A/N: Changed scene. . . I know it's still pretty similar to the movie scene, but the few changes have a pretty big impact on where this story is going.
For maximum feel effect, listen to 'Some of My Best Friends are Predators' from the Zootopia soundtrack while reading.
I'm really sorry for not updating soon. My BF and I went to visit his family for the weekend, and the plan was to have this chapter and the next one posted prior to leaving, but things happened and the chapter wasn't finished in time, so it didn't get posted. I wasn't online at all while visiting, so I wasn't able to update while there, either.
To the outside viewer, Judy was sure, it looked like the standard police press conference, at least until you looked to the side and noticed Judy and Nick. Judy was pacing back and forth muttering to herself, while Nick's ears and tail were working in tandem to twitch out some fast-paced tune. They were both nervous.
"Urg," Judy groaned, "What if I can't think of anything to say?" This caught Nick's attention, and apparently dealing with her nerves was better than dealing with his.
"Do you remember what I told you about public speaking when you were preparing for your presentation in high school?" he asked.
Judy sighed and said, "If you want to look smart answer their question with your own question and then answer that question."
"That's right." His ears were still twitching periodically, but he was smiling now. "You'll be fine. I promise."
"Thank you," Judy murmured. She fiddled with the paper she'd managed to grab earlier, before holding it out to Nick. "I was thinking, you've helped me so much, both with this case and with getting here, and I thought it might be nice to have a partner. You don't have to if you don't want to, but I thought you might consider it?"
"I'm honored, Carrots," Nick said, taking the paper. "I'll think about it."
"Here," Judy held out the carrot pen, "In case you need something to write with." Nick took the pen with a smile, and for the first time since she'd seen him in the city, Judy felt that his smile finally reached his eyes.
"Officer Hopps," Assistant Mayor Bellwether said from next to the podium, "It's time."
"Wish me luck," Judy whispered. She walked over to the podium and hopped onto the stool that had been placed behind it for her and Bellwether to use. Camera flashes went off as soon as she appeared from behind the podium, and it took her a moment to adjust to the bright lights. Several of the reporters were calling her name in an attempt to get her attention. She pointed to a rabbit standing near the front.
"What can you tell us about the case?"
Judy glanced at Nick and took a deep breath. "Well, was this a hard case? Yes, yes it was." Half-a-dozen of the reporters scribbled down notes. Judy pointed to the next reporter.
"What can you tell us about the animals who went savage?"
"All the formerly missing mammals are predators."
"What have the doctors had to say about this?" That was going to be a hard one to answer. She'd spent the morning listening to various doctors spewing out the same nonsense she'd heard from the badger in Cliffhaven.
"Well, the doctors aren't sure when the affected mammals will recover."
"Has Doctor Simmons told you what may have caused the animals to go savage?"
Judy glanced at Nick again, he was looking nervous. She was sure that pictures of the missing mammals were being shown behind her, but she didn't dare turn to see what they looked like. "Doctor Simmons has expressed concern that there may be a biological link between the missing mammals."
"Could you please expand upon that?"
"Doctor Simmons inferred that traditionally predatory mammals may be more likely to turn savage." Judy almost wished she could bite her tongue to convince the reporters to stop. It would certainly make for an interesting yet less terrifying headline. New hero cop accidentally bites own tongue. Except that it wouldn't work, she's tried it before and while her jaw is certainly strong enough to bite through her tongue, her teeth aren't sharp enough. She started looking through the reporters, trying to find one who might ask a question which she could use to introduce Nick's role. The reporters were clamoring so loudly she could barely understand what they were saying. Suddenly, Assistant Mayor Bellwether was next to her.
"That's all the time we have for now," Bellwether said, "No more questions." She quickly escorted Judy from the podium. Judy felt that she'd been cut short, but she was glad to be out of the spotlight. She walked over to Nick.
"That happened so fast," she said. "I wish Bellwether would have given me more time to talk about you and how you helped with the case." It took her a moment to realize that Nick wasn't smiling.
"I think you said plenty," he said. Judy stopped in her tracks. She hadn't heard that tone from Nick since she'd confronted her outside of the bakery.
"What did you want me to say?" she said, "they were asking about the doctors."
"But you told them what she said," Nick said. He was being to snarl. "You let them think that you actually believe all that."
"That's not what I said and you know it," Judy snapped.
"You implied that predators need to be kept in line. Is that what you really think, that we need to be shocked into submission?"
"Nick, I would never think that."
"Really?" Nick's snarl was nearly a growl now. "Then why are you carrying fox repellant today? Fox repellant that, by the way, you did not feel the need to wear until after you discovered that mammals had started 'going savage'."
"Nick!" Judy said. "My uncle called and he-"
"So you told you uncle what was going on, huh?" Nick wasn't listening to her anymore His ears were flat and his tail was twitching, and he had a haunted look in his eyes that Judy had never seen before. "Let me get this straight. Are you afraid of me? Are you afraid I might go savage? Or maybe eat you?" He snarled at her, raising his paws with claws extended, the same way he'd always done it whenever she convinced her to play along when she was playing the cop as a kid. Judy felt herself moving without thinking. They'd played that game so many times. Within seconds one paw was out and the other on her hip, feeling for the toy gun she'd always worn as a child and instead landing on the fox repellant she'd placed on her belt that morning after a video chat with Uncle Terrance. Nick looked from her paw to her face. Judy felt her heart break at the hurt in his eyes. "I knew it," he said. "The one person I thought still believed in me." He started to turn away.
"Nick!" Judy tried to call after him. She pulled her paw away from the repellant as if it had burned her. She'd never felt so stupid. Uncle Terrance had muzzle-timed her and noticed that she was leaving without the repellant. He'd argued with her about it until she put the darn thing on just to get him to shut up. She was supposed to throw it away as soon as she got to the station, but one thing led to another and she'd managed to forget she was wearing it. Nick hadn't.
He turned back toward her, tossing her a wadded ball of paper. "It's probably best that you don't have a predator for a partner." Judy unwrapped the paper to see it was the application she'd given him, covering the toy badge Finick had made him wear. She looked up to see him walking out the door. Reporters swarmed her as she chased after him, effectively blocking her path. She barely heard the questions about her safety, or even her own voice insisting that Nick had done nothing wrong. She could only focus on the fox she barely see through the blur of her tears, growing smaller and smaller as he walked away. When Chief Bogo picked her up to get her away from the reporters, she didn't fight him. Instead she kept staring at the door, hoping against hope that Nick would come back. He didn't. He disappeared from her view and was gone.