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Contraband

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Judy sat in the precinct break room where the TV replayed footage of Jaeger's arrest on ZNN. Blue and red lights flashed onto a creamy-white jet that was refused takeoff clearance. Jaeger walked with his paws in cuffs in a dignified fashion towards the backseat of the chief's cruiser, escorted there by the buffalo himself. The news anchors continued to repeat what information they had, which was hardly the full story. She hoped that this particular case would not lead her in front of cameras again. That did not end up well for her first case.

She sighed with disappointment, as she was not the one to make the arrest. However, part of her felt like it would be difficult to take satisfaction in arresting Jaeger. Something about his sincerity when he apologized to her, before trying to kill her, left a bad taste in her mouth. At the moment, she was not sure she would be in any mood to gloat anyway.

She almost died, and that fact shook her a bit. Being cops, it was pretty customary to be confronted with a life or death situation at work on rare occasion. Perhaps they became easier to deal with, and it was not necessarily the first time it happened for her. Had her first case gone south, she would have been torn to pieces by a mindless predator. But this case, she inhaled what she thought were her last breaths, convinced the end was near. Had it not been for her co-workers, she'd be dead.

And then there was Nick. They spent their 'last moments' together, and he was the most comforting and caring mammal in the world. They opened up to each other in ways she did not expect, and she found herself happy that she could at least have him there in the end. But everything was different now.

"Are you going to eat that or are you going to just keep fidgeting with it?" Chief Bogo asked from behind her. She snapped to, and fumbled about nervously. She had been rolling one of the blueberries Nick had given her in her paw, staring at it blankly.

"Chief!" she yipped.

"At ease, Hopps. Don't mean to startle you. You handling everything alright?"

"I think so sir," she guessed.

"Good. Any news from the hospital about our fox?"

"He'll be out in the afternoon," she said with a slight smile.

"Also good. He'll get tomorrow off. I offer the same to you, but you didn't take me up on it today, so I expect you won't take me up on tomorrow either," he guessed. She did not respond, only letting her gaze drift back to the blueberry in her hand.

After being cleared by the medics, Judy went straight to the station instead of home. She placed the berries in the break room fridge and set to work on wrapping up the case. There were meetings with all the other detectives on the case that busted meat dens and combined evidence into one neat pile. Lawyers from the public prosecutor's office arrived the next morning and discussed at length what evidence could be used to put Jaeger and his goons behind bars for life. She would be called to give a testimony at the trial should he plead not-guilty, something she was happy to do. It was all work through the night for her, and she was grateful for the distraction. But now, with everyone waiting on Nick's return, there was not much else to work on and was thus she was left alone with her thoughts, which was dangerous.

Nick had confessed, in his own way, that he felt something for her. It was true that she valued him as her closest friend, and she never believed she could get so close with anyone let alone a fox. But romance was still confusing to her. She thought back to what he said about her, and how warm his chest felt in the freezing cold, and the way he smiled at her from the ambulance. The last thought made her blush a little.

"Hopps? You've been silent for about a minute now, so you're either going home or getting back to work," Bogo said sternly.

"Oh! Sorry chief. I guess I have a lot on my mind. And not much sleep," she added.

"I've seen officers go through worse and come out strong, and I've seen officers go through less and nearly lose it. Trust me Hopps, right now you need to get your mind off of things. Get some rest, see some friends, talk to some family. Just don't pretend like you are too tough to feel shaken," he said and smiled at her weakly.

"Thanks chief, that's good advice," she said and smiled back. "By the way, how much trouble is Nick in?"

"Well let's see. Insubordination, breaking and entering, searching without a warrant, and endangering the life of himself and his partner," Bogo counted on his fingers. "He's getting paid suspension."

"That's all? He'll consider that vacation time," Judy wondered. "Chief? Permission to speak freely, sir?" she said looking up at him. He nodded and folded his arms over his chest, looking down at her.

"You sent Nick to standby in case something happened right? I mean this with all do respect, but did you really expect him to sit quietly in his patrol car? This is Nick Wilde we're talking about," she ventured. This was dangerous territory of insulting the chief, but he smiled as he looked back at her, not saying a word.

". . . you didn't expect him to wait, did you? You sent him on purpose," she realized.

"I haven't the slightest idea of what you're talking about, Hopps," he said and made his exit. Judy looked back at the looping footage on the screen. The showed footage of Jaeger's house surrounded by patrol cars, and an ambulance making it's way down the tree towards the hospital. She smiled, knowing she'd expect nothing less from Nick either.

