her lace shrug had disappeared somewhere – taken off after obliging a dance with her tearful father who’d whispered to her afterwards to take as much time she needed before deciding to marry herself. Wedding seasons were her father’s least favourite and when her mother was most exasperated with her husband. She smiled at that thought, but then the memory of the sour-faced minister decided to invade her train of thought.

She set her wine glass down and massaged her temples. From the way Nick had looked at Felicity, Judy knew instinctively something was up between them. Gideon had said that Felicity moved out of the burrows when she was a teenager to the city. Could she have met Nick then?

Judy glumly plucked a stray lint from her dress and smoothed out the material over her legs. She hugged herself and leaned her head back. She thought she heard the faint crunch of footsteps on grass, but paid it no mind. It was probably a few playful teenagers running off for a make-out session when their parents were too drunk to supervise them.

There was an odd stillness for several moments, and then Judy felt the warmth of a coat that scented thickly of expensive cologne around her shoulders. Her eyes flew open to meet with striking blue eyes.

“Hey, Judy. Long time.”


 

Nick never thought he would be the type to become a third wheel. And yet, here he was, quietly sipping his (spiked) punch, listening to Felicity and Gideon flirt with each other like a bunch of middle-schoolers.

Felicity was a woman’s woman – seductive, mysterious and of course, drop dead gorgeous. She could get suckers like him drooling just with a wink. Yet here she was giggling, punching Gideon’s shoulder playfully like a schoolgirl. He would have thought he would feel old seeds of jealously to rear its ugly head, but there were surprisingly none. He was happy to see her happy. Genuinely happy.

“Gosh, Gid. I wish I got to know you more when I was here. I wouldn’t have felt so lonely if I had someone like you around.”

The male fox rubbed his neck bashfully and mumbled something along the lines of likewise. Nick had better leave the lovebirds to it.

“Well, I’m gonna go get some grub.”

Gideon and Felicity both turned to wave at him and then they were lost within each other once again. He chuckled and sauntered over to the snack table. Judy had disappeared some time ago. It was hardly a surprise. She was probably off helping a sister with a wardrobe malfunction or keeping an eye on her younger siblings.

He would have offered help as he usually would have; but no, he had to be a coward.

He picked up a dinner roll and chewed on it slowly as he scanned the party. It was a perfect night for an outdoor reception in the gardens. The air was cool, the sky was bright with hundreds of stars, and the flowers were in bloom leaving a soft perfume in the air. Bunnies and a few other mammals milled about, eating, drinking and dancing. His eyes finally rested at the two grey blobs in the distance – it was Judy, he knew. He could recognise her breathing. But she wasn’t alone.

He felt his heart skip several beats and the ugliest flare of jealously spread through his body. He thought he heard himself growl and judging from the concerned look of bunnies in his proximity, he did and rather loudly at that. He quickly coughed and gave an easy grin to everyone.

“Summer fever, it’s not just for the weddings!”

Most just gave him a bemused look, but went back to whatever they were doing. He loosened his tie and took in a deep breath. He needed Cool Nick. Not Viciously Jealous Lover-Boy Nick.

The mammal didn’t appear to be a bunny – he was much taller than her, had larger ears with black markings on his cheeks and ear. He was just in his shirtsleeves. That was when he noticed a coat draped around Judy. His eyes narrowed then and before he knew it, he was marching right towards them.


 

Judy made room for the hare, careful not to tear her dress. He plopped down next to her, sighing and falling back against the trunk.

“Finally, it’s over.”

“For this year, at least.”

Both gave each other knowing smiles and laughed lightly.

“It’s good to see you. I don’t think I’ve seen you since…”

“Since you left for the academy. Congratulations, by the way. For Valedictorian and…well, saving the city.”

Judy blushed and shook her head so hard, her flower crown almost flew off. She flushed as he reached over to adjust it for her.

“Oh no, that was not all me.”

“Of course. She had fantastic help.”

Both turned their heads upward to see the towering fox. Nick had loosened his tie and hoisted his coat over one shoulder, his own shirtsleeves were rolled up – tight against his strong arms. Judy realized what he was doing and had to roll her eyes at that.

“Here’s the superstar himself. Jack, meet Nick Wilde. Slick, meet Jack Savage.”

Jack lifted a paw up like the gentlemammal he was and gave him a nod.

“I’ve heard much about you Wilde.”

He looked coolly at the mammal’s outstretched paw for a moment and it was Judy’s glare that finally had him reach out for it himself to shake.

“Wish I could say the same for you…Savage.”

The hare just gave a mysterious smile and shrugged. Nick noticed then he looked fitter than most bunnies he had seen, save for Judy. Unusually muscled shoulders and an athletic build rather than the typical farmer’s build.

“My work’s private and takes me places. I visit home once in a while.”

Nick gave a short nod and turned his gaze to Judy who looked to be openly mystified by him. Jack seemed to have noticed the tension between the two and chuckled quietly to himself. He picked himself up and brushed off his bespoke dress pants. Nick just noticed how expensively tailored they were. His father would have been all over it.

“Well, it was nice talking to you Judy. I have a flight to catch tonight.”

“Oh, you’re leaving already?”

“Yup. I have…work.

Judy immediately got to her feet and hugged the mammal a little too tightly for his liking. Jack kept his stoic, blue eyes on him the entire time and waited for Judy to release him before smiling at her with such suavity, Nick was certain there was a trademark infringement. But what really got to him was Jack reaching down to kiss her paw.

Nick checked himself before he drew his claws.

“Nice meeting you, Wilde.”

“Likewise, Savage.”

“Oh, Jack! Your coat!”

Judy handed his coat back to him and he smiled at her before disappearing into the crowd of bunnies.

For several moments after that, there was a heavy silence between the two best friends. Nick picked up hints of musk, sandalwood and well, just the scent of a pompous douchebag on his bunny. Judy turned to him and smiled playfully.

“What’s it with you and your need to be the belle of the ball?”

Nick looked down at her incredulously.

“Madam, you wound me. I don’t try, I am the belle.”

He sniffed pointedly but smirked at her as she burst into giggles. Finally, the tension broke between them. Judy smoothed her dress reflexively and Nick knelt down before her to pick a stray leaf from the hem.

“You look beautiful.”

Judy’s breath hitched and he lifted his head to smile warmly at her. Of course she was - she always had been. Whether she was in that bright yellow meter maid vest, her rookie blues or heck, her riot gear.

“T…thanks, Slick.”

Both were unusually quiet, unsure of what to say. Nick took his coat and draped it over her shoulders. Smirking down at her as she laughed softly - the heavy, fine cloth tickled her knees. It was a cool, summer night after all and he totally was not trying to get rid of Savage’s mild scent on her.

“Well, now I feel like the belle of the ball. Gentlemammals offering me their coats left and right!”

He puffed up his chest and sighed heavily, taking her paw and leading her out to the more private gardens.

“C’mon, sweetheart. Let’s have that talk.”