Moving In

"You wanted to see me Chief?" Judy asked after showing up promptly after being called. Her chipper smile quickly turned into a frown. Bogo's chair was already occupied by her fluffy fox partner, who had his hands on the back of his head, his typical 'defeated' stance.

"Thank you, Officer Hopps. Have a seat". Bogo dryly responded. He seemed tired from the ordeal, eyes resembling that of a buffalo who understands that being a police chief is suffering.

A silence hung in the room as Nick looked out the window, arms still in the air. He leaned back in the chair as Judy plopped down next to him, the two sharing the seat as they normally do. Judy had thought about asking for separate chairs, but admitted to herself that she enjoys sharing a seat as long as it is with her close friend.

Bogo only had eyes for Nick, it seemed, as much as Nick wanted to escape his gaze. "I went through the ordeal of explaining it to you, now you get to explain it to your partner, and I get to drink my coffee." Bogo matter-of-factly stated as he looked to his mug as if it contained life in liquid form.

Judy had gotten her bearings and realized something was severely amiss now that she was next to Nick rather than looking at him past the back of the chair. Nick was in his typical casual clothes of green shirt and tie combo instead of his uniform. And he had a large suitcase with him. Nick rubbed the back of his neck, slowly turning to Judy with a shaky smile. Judy scowled. She was in for a surprise from him, wasn't she?

"So...", Nick began slowly, "you know how when you came back to the city after learning about the night howlers and you found me in the park?". His voice was too sheepish for a fox.

"Yeeeessss?" Judy replied, not sure where this was going.

"Or how you always seemed to find me on the streets when you were on meter maid duty?" Nick continued, still holding back. Judy simply nodded in reply this time. "Orrrrr how in the past month that I've been an officer you never saw where I live?"

"Nick, what are you trying to say?" Judy asked annoyed, tired of waiting.

"Well, I've been..."

"Squatting." Bogo spat the word out in annoyance. A silence hung in the room once more with that ugly word. He took a sip of his coffee and continued. "In his paperwork, Officer Clawhauser looked over the fact that Officer Wilde left his place of residence blank, which was surely an accident, right Wilde?. Perhaps we never would have known, if not for a call we got late last night about squirrel gang activity in an old industrial district. The territory of the red squirrel gang, and they got a visit from the gray squirrel gang. Violence ensued. We had to break it up and make a lot of arrests."

"I'm sorry, chief, but what does this have to do with Nick?" Judy interjected, confused.

"Officer Wilde was staying in a building in the red squirrel territory. In a way, he was an unofficial arrest of mine, as police officers frequently make for suspects, getting into corrupt deals." Bogo stated.

"I was poor. I knew one squirrel. He put me up with his family in that building, figured a fox would make a good bodyguard just being around. Maybe they tolerated me because I'm red too, but like I said, I never did anything with that gang." Nick pleaded his case in a very rehearsed and bored manner, because he already had to plenty of times before Judy came in.

"I've come to trust you on that, Officer Wilde. But the matter of your illicit, and currently nonexistent, residence still stands." Bogo dryly replied after a long sip of coffee.

Judy looked at Nick with an upset expression. It appears there was more to his past life than just hustling, she thought.

"I can't have one of my officers living anywhere illegally." Bogo continued in such a bored tone you could swear he was reading from a script. "It looks bad and, well, it's illegal. We're in the business of legalities. You need to find a new place to live, and quickly. I'll give you four days to find an apartment, shouldn't be an issue given your newfound ZPD paycheck. Officer Hopps, your job today is to get him sorted out. I'm adamant in my partner policy and I don't want you patrolling alone. Both of you are taking the day off. Dismissed." Bogo raised the mug to his lips once more, wanting to rid himself of this headache.

Nick slinked out of the chair and made his way to the door, and Judy quickly made her way to catch up with him.

"Wait a second, Dumb Fox!" Judy shouted after Nick as he stepped outside the ZPD front door.

"Easy there, Carrots, this dumb fox just got a tongue lashing from the chief, he doesn't need one from his partner too" Nick continued to walk along with sidewalk, a hint of annoyance in his voice towards Judy. Judy ran in front of him, standing her ground and making a pouting face while crossing her arms. "What?" Nick asked after standing there for a good ten seconds being blockaded by a bunny.

