Nicholas Wilde had possibly made the biggest mistake of his entire life. What happened and what was said didn't matter. All that matter to him was dropping to his knees in front of her and apologizing profusely with the hope that he could make things right with her. Driving way too fast he'd been pulled over by a Bunny Burrow Sheriff's Deputy on his way into the tri-burrows area, but with a flash of his ZPD shield he was on his way again; the engine in his retro coupe roaring defiantly at the storm that was brewing around him. More than a few times the wind was strong enough to almost force him off the road, a storm warning replayed itself on the car's radio dozens of times before the fox had even thought to shut it off.
The switching of gears, the careening around dangerous corners, the howling gales, and the torrential rain did nothing to distract his mind from his ultimate goal: to say he was sorry. As he pulled into the Hopp's Family Farm's dirt driveway he could see two rabbits step out of the screen front door and he knew. Bonnie and Stuart Hopps were the vanguards of their children, and when their daughter came home sobbing they demanded to know the cause. Nick. He did this. The fox was certain that most of the details had been withheld, but there was obviously enough for them to confront him before he even reached the door.
When Nick got out of his car holding a large bouquet of flowers, an assorted variety that the florist recommended for rabbits, neither Stu nor Bonnie blinked. The torrential rain quickly soaked into his fur, but he didn't pay it any mind; the physical discomfort was minor compared what was roiling within his chest. The elder Hopps couple didn't move backwards when he slowly started walking up the stairs, instead they advanced, with fight in their eyes and defiance in their hearts. He was there to apologize, not antagonize. His speech was very clear, and after a few silent glances they relented allowed him inside.
They offered him a towel, well two, to dry off with; towels for bunnies just weren't large enough. As he sopped the moisture from his fur Nick sat down in Stu's favorite armchair, at the older rabbit's request; the fox pondered if it was because it was the only piece of furniture that he probably couldn't outright break just by merely sitting in it. He hadn't been here since last spring, and he took a moment to drink in his surroundings once more. That was when Judy convinced them to take their two week allotment for vacation to visit her family. Nick snorted, while to her it might have been just a friendly visit with her family, to the fox it meant something; she was letting him into her family. When Stu offered his a stout scotch the fox didn't refuse, nursing the rough grain blend while he waited for Bonnie Hopps to retrieve her despondent daughter from her room.
When Judy finally appeared Nick almost wished she had just stayed locked up. Her fur was a mess, her normally vibrant eyes puffy and bloodshot, and the rabbit's posture was wary. Judy looked guarded around him, clutching the sky blue blanket to her chest as if it were a protective ward that could defend against hurtful foxes. Nick's attention was so focused on her that he didn't realize that Bonnie and Stu had slipped out of the living room until the screen door out front shut. Judy's violet eyes were so piercing that he couldn't stop himself from shifting in the chair. The rabbit covered herself with the blanket once she got comfortable on the couch, arms crossed underneath the fabric, ears low, and her face scrunched in a mask of anger and irritation.
Nick started off by offering the flowers to her, but she ignored them in favor of boring a hole through his chest with her gaze; Judy pushed the flowers back to him, pointing at an empty vase over the living room's small fireplace. Then he tried giving her the speech that he'd been practicing in his mind over the four and a half hour drive from Zootopia. Judy was decidedly unreceptive. Anger started to bubble in his stomach as he tried to apologize from every angle he could think of, and little Judy Hopps was having none of it. What was it she wanted from him?! His words might have been prepared, but they were his words and they were from the heart!
He was apologizing from the bottom of his heart, and she had the gall to be… to be… so un-Judy like. Nick had made a fool of himself before, and Judy forgave him, much like he'd forgiven her when she wronged him. That's what they did: they messed up, forgave, and carried on with their lives. The rabbit that sat in front of him wasn't the Judy he knew. However, it was his fault that she was this mean in the first place. What did she want him to say!? His voice was a yell, tone harsher than he'd ever intended it to be, and she responded in kind.
"What's gotten into you, Nick? You've changed so much over these past few months I don't know if the fox that was my partner is even in there anymore!"
She was right. Judy always was. Nick Wilde had been MIA for a while now, listless on the job and comatose when not; he'd brushed her off too many times to count as of late. His reasons were his own, she didn't need to know. Her gasp shook him out of his state. Nick hadn't realized it but he'd crushed her father's tumbler in his paw; there was no pain, so he didn't have any cuts, but that wasn't what mattered. Despite her righteous anger, not even the rabbit wanted him to be hurt. The fox carefully set the broken glass on the small coffee table beside the large arm chair and used one of the soaked towels to clean his paw off. He was tense, like a coiled spring ready to be unleashed. "You want to know why I've changed, Carrots? Why I've been so distant from you?"
"It's because I..." The sudden anger and physicality left his body, the hard lines and angles of his form deflated, growing limp as his ears drooped to the back of his skull and his tail tucked between his legs. The growing silence only punctuated by Judy's fearful, labored breathing from the couch. Nick felt so defeated, his eyes cast low; the fox couldn't bear to look up at her cowering form. It was a natural reaction for rabbits to be skittish and run, or freeze when they felt like there was no avenue for escape. It crushed him.
"It's because I love you, Judy."