An hour later, she decided rest was a good option and clocked out. She continued to space out for a bit as she walked towards the train. She was so absent minded she almost did not hear her phone ring. She quickly scooped it out of her pocket, placed her earbuds in and hit the reply button.

"Hi Judy!" her brother's face hollered from her screen.

"Hi Jake! How is everything?" she said with a smile.

"Good, good. Great actually! I've got Annabelle here too," he said, and another bunny entered the frame. Annabelle certainly was too pretty for her brother, but her smile was as big and genuine as hers was when the assistant mayor first pinned her badge on her chest.

"Hi Annabelle," Judy said with a wave. Her smile brightened as she saw how happy they both looked.

"We've actually got some pretty big news," Jake said.

"Look!" Annabelle said excitedly and held up a paw with her palms facing in. The entire frame was filled with a gleaming diamond ring that was as bright as the sun. Judy gasped and nearly bounded out of her seat on the train in excitement.

"Oh my gosh! I can't believe it! I'm so happy for you two!" she said, trying her best to be polite to the mammals around her with her hollering.

"Thank you! Jake hid the ring around the greens of a carrot and gave it to me. I didn't even realize and nearly ate it!" Annabelle said with a laugh.

"Jake, you dum-dum, you're lucky your fiancé pays attention. You could have broken her teeth or something," Judy scolded.

"Eh, she'd be just as pretty regardless," he said and gave his lady a coy smile. She blushed and pushed at his chest, a sight which caused Judy's heart to flutter a little.

"Who else have you told?" Judy asked.

"Mom and Dad know, her folks know, and pretty much anyone out of town, including you now. We are going to the burrows in an hour to make the announcement before everyone else," he explained.

"Oh that reminds me, I should call my sister Margaret since she's abroad!" Annabelle explained.

"Go give them a ring, I'll wrap up here," Jack suggested.

"Ok. Bye Judy!" she waved turning to the phone.

"Bye Annabelle. Congratulations!" Judy replied with a wave.

"Thanks," she said and turned to her betrothed, "I'll be right back honey, love you," she said and planted a thick kiss on him, lingering just a tad too long in front of Judy, but she didn't mind much.

"Awww," Judy exclaimed after she left. Jake bashfully rolled his eyes.

"Whatever, Judes. How're things in the city?" he asked genuinely.

"Things are good," she began, before pausing. "Things are . . ."

"Hey Jude, everything alright?" He asked, showing a bit of concern.

"I'm fine Jake, really, I just finished up a really tough case and things are a little topsy-turvy right now," she explained.

"Everything ok with Nick?" he asked flatly. She immediately raised a brow and shot him an amazed glance.

"Why do you ask that?" she asked. Jake shrugged.

"Well, you guys seemed pretty joined at the hip when I met you last week in the city, and he's not with you right now so I guessed that something was up. Though since you still haven't answered my question yet, I'll venture to say my guess was not far off?" he replied.

Judy looked around the train car nervously, checking to see if there were any mammals within earshot for the conversation. Luckily there were one or two other mammals on the car, both of which had music in their ears. She brought the phone closer to her face and spoke in a hushed tone.

"Jake, can you . . . describe what being in love is like? Just, you know, in a general sense," she asked. Her brother's eyes went wide and he fumbled to find the right words for a moment.

"Uh, okay sure. It's like . . . I guess it's like being home?" he ventured.

"You cannot tell me that Annabelle reminds you of being surrounded by hundreds of nosey siblings," she said with a roll of her eyes.

"No I mean the feeling is much like being home. You know? Like, even if I'm a thousand miles away from anywhere I've ever been, I can still feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be with her. Even on her worst days when she's her most frustrating self, I don't want to be anywhere else but by her side. It's like being myself is as easy as breathing. Does that make sense?" he asked.

". . . I guess so, yeah," she pondered.

"So you're in love with Nick?" he asked.

"Jake!" she bashfully growled.

"Alright, okay, take it easy!" he reassured her. "But that means . . . Nick is in love with you then?" She did not respond. She could only manage to look down towards the ground.

"And you don't feel the same back then?" he followed.

"I don't know . . ."

"Well, how do you feel about him?" Jake started.

"Jake, I don't think I need to tell you the obvious problem with an interspiecies romance," she said.

"That is not what I asked. Plus, I'm not sure what you mean, Judes. I mean, sure some folks dislike it, but it's not like it use to be. Besides, you shouldn't not be with someone because others might dislike it."