"Why...didn't you tell me?" Judy asked, a touch of hurt in her voice. She thought she was getting to know him better, but this shook her faith in his 'changed fox' persona.

This made Nick reel back and press a paw against his forehead. "I thought you were gonna come at me with vinegar, all mad, and yell at me for doing this to your reputation. I had a whole speech lined up too about 'oh woe is me I've had it so hard'"

"Of course I'm angry! Dumb Fox!" She stamped her foot on the pavement. "But not because of my reputation, because you never even bothered to tell me. And...and...rrrgh I can't do this right now, not right here!" Judy looked away from him with a huff.

"I was pretty busy with the academy anyways. Besides, I told you my place was a mess and it'd be better to hang out in your apartment. Technically I wasn't lying. And don't act like you're not disappointed in me at least a little bit. You can't be that concerned." Nick yawned. He didn't need judgement from his best friend after the night he had of squirrel anarchy followed by the roof above his head to be taken away thanks to Bogo. "Now, I've got to get myself and all my personal belongings here some crummy apartment. I can't wait to be turned down 20 times in a row for being a fox."

Judy put her ears down at his harsh words before having a sudden, horrifying thought looking at the suitcase. "Pleeeeeeaase tell me all of your money isn't in that."

Nick gave her a deadpan expression. "I'm not that miserly, Hopps, that's what banks are for. And my bank account remained above zero by not paying landlords when I could get a roof for free."

Judy facepalmed. "Look, let's continue this conversation at my place as opposed to the sidewalk. We can talk there and get you started on the apartment search."

Nick made a sultry face "Oh, am I the lucky gentleman caller for this evening?" He knew that he was pushing her buttons but this whole ordeal had him upset, he didn't need her worrying about him, and would rather just deal with this on his own.

Judy shot Nick daggers past her flustered cheeks. "Actually you've been the only animal aside from the landlady to see it, jerk". She turned on her heel and hailed a cab.

Nick followed patiently as Judy led him into her shoe box of a room. The cab ride gave Nick an opportunity to collect himself and decide upon his course of actions. He'd show up here and listen to what she had to say, smile and nod at her directions, and be on his way to handle this himself. "By the way, sorry about that remark, I just needed a bit of humor to-...Jude?"

Judy threw her keys onto the bed and kept her head and ears drooped, her back turned to Nick. Her voice was low and solemn. "This is why I didn't want to continue the conversation...on the sidewalk" she sobbed, sniffling every now and then between words. Nick stood there awkwardly, clearly having miscalculated the situation. He set his suitcase down and slowly made his way over to her.

"Hey...Jude..." he couldn't continue before she put her face in his chest. Nick was incredibly tense but managed to embrace Judy in arms.

"I got my anger out back then. It was dumb of you to live there illegally while an officer, and I'm mad that you didn't trust me enough to tell me." Judy spoke quietly, while wrapping her arms around him. Nick felt uncomfortable and flustered by these sudden movements. "But I wanted us to be alone when I tell worried this makes me."

"What do you mean?" Nick asked plainly, wanting to dig deeper into what she was feeling.

Judy paused before she continued, asking herself what it is she really felt and what she wanted to say. Concern for his health came to mind, and she also was upset at not knowing all the details. "You were in a building with no locks that is located in an unsafe area, neighboring people who may as well have been strangers, no heating, and you were all alone?"

"That's the gist of it. Think of it as 'urban camping'" Nick said with a sly smile, moving Judy back a bit so he could give her a reassuring look. Maybe he had become jaded to the idea of squatting but it really wasn't as dire as she was making it out to be, right?

"How did you do it?" She asked, staring blankly at him. She wanted to tread carefully here, and be mindful. She is in shorter supply of knowledge on her companion than she originally thought, and she doesn't want to offend him. Judy has always had more than him, it would seem. A bigger family and never having to worry about making ends meet. Judy made an effort to stow away her initial thoughts about Nick's squatting incident like she did long ago about his scams. Like she did long ago about him being a fox. Keeping an open mind was key.

