AN: Thanks for visiting my first posted story! Hope you enjoy it. Special thanks to Cimar of Turalis and Petthekat for their beta work, helpful feedback and encouragement. You should all go check out their writing.
This story is based on a suggestion/idea I gave Cimar of Turalis while beta-reading the story 'Always my Sly Bunny, Always my Dumb Fox'. I know he used the idea in that story, he knows I'm posting this one-shot, so no cries of plagiarism, please :)
"Hey Carrots, I need an emergency contact for these documents. Mind writing yourself in?"
Judy looked up from her own paperwork with a slight frown to see Nick sitting at the desk opposite her. He was draped lazily in his chair, one elbow propped up on the desk and smirking at her with that half-lidded foxy grin she both loved and hated.
"Nick, I've already told you! I'm not filling out your paperwork for you." She her frown deepened at the fox who was still smirking at her. "Wait, did you just… you want me to...?"
Now that Judy's mind had gotten past the frustration that Nick had already asked her to fill out his paperwork for him… twice, she started processing his actual question.
"Emergency contact." stated Nick, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. His smirk grew at her apparent confusion. "So when I finally get that heart attack trying to keep up with a certain overly-energetic bunny, the hospital will call you. That way you'll know it was all your fault, and can feel properly guilty for being so hard on your new partner."
Judy rolled her eyes, her confusion forgotten as Nick made another crack at how eager she was. She never should have told him the story of her first police pursuit… He had been complaining about how 'foxes weren't meant for all this running around' ever since his first physical training session at the academy. Judy had been sympathetic at first, remembering how difficult the academy had been for her, but now that she knew the real reason Nick kept complaining, it was time for a different response.
"Just because you repeatedly failed to best my small mammal track time on the academy obstacle course is no reason to be nasty" Judy replied, grinning slightly as she returned the barb. "Maybe I'll let you chase the next criminal all by yourself!"
Nick had made an offhanded mention of trying to beat her record while he attended the academy, but Judy had checked in with Ursula, the polar bear who was the officer-cadets' physical training instructor. She was the first member of the ZPD to support Judy and they had kept in touch since her graduation. Nick had tried to beat her track time every weekend for the last 2 months of his academy training, during his optional PT time no less, but never managed to edge her out. As fun as ribbing Nick about his failed attempts to top her was, Judy's mind nudged her back to what had prompted the conversation in the first place.
"… do you really want me as your emergency contact, Nick?"
Nick's smirking face didn't change, but Judy could see a small shift behind his eyes that told her he wasn't quite as nonchalant about the question as he wanted her to think.
"You seem to be the cause of most of my emergencies, Carrots. Tax evasion threats, crime bosses, swinging from vines?" Nick counted off on his paws as he spoke. "Now that I'm officially your partner, I doubt that's going to change. You'll probably get me into more trouble now."
Judy's eyebrows scrunched as she tried to come up with a response. While it was technically true that Judy had involved Nick in all those events, she wasn't sure she was willing to take full responsibility for them. Especially the meeting with Mr. Big. She wasn't the one who had sold the notorious crime boss a skunk butt rug! On the other hand, her meeting the shrew had played a crucial role in their eventual solving of the Night Howlers case and in her becoming godmother to Fru Fru's baby, so she was prepared (just this once!) to forgive Nick for that particular near-death experience.
Looking back at Nick, her verbal response prepared, she found him focused on his phone, but writing on his paperwork again. Not wanting to distract him now that he was finally getting his work done, she peered closer, trying to read the paper upside down, only for her eyes to shoot wide open once she deciphered Nick's chicken scratch writing.
Emergency Contact: Judith Hopps, (805) 581-2961. Central Heights Apartments...
It took Judy a moment longer to realize that Nick was copying her contact information out of his phone's address book. She knew that he had it, of course. Nick had teased her relentlessly about her old, tiny apartment ever since he had first seen it. He hadn't stopped the teasing until she finally agreed to get a nicer, and larger, place. Truthfully, Judy was rather glad that the fox had pushed her on the topic. Her new apartment had a separate bedroom, small office space for her computer, and a proper kitchen with attached living room large enough for a TV and couch. Nick had finished helping her move in just a few days before leaving town for the academy. And they had texted and MuzzleTimed each other pretty consistently during his time there, mostly with complaints and snide comments about how hard it was to get the sand out of his fur after time in the Sahara-themed training area.
Judy hadn't thought Nick was actually serious about using her as the emergency contact in his ZPD personnel file. She assumed his continued teasing was retribution for forcing him to come into the station so early on his first official day. Nick wouldn't be allowed to do any policing until he had all his paperwork properly submitted. Knowing this, Judy had practically dragged him into the station hours before their shift began so everything would be complete when Chief Bogo handed out the daily assignments. Otherwise she'd be stuck doing desk work (or even worse, parking duty!) while Nick got squared away.
Why would Nick want her as his emergency contact? They weren't that close were they? Surely Nick had others who had known him for longer. Finnick quickly came to mind, given how frequently she had seen the two foxes together, back during the Night Howlers case. Or what about his family? After all, Judy used her parents as her emergency contacts.