"Sure, but come on, this is me we're talking about. Can you really imagine a Hopps to fall for a non-bunny? A fox no less?" She asked. She was trying to make a point, but she could not deny she was actually curious about the answer.

"Honestly? The way you and Nick were? I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest," her brother responded. "It all depends on how you feel about him. So?"

"Jake, I'm not sure this is going to help," she said.

"Judy, for right now, just humor me ok? Answer my questions," he retorted.

"Well . . . he's my closest friend. I've been with him through thick and thin and I really don't like the concept of living in Zootopia without him," she explained.

"Are you attracted to him at all?" Jake asked.

"That's hardly your busin—"

"—Nanananaa, are you attracted to him?" he said wagging is finger at her.

"How on earth am I supposed to know if I'm attracted to a fox?" she barked.

"Let me dumb it down for you. Do you want to put your face on his face?"

"Wha—" Judy could not quite believe what she was hearing from her brother, but thought about what he was asking. She remembered the way the fur on his cheeks felt against hers the night before, and how warm it felt inside her chest as she nestled in closer. The thought alone brought a sort of warmth to her chest at the mere memory. She imagined him looking down, smiling, closing his eyes and pulling her closer.

"Judy?" Jake repeated.

". . . yeah, there is something there. I'm so disgusting," she said with a cringe.

"Hey Judes, he's just a fox, not a pile of manure. There is nothing wrong with you," he mentioned.

"I guess, but I just never imagined it would happen to me," she stated flatly.

"While that part's pretty key, it's not the whole story. Have you guys ever fought?" he asked.

"Of course," she answered easily.

"When you fight, do either of you have each other's best interest in mind, or is it because you're simply mad at each other?" Jake asked.

Judy thought back to their fight about whether or not Jaeger was innocent the day before. She certainly was angry with him, but she was only trying to solve the case. He, however, seemed angry because of her alleged feelings towards Jaeger. In retrospect, he was likely jealous, which made her smirk. But he immediately sprung into action and followed her to Jaeger's house, which suggested he did not want her flirting with danger.

"I've been angry at him for most of the time that I've known him," she continued. "But when he's angry with me, it's either because I hurt him or because he's afraid I will hurt myself."

"Last question: when you are angry with him, do you want him to disappear? Have you ever wished for a new partner?"

"No, of course not," she said easily. Jake smiled and nodded at the speed of her answer. "What? What is that look for?" she said, honestly wanting to know.

"Judy, I know this is probably not easy for you, but I think you got it."

"It?" she asked.

"Yeah, you got it. You got it bad. There's no way on earth it would make any sense to you because one, you've never dated anyone before, and two, he's a predator. A fox no less. But trust me, from what you just told me, and what I saw at dinner last week, you two are like Romeo and Juliet."

"You know they die in the end of that story?" she jabbed.

"Eh, we all die at the end of our stories. Just make sure you spend the story with someone important," he said with a coy smile.

"What should I do, Jake!" she said, a little flustered at his assertions.

"You guys are already close right?"

"Yeah?"

"Then just go put your face on his face and see what happens! From the sound of it, I bet he'd probably like that," he said with another smile.

"If mom and dad find out you're trying to get me to kiss a fox . . ."

"Hey, at least I don't have to explain why I'm in love with one. Good luck with that one when you get there."

"I'm pretty sure dad will stick his gun in Nick's mouth," Judy said with a giggle.

"Aha! See! you said 'will', not 'would'," Jake pointed out. Judy blushed again and shrugged at her brother. "If you're nervous or unsure still, then just go see him again, ok? My guess is that if you just place yourself in front of him, you'll make the right decision. Just follow your nose and let your hoppers take you where they will," he finished and gave her a thumbs up on one paw.

The train mercifully came to a stop at her station and she hoped off and onto the platform. She wished her brother congratulations again and thanked him for his advice before switching off her phone. She was still not sure of what she wanted, or whether or not this was something she even do. But her brother was right. If she could put herself next to Nick again, perhaps things would be clearer. She knew what she wanted to do next, and hurried down the steps from the train station.


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Nick sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he trudged down the beaten dirt path towards his bridge and warehouse. His phone was completely devoid of messages. While he was a little bitter about not hearing any concern from anyone at work, he guessed that the radio silence from his partner was on purpose. Clawhauser certainly gave her the blueberries at the crime scene, and she was spooked.