When Nick heard the bunny inhale sharply he knew she was going to speak, and he shut his eyes tightly as he raised a paw to silence her; he didn't even notice that his claws were prominent in the soft light of the living room, or that his teeth were bared. "Judy, let me finish. You asked me why I've been acting the way I have been, so I'm going to tell you… and you're damn well going to listen me."
Internally he flinched, there had been a lot more heat in his words than he had intended there to be. Nick soldiered forward. He'd already broken her trust and damaged their friendship; there was a distinct possibility that his diminutive partner wouldn't want to be with him after this debacle. What did he have to lose? Nick opened his eyes. The way Judy looked like she was trying to burrow into the cushions of the couch told him that she was still wound up from his previous display of anger; tears that had welled up earlier in their discussion were now freely streaming down her cheeks.
"Carrots," The fox whispered after taking a deep breath. "I know what you're thinking, but hear me out. Please."
Nick's eyes caught sight of her nose twitching intently, and she nodded without speaking. He took that as he good sign and risked a few tentative steps towards her. When the rabbit tensed he stopped. There were so many emotions swirling around her deep violet eyes, but the most prominent one he understood without a doubt. Fear.
Nick felt his heart clench as the strength in his legs left him, and he dropped to his knees in front of her. The fox felt his paws rub nervously over the wet fabric of his pants as his eyes closed once more; he was stalling for time, trying to gather his thoughts. A few seconds stretched into an eternity until he finally found the words he wanted to say. "I think it would be best if I started from the beginning, so bear with me, okay?"
A weak, barely visible nod was the only thing he got in reply.
"When I first met you all I saw was a home grown bun from 'nowheresville'. She had foolish big-city dreams and liked to play dress up, pretending she was a real cop. A silly girl who sincerely thought that Zootopia was a place where anyone could be anything."
"A cute, little naive bunny who didn't know that the city was a mean, nasty place that would-, no, wanted to beat you to your knees and keep you there until you understood your lot in life."
"I just couldn't get over how easy it was to trick you into helping me run my con at Jumbeaux Jr.'s parlor." Nick slowly stood up and began to pace around the well-worn rug in the center of the room, his paws alternating between running through his head fur and burying deep in his pockets as he spoke.
"Then when you turned it around on me and enlisted my help I was mortified. Nicholas Wilde, the King of Cons, out-smarted by a dumb country bunny. Somewhere deep inside it hurt me. Irreparably. Even to this very day I think that even if you hadn't managed to wrangle me into your scheme to find Otterton, and we never crossed paths again... I don't think I could have lived the same way."
"You," Nick said as he pointed towards her, "Officer Fluff, had broken through-, nay, I say obliterated a wall that I built as high and as thick as I could. I felt invincible behind it, my own belief that you could only be what everyone else thought you were. In my case, a suave, sly fox, and in yours..."
Nick blinked slowly before continuing. "A tiny bunny who hadn't yet felt reality slap her good and proper. You were a meter maid when I first saw you, and you were complacent enough to get yourself stuck in wet cement. I embarrassed you, I made you into a laughing stock; I thought I'd won the battle of wits. I didn't even give you a second thought."
Nick turned slowly on the heel of his paw to face her, his green eyes focusing intently on her. "Yet, instead of scurrying back to your burrow to bawl your cute little eyes out, you came back at me the next day. And boy did you throw me for a loop."
He chuckled weakly as he crossed the space between them, once more dropping to his knees just before her form on the couch. Judy flinched away from him. It made Nick's heart leap into his throat, but her uneasy smile was apology enough as he continued. "Cute, tiny officer toot-toot beating me at my own game."
Despite the tension in the air Nick felt so relieved when Judy let out a sound that was somewhere between a sniffle and a laugh as she wiped away her tears with the palm of her paw. At least she had relaxed the death grip on the pillow. That was a progress. "What I'm trying to say, quite poorly I might add, is that you," He paused momentarily as his brow furrowed in search of the words say.
"You brought me out of a very, very dark place, Carrots. When you put your paw on my arm in the gondola and listened so patiently to my story...I felt a kinship with you. Perhaps you and I weren't so different after all."
"I thought that maybe, just maybe, this little bundle of fluff masquerading as a police officer just might be exactly what I needed." Despite his desire to get this confession over with, the fox couldn't help himself as he buried his head in his arms in a vain attempt to hide his own tears. The painful sting reminded him why he vowed as a child that he would never cry again. The raw emotion surging throughout his body didn't seem to let up as he let his tears wet the fur on his forearms, so he resolutely sucked up the mucus that was threatening to drip on the carpet and raised his head. She deserved to know.
"I had realized that the grey of my life was the result of a twenty-four year funk, and I had to escape it. I couldn't comprehend that I was drowning until your tiny paws reached out and pulled me back to the surface." He punctuated his words by reaching out and taking her paws into his own, squeezing them gently; a genuine smile tore across his face when she didn't flinch or pull away.
"You saved me, Judy." Nick allowed the soft pads of his thumbs trace lazy, soothing circles across the backs of her paws. "You taught me that nothing worth having was ever easily obtained. Taught me that if you wanted it badly enough, you could achieve it, even if the cards were stacked against you."
Nick's tears flowed freely