Trying to figure out who Nick was close to was a difficult task; Nick was remarkably closed-off about his personal history. Almost by necessity, Judy had rapidly developed the skill of reading between the lines of his evasions and seeing past the 'poker smirk' he seemed to perpetually wear to hide his feelings.
Nick had only ever once mentioned his family; when he told her the story of his attempted entry into the Ranger Scouts, he mentioned that his mother had helped prepare his uniform. No mention of his father, ever. No other mention of his mother, in all the time since. Judy, on the other hand, called her parents weekly without fail, mostly at the insistence of her mother. That was probably closer than most adult mammals were with their parents, but the utter absence of them from any conversation with Nick did not suggest a close relationship between him and his parents. Or any relationship at all. Judy had never asked, not wanting to push Nick on a potentially painful topic.
Nick hadn't made close friends with any of the other officer candidates in his academy class. That wasn't necessarily unusual, Judy did stay in touch with some of her classmates, but they were no more than acquaintances, and she was pretty easy-going. Nick tended to be more prickly to approach, unless he was deliberately putting on a charm offensive when trying to hustle someone. His somewhat questionable history as a con-mammal hadn't been overtly reported, but knowledge of it had still made the rounds in police gossip, so it was doubtful anybody on the force would take it at face value even if Nick did turn up the charm to make some new friends.
Judy's thoughts returned to Finnick, the fox who had been posing as Nick's son during their first encounter. However, just as quickly a number of important facts sprang to mind; Finnick was still a con-mammal and would be none too pleased to have his contact information in a police document. Also, the last time Finnick had come up in conversation, Judy had spotted a twitch in Nick's mood. She doubted anybody else would have noticed, but she suspected that Nick's relationship with his former partner had been damaged by his decision to join her in the ZPD. Finnick may well have seen it as a betrayal, especially since Judy trusted Nick not to give any of his past criminal associates special treatment.
Dismissing Finnick as an option made Judy wonder who else Nick had been close to before they were swept up in the whirlwind that was the Night Howlers case and had both their lives turned on their heads. The only mammal she could come up with was Flash. Nick did still occasionally trade a text with the sloth, usually sending jokes for Flash to impress his workmates with. That was hardly evidence of a close relationship, though. And even if Flash was your best friend, he might not be the mammal you would want to call in an emergency. By the time he could respond to any questions, the emergency would probably be over.
And… that was it. Judy couldn't think of anybody else Nick had mentioned or talked about. Her foot began thumping in irritation as she wracked her brain for more names and came up blank. She was knocked out of her musing as the desk suddenly thumped back against her. She glanced back up to meet the raised eyebrows of her partner gazing back.
"Maybe you could do your heavy thinking at another desk there, Carrots?" Nick drawled. "Your adorable foot-thumping is making a mess of my beautiful calligraphy. Just think how long it might take if I had to fill these papers out a second time..."
Judy felt the blush spread up her ears as she jerked her foot away from the desk. Nick's smirk widened before he broke eye contact and returned to his paperwork. Stupid fox, always knowing how to get to her like that. Judy focused on forcing her sudden embarrassment down as she watched him.
It seemed like Nick had finished filling in her information, since he'd put his phone away while he completed the rest of his forms. Seeing him wearing his ZPD uniform still gave Judy a little thrill for so many reasons. That in Zootopia, you really could be anything. That the madness spread by former Mayor Bellweather was fading. That she had inspired someone to follow in her footsteps. And in a hidden corner of Judy's mind, that Nick changed his whole life around because of his friendship with her.
Suddenly, the idea of being Nick's emergency contact didn't seem surprising. It just seemed… right. Not that she wanted to be Nick's only significant relationship, but it was hard not to feel flattered knowing you were that important to someone.
Not that Nick would ever admit it!
No wonder he had covered his request with so much teasing. Of course, Judy was much more open with her enthusiasm over Nick becoming her partner. There had been a few months, after the conclusion of the Night Howlers case while his application was still being processed, where all she could think about while at work was how much better it would be once Nick was there to share it with her.
She'd been assigned desk work for a few weeks, while she recovered from the leg injury sustained in their final confrontation with the power-hungry sheep. It hadn't been fun, but Judy had a quick and organized mind that made fast work of the duties assigned to her. After a few days, Clawhauser had quietly asked her to slow down, otherwise Chief Bogo would expect him to get things done just as quickly once she returned to the field. Judy was pretty sure he was joking, but there had been a hint of nervousness in the cheetah's eyes that suggested some truth in his teasing.
After that she'd been temporarily attached to various other officers and patrols, learning the ins and outs of the different areas her precinct was responsible for. She learned a lot, but had always felt a bit on the outside. The other officers, whether in established partner-pairs or not, all knew each other better than they knew her. They were friendly, and she had certainly gained a lot of respect for her actions in finding the missing mammals and taking down Bellweather, but there was still that sense of distance. It probably didn't help that she was by far the smallest officer on the force. She didn't have a lot of shared experiences with the larger species that made up most of the ZPD, and it was a little hard to be part of workplace conversations when they took place several feet above her head. There wasn't that fun flow of conversation and banter that had come so effortlessly with Nick.