"Dammit Nick, you had to get all sappy," he cursed at himself. His hospital wristband chaffed at his fur and his uniform was untidy and stiff. He made his way to the bridge he slept under and found his lawn chair and umbrella before taking a seat and staring at the evening sky. The cool air whipped at his fur, and he should probably clean up, or at least get some grub since the hospital food was so atrocious. But he could not bring himself to move just yet.

"Hey pops . . ." he wondered aloud. "Got any advice for a fox whose fallin' hard for a bunny?"

Nick's ears nearly rang in the silence that followed. He closed his eyes and sighed again, hoping to goodness that the waiting period would be over soon. There was this maddening nausea eating at his gut as he imagined her turning him down, or embracing him. Either one was hard to accept, and not knowing was going to keep him from sleeping.

"Is it too much to ask. . . . for a little communication here!" he called out loudly and tossed his phone into the dirt by his chair. With a groan he rubbed the spot between his eyes tenderly.

His ear twitched. Foxes have decent hearing by comparison to other members of the animal kingdom, but what he heard did not make sense so he guessed he was imagining it. Still, the sound persisted. He could hear the faint chime of bells and flutes and an organ playing an upbeat and jovial tune on repeat.

"What the heck?" he said and stood up, facing the warehouse. He followed the dirt path that led to his grandfather's amusement park and dug out his keys from his butt pocket. The sound was surely coming from inside.

"Who on earth has the guts to . . ." he said as he made his way inside. The carrousel in the center of the park entrance was lit up and spinning. The carnival tune that was playing echoed through out the warehouse and in his ears. But it wasn't the music that caught his attention. It was laughter.

"Hey!" he called out, but no one responded. A moment later the laughter returned as the carrousel made it's way around again.

There she was. Officer Judy Hopps, giggling like a child on the back of a giant bird making it's way up and down as she continued to spin.

"Carrots!" he called out again. He knew she could hear him, but she just ignored him and continued to laugh and play off the carnival ride, bouncing from one seat to the next. Nick groaned and followed the waiting lines up to the carousel and hopped on effortlessly, as he had done many times before. He made his way up to the chuckling rabbit and stared up at her.

"Hey!" he called out one more time. This time she whipped her head around and looked down at him from her perch as they both lightly spun. The amber lights of the ride whipped around them in a dazzling display, yet they held eye contact with each other. He was scowling, yet she was beaming. Her smile covered her whole face as she looked down towards her partner.

"Hey," Nick called out again. "Are you finished?" he asked coldly.

"No!" she laughed. "You think you can hide an entire theme park from me? How dare you think you can own one of these and not expect me to ride it?" Nick continued to scowl at her.

"I don't believe you have purchased a ticket, ma'am," he asserted.

"Oh that's okay, I know the owner," she jested.

"Oh do you now?"

"Mmhmm. He can be a real jerk sometimes, but at least he knows how to have a good time. Hey, if you see him, can you ask him to get his fuzzy butt up here and join me?" she said and bounded towards another plastic eagle making it's way gently up and down. Nick rolled his eyes, charged his hind legs and leaped up towards the seat, bounding after her.

"Ah, there you are Nick!" she said with a laugh.

"You know, carrots, this ride is meant for predators? Have you noticed the little plastic squirrels on the ground that all of these birds are chasing after?" he mentioned as they continued to jump between seats.

"Well, mister predator, you'll just have to chase after me instead. That should make it more interesting," she said playfully.

"Don't think I won't, fluff."

"Show me!" she said and caught one of the handle bars in the air and swung around a few times before launching herself to the next one. Nick's glare fired up as he started to give chase. Judy laughed as he nearly caught her from her left. She dodged right as they continued to run. The figurines gently raising up and down made it blissfully fun to dodge him, and he very much enjoyed chasing after her.

"Almost got ya!" he howled and slipped on one seat that was worn down too far and tumbled to the ground.

Judy was beside herself with laughter as she gleefully skittered away. She always enjoyed these kinds of rides, and for the first time ever she was enjoying one on her own. She gandered back again to see if he was still giving chase. She saw no movement. She nervously stopped and looked back towards the direction they were running, then back at where she'd left him. She saw nothing still. She kept her eyes on a swivel, and decided finding a lower spot to hide would be a better idea. She leapt from one perch to another.

"Gotchya!" Nick hollered as he pounced up from beneath her and brought them both tumbling down. Judy squealed and laughed as they landed on the ground with a roll. She ended up in his clutches squirming but laughing uncontrollably. He laughed along as he pretended to take bites out of her ears and head.