Nick sighed. "The same way I hustled. Because I didn't have many other options. Money was always tight. I worked as hard as I could scamming it from others. As shady as it was, it was work, and I was always at least a little bit proud when something worked out in my favor. Because then I could just be a little more secure. I always made sure my health was in order, went to the doctor when I needed to, bought medicine and tried to keep a healthy diet. That just meant my home security had to suffer. Squatting saved me money, my health, and let me actually build a respectable bank account over the years." There was a long pause between them. "Look, Hopps. It might take me a bit more than Bogo's four days and a lot of sneering looks from landlords, but I'll find a legal place to live. I don't want this interfering with our work. I don't expect you to understand my life decisions, and I appreciate your concern. But I'll be on my way, don't worry about me. I'll make this right on my own, Partner."

Judy's heart ached hearing his speech. Nick was someone important to her. Without him she wouldn't have her job. Without him she wouldn't be as open minded towards other animals as she is now. Without him she'd be...lonely. Nick had become an important part of her life, and he was now her partner on the force. He has a shady past and he reveals little about himself, but she has to keep putting her faith in him. He hasn't let her down yet. As a matter of fact, in the past month of police work, not even mentioning the Bellwether case, Nick has supported her both in his work and his kind words towards her. During his academy she encouraged him and gave him advice, and he passed every test with flying colors. They always spent time together, having fun in their free time by visiting places around the city or watching movies in her apartment. Aside from the things Nick clearly omits about himself, he shared a great deal about his life with her, and in return she shared information about herself. She feels safe and the world just feels right when she is with Nick. Her heart fluttered when she realized how good it makes her feel when her trust in Nick pays off, it may even be love, which is why this squatting dilemma has her so upset. It was a betrayal. But she's going to forgive him like he forgave her back in the park. More than that. She's going to keep him safe, and by doing so she'll be keeping him close and learning more about him. Judy is going to make this work, but it needs to be her to make this first step.

"You...don't get to tell me not to be worried!" She spoke up. Nick had made his way towards the door, but stopped where he was upon hearing this small outcry. "I am worried about you, and I do understand. Your life hasn't been fair to you. I see it everywhere we go together, and I don't want you to go through a bunch of bigots just to find a place where you're safe, and I definitely don't want you back out on the streets where you're in danger." Judy's heart was beating so loud, and Nick looked at her with surprised eyes and an equally beating heart, not expecting this kind of response. "I care about" Judy noticeably hesitated and looked away, not wanting Nick to know how highly she valued their companionship "our jobs. So you don't need to worry about going through any of that stuff. You have a new life now, you can put all of those hard times behind you. And you can actually start trusting in me. It really hurt having to find out something like that from Bogo rather than from you."

Nick looked away, this was getting too heated seeing Judy so fired up and saying such caring things. Was he actually starting to blush as well? In an attempt to regain his cool, he replied sarcastically "So if you don't want me doing an apartment search or squatting, what am I supposed to do? Bunk with Bogo? Clawhauser? Finnick sure won't take me his place is packed enough as is."

"Stay with me." Judy said with confidence. No stuttering, no sobbing, no raising her voice. This is what she wanted to say from the very beginning, even back in Bogo's office. Even if she didn't fully realize it then, she did now. She wanted to help Nick. She wanted him near her. Nick was visibly stunned, wide eyes and open mouth.

After an impromptu staring contest, Nick replied. "No." Judy opened her mouth to retort, before Nick held a finger up to her face, shutting her down. "I'm not going to do that because I care about you too. You're too special to me. Probably the only friend I have." Judy was bewildered with embarrassment.

'I never said that!' Judy thought to herself 'I said I cared about our jobs! Our jobs! Who does he think he is saying bunnies are the emotional ones? He's the one being mushy!' Judy's internal outbursts ended when Nick picked back up again.