The same was true with her family, really. Sure, they got along pretty well, especially for such a large family and she loved them dearly, but Judy never really felt like her parents and siblings understood her. She was the odd one out… the trier in a family of settlers as her father was keen on reminding her during their weekly one who was always so driven and focused on her goal of being a ZPD officer. Her conversations with family always seemed to center around the goings on of Bunnyburrow, or how the farm was doing, and that just didn't satisfy her the way it did for them. Judy really hadn't realized just how much or how quickly she had come to rely on Nick's friendship until she thought it was gone forever after that disastrous press conference. Feeling like a part of her was missing, even before she resigned and returned to her parents' farm.
She hadn't felt whole again until Nick had forgiven her, thanks to her tearful apology under the bridge. When he had held her gently and teasingly waved her carrot recorder pen just out of reach... Judy had never felt so comforted, content and completely happy as she had in that moment. Solving the case and catching the bad guys had only increased those feelings. Hanging out with Nick in the evenings after her shift for the two months before he had been accepted to the academy had finally made Zootopia feel like home.
Even her parents had noticed one night during their weekly MuzzleTime. Her father, the more emotional of her parents had started crying in the middle of the call. A bit uneasy from his sudden sadness, she had asked him why he was crying. His reply, after finally stopping the tears from flowing, was that he noticed Judy no longer referred to where she lived as her apartment.
She was starting to refer to it as home.
After Nick's departure to the academy, the evenings had instead become an opportunity to exchange emails and MuzzleTime calls, offering advice for Nick's training and trading stories, both counting down the days until graduation when they could finally hit the streets together. After the calls or emails though, the emptiness of her apartment only heightened how important Nick's company was to her happiness as she tossed and turned before falling asleep.
It hadn't really hit Judy until now. She hadn't noticed it while it was happening, but
Nicholas P. Wilde, that obnoxious fox with the sly grin, was the most important relationship she had too. She snapped out of her woolgathering and snuck a quick glance at her partner, watching him lazily writing away on his latest form with one hand while checking his phone with the other. She felt her ears beginning to warm again and quickly brushed them behind her head in self-consciousness
How would she be able to tell that snarky fox sitting across from her that she'd figured him out...and felt the same way?
Turning to her workstation, Judy quickly pulled up the required form for an officer to submit a change in their personnel file. Foot thumping in excitement, she hammered print and bounced out of her chair towards the office printer. Nick briefly looked up at her, rolling his eyes at her characteristically energetic movement before returning to his documents. After settling back in her chair, Judy flipped out her phone and began copying information onto the newly printed form.
Emergency Contact: Nicholas P. Wilde...
Filling in his phone number and address, Judy signed the form with a flourish before turning, bright-eyed to Nick.
"Here, add this to your pile." Judy said, handing her form across the desk.
Nick reached out absently and grabbed the paper, glancing at it briefly. His eyes flared open, a stunned expression flowing over his face before he clamped it down and put up the expressionless mask he seemed to use whenever he felt a strong emotion and hadn't decided what to do about it yet.
"Carrots… what is this?" Nick said slowly.
"Just updating my emergency contact." replied Judy, nonchalantly.
"I can see that, but why does it list me?" the fox asked, still with a confused slowness to his voice, as if unsure that Judy was hearing him properly.
"Because you're my partner." Judy said primly, enjoying immensely Nick's apparent confusion, but keeping her face in an innocent, guileless expression.
Nick looked up from the document for the first time since the conversation started, his eyes focusing in on Judy with a mixture of confusion and worry, before answering. "Fluff, just because I made you my emergency contact doesn't mean you need to do this."
"I know that," she replied. "I did it because I want to. I want you to know you're important to me too." Judy allowed her innocent expression to fade, unable to keep her usual smile from spreading across her face.
Nick continued to stare back at her, focusing intensely for a long moment, as if making sure she was serious. As the silence stretched out longer, the intensity faded, replaced by a look of pleased amusement. His muzzle opened in a grin, similar but, to Judy's trained eye, noticeably different from his trademark foxy smirk. It was more… genuine, and let her see past his practiced mask and glimpse the real Nick Wilde.
"Judy… I…" he hesitated a moment, glancing down at the form in his paws before quickly looking back at her. "Thank you." Nick finally said quietly.
That just made Judy's smile wider. Nick almost never used her real name. Although she enjoyed his various nicknames for her, she knew he was serious whenever he called her Judy. Of course, that also meant that after months of him being away at the academy, on this day, the first of their official police partnership, she had the opportunity to one-up her favourite fox.
Lidding her eyes and twisting her mouth into her best impersonation of a Nick Wilde smirk, Judy looked back towards her partner.
"You foxes," she said knowingly. "So emotional."