"Okay! Okay! You win," she said and rolled over. She was staring down at him, smiling brightly, far too close for comfort. His smile faded into a nervous look as reality of their proximity closed down on him. The music wound to a close and the carousel began to slow as she continued to smile down at him. As they came to a complete stop, there was no more pretending. Here she was, looking right down at him, alone in his grandfather's theme park.

"Judy . . ." he said nervously.

"Yeah?" she said, continuing to smile. Nick tried to form more words, but they rushed from his head as she began easing her face closer to his. Her eyes began to close.

"Stop," he said abruptly.

"What's wrong?" she asked, backing away from his face and allowing him some space. Her mind began to race with explanations. Had she completely miss-read everything?

"Don't," he continued quietly.

"I'm sorry . . ." she started, her heart beginning to sink. "I thought you wanted . . ."

"I do," he finished for her. She shot him a confused look and sat up on her heels.

"Then why stop me?" she asked.

"I'm not buyin' it," he said and slowly rolled to his own feet.

"There's nothing to 'buy' Nick! I'm not trying to hustle you here," she reassured him, splaying her hands apart as if to show her sleeves were rolled up.

"Come on, Carrots," Nick said and stood, dusting himself off briefly before looking back at her. "This time yesterday you said that you could never feel that way about a predator."

"Well maybe I was wrong!" she defended herself.

"Come on, fluff. I'm sorry but your not going to fix it this time," he said and began walking from the carousel. Judy paced angrily behind him, a little more than furious that he turned his back to her. They passed by the power switch that lit the giant 'Wilde Times' sign above them. He angrily threw the switch as he walked past and the sign snapped dark with a loud crack. Now the carousel was all that lit their faces.

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"That's what you do, Carrots!" he turned and leered at her. She saw in his face how nervous he was. "You fix things. You take what's nasty and you make them better. You see a crying child? you want to buy it ice cream. You see a fearful mouse? you want to protect him. You see a house on fire? you want to run inside and save everyone."

"and?" she spat, hoping he would just get to the point.

"And, you see your partner feeling love-sick? You want to do anything you can to fix it," he said with a slight growl. Judy's eyes jumped open and scanned her partner's features. He was trembling with a look he had never seen on him before, and it terrified her. Her features quickly hardened as she refused to be taken so lightly.

"Do you really think I'd be so naive?" Judy asked.

"Oh, right, coming from the bunny who assumed Jaeger was innocent," he said with a scoff.

Touché, she thought. But she was not going to let him hear it out loud.

"Nick, I'm not trying to fix you," she said a little more softly. "Is it really that hard to believe I might feel something for you?"

"Yes," he said easily. "You're not in love with someone because you spent a night in a freezer together."

"Nick, what happened in that freezer-"

"It should have stayed there. I'm . . . I'm sorry," he sighed and brought his fingers up to pinch his brow. "If I thought we were going to make it, I would have kept my big mouth shut."

"You're the one who got all sappy with the blueberries, remember?" she said and folded her arms over her chest.

"I dared to dream, perhaps in a haze of frostbite and ambulance drugs," he said and dropped his paw from his brow with a sigh.

"Alright slick," Judy said with a groan. "Let's forget about me for a second. Obviously there is something important that you haven't spelled out yet, and whether we stay partners or start something more, you need to lay it out for me."

"Come on, Hopps, I feel like I did that plenty back in the ice-box."

"That was you chickening out of saying it to my face honestly," she reminded him. "I want you to say it to my face."

"Carrots, I'm not goin-"

"Don't give me your quick-tongued 'never let them see they get to you' bull. I'm calling on you right now, as a friend and partner. Lay it out for me," she demanded sternly. She was right up in his face now, not giving him an inch. He continued to tremble a little, looking at her up and down nervously.

"Hopps," he started again.

"Spill it!" she commanded.

"Fine!" he barked and loomed over her. "You are the single most important mammal in my life! It was during our very first case together that I considered you my best friend. I've spent so much time near you that it's hard to believe you were ever not there. So when the thought of loosing you to some buck popped into my head, it was like looking down the barrel of a gun!"

Judy backed off, watching him closely as he waived his arms up and down frantically. The walls finally down, he angrily spat at her everything with his teeth bared and his legs shaking.