"I'm not going to be a burden on you. As partners we're fine and even friends, but roommates? I'm not going to drag you down to my level. I'm a fox with a criminal past, a couple of years on you, and some bad traits. I'll be nothing but a poor influence on you and your social status." Nick stood up. This really hurt him to say this, but it was for the best. He did care about Judy, which is why this couldn't be. He knew society better than she did. People would talk behind her back, say all sorts of nasty things. Nick valued Judy. She was his everything, even if nobody else knew that. She pulled him out of the muck that was his old life, and he vowed to repay her for that. She thinks that they are even, but in all truth he knew that her life without him would be a lot more bright than his would be without her. He wanted to keep her close and protect her, but he'd have to settle for keeping her at arm's length. He wanted to be with her, and he must admit that her clear emotional involvement towards his living conditions clued him in that she loved him back. He had gotten quite adept at reading his bunny companion. However, although Nick loved Judy first, there was no way he could show it like she just did. 'Too risky, and I'm not gonna chance ruining it. Don't let her see.' Nick thought to himself. A dream that he and Judy could live together is a nice dream. A dream that they could be more than what they are is an even better one, as he had become obsessed with her. She had a beautiful heart, and he didn't know what a crook like him did to deserve meeting her.

Judy knew that Nick was telling some truth in this. He was more than just a fox that she has changed, because his past is still a part of him. Nick has been left with scars from his hardships. He is his poverty, his hustling, his emotions that he keeps hidden under a facade and inside a steel trap, never letting others see that they get to him. She had to accept that he's his own individual, and is going to try and do things his own way, but she's also not going to let him bury his emotions. She's going to get to him. And she's going to see it. She grabbed his wrist. "Nick. You think too little of yourself. I can only tell you that I don't see you as low as you see yourself. And thank you for opening up to me, I know it can be hard for you to do that."

She shifted the focus onto him, and it struck him hard. He didn't expect this. Tears were beginning to form, but he forced them back. "Wow, Hopps. Thanks for understanding." He tried to brush it off as quickly as he could.

"You're still not leaving." She ordered, although her quiet, gentle voice made it sound like a plead. Nick was becoming weak to her request, softened by her compassion. "I'd be the biggest hypocrite in Zootopia if I started caring about what others think about me rooming with a predator. Because you're not just a predator to me, you're Nick! And everyone should see you as a predator and a fox, because that's what you are. But you're also an officer of the ZPD, and as one of the funniest animals they'll ever meet, of the nicest ones too. If they never give you that chance, then it's their loss. You're..." She looked away again "special to me too, you dumb fox. So quit painting yourself as being such a bad person. You're letting them get to you."

"So you do care?" Nick asked with a light smile, remembering her obvious cover-up from earlier.

Judy scowled slightly at his sly little jab, but then saw that he wasn't just trying to poke fun at her. He really wanted to know, as if concern for him was a foreign concept. Judy's heart lurched at the idea that Nick may not be accustomed to being cared for like this. Realizing he needed to hear this, Judy swallowed all pretenses and told him the truth. To drive home this statement, Judy walked over to him and put her paw on his chest, never breaking eye contact the entire time. "Yes. I care so much about you. You're worth caring for, Nick."

Nick now shed some of his own tears to match hers. She really did feel the same way. He was stricken with awe at the possibilities ahead of him, if only he took that tantalizing first step and moved in with her. It could ruin their friendship, but he wanted her too badly. Despite all of his worries and the crushing self-doubt, Nick admitted to himself that a future without Judy being his was an unhappy future.

Fuck it, he's going to give it his best shot.

"You sly bunny..." He quickly scooped her up in a hug, much to her shock. Her heart soared at his embrace, and she returned the hug. They both enjoyed it more than they would ever admit at this point. "Care" and "friendship" were good enough words for now. Moving in seemed like such a crazy step to take, but they both wanted it, deep down. It was worth a shot. Nick gave her a squeeze and let her go. "Using my own mantra against me...Well since you want me here so badly I suppose I can't help but oblige." Nick said with a wink. Judy looked back with a smile, happy knowing he'd be around as someone to lean on and that she could learn more about him. This was a good idea, she could feel it. This moment made Judy realize something in all of the warmth she felt; she wants Nick close because she loves him. The idea of him hiding things from her scares her because it means he might not be all hers. That parts of Nick may not belong to her, or even worse belong to someone else. Imagining her life without Nick as her lover started to give Judy heartache, but she quelled this pain. He was with her now, and all was right with the world. This was her fox; he was with her now, and she would work with him to understand him better.

"So do you really think the bed is big enough for both of us?" Nick slyly asked as he leaned in close to her face and gave her a mischievous grin.

A loud smack followed the silence that question created.

Nick rubbed the side of his face. "Aha...kidding. I'm used to the floor, anyways. Just like back home."