"So what did I do? I lied. I pretended. I acted like you weren't on my mind all the time. I pretended not to love the way your sent lingers on me after a long day in the cruiser. I kept my phone locked when I wanted to call you late at night just to hear your stupid voice. I feigned indifference when it hurt just to look at you. I acted like I didn't fantasize about us decades from now fighting over who's turn it is to watch the kids. And I certainly buried my thoughts about spending a glorious night with you in your crappy apartment." He was out of breath, and her heart was racing. He looked as though he wasn't finished, pausing for a moment and observing her closely.

"Why?" slipped out of her mouth without thinking. She fought back tears as her previously angry demeanor all but vanished.

"Because I would rather be miserable for the rest of my life than risk not having you around anymore!" he barked one more time. She asked for it all laid out, so he gave it to her. He heard somewhere that opening up and laying all your feelings bare was a liberating experience, that it was good for the soul. What chump thought that? Nick was both angry and terrified, because this was either the start of his dream come true or his worst nightmare.

"Nick," she started. He felt his feet shift. His legs begged him to run, and in a past life he might have done so. But he was a cop, he was her partner, and his feet were not going to fail him now.

"Nick, I don't want you to pretend anymore," she said softly.

"Why?" he repeated back to her.

"Because I would rather be miserable for the rest of my life than not have you around anymore," she cooed. His eyes fell open a bit, as he began to understand she was speaking honestly.

"See these?" he said and opened his lips to one side, exposing his teeth. "These are canines. And these? These are claws."

"I'm aware you're a fox, Nick," she reminded him. "But on the way over here, I asked myself two questions. The first was this: If I took away the claws and teeth, is there something there? If you were a bunny, would I have fallen for you already? The answer was a resounding yes, with a few laughable images of you as a bunny in my head."

Nick frowned, looking down at the ground and scowling at the thought. 'If Only' is a waste of breath, he thought. It didn't make it hurt any less though.

"And the second?" he asked timidly.

"Do I still want you anyway?" she said softly. She moved closer to him slowly. He bent down onto one knee so they were at eye level with each other and held firm as she came within paws reach of him. She motioned to move closer, but he stopped her, recoiling just slightly.

"Judy," he whispered. "I'll give you this one chance right now to do the smart thing. If you turn around, wave goodbye and leave, I promise things won't be weird between us. I might need some time to cool off my head, but we'll be friends. We'll still work together and pal around and be just as we've always been. I will never hold anything against you. But if you come any closer, you'd better be absolutely sure that it's what you want."

"And you are sure?" she asked.

"I've never been more sure about anything," he said immediately back.

She held herself there for what felt like ages to him. His heart continuously skipping beats like it was firing twice as fast, or perhaps not at all. He looked at her form, trembling with fear as the life he wanted so much was within his paw's reach. 

She took a step back. His ears dropped as she back-paced and slowly turned away, walking back towards the carousel. His heart really did drop as she began taking confident steps away. The way she boldly strode off sank daggers into his chest with every step. He inwardly cursed himself for trying, knowing that any rift that now came between them was his fault.

Judy finally came to a halt at the base of the power-switch. She grunted and threw the switch upward with a clack, and the 'Wilde Times' sign hummed back to life brilliantly. She turned from the switch and looked Nick dead in the eye with a confident smile. Then, as if a starting gun went off, she bolted towards him as fast as her feet could carry her and threw herself into his arms.

Nick cried out as he struggled to keep their balance as she threw her arms around him and pressed her lips against his. Shock first held him stiff, as he supported her weight with his arms. Shock melted into relief, relief melted into bliss. He dropped back down onto one knee and began wildly returning her kiss, taking her cheek in one paw and wrapping the other around her back. She held his face between her paws, happily savoring the delightful feeling of his lips against hers.

After a few moments that may have been an hour in reality, Nick laughed and broke their embrace, bringing their foreheads together.

"You evil," he started, smiling at her and rolling her fur underneath his thumb. "sadistic, cold-blooded, and unusually cruel bunny you."

She laughed, satisfied that she proved her point. She knew there was no going back. She knew that the second she decided to come see him. But he needed some convincing, and the slightest little hustle was sure to get to him.

"I love you too," she said back at her infuriating fox, and leaned back into his embrace.

There would be more rides and laughs that night. They'd share samples of carnival food, trade stories of the past day apart, and enjoy a nice long walk back to Judy's place for some much-needed rest. But the part of the night that stuck with them, the part that they talked about decades later, was how warm they felt kissing under the sign at Wilde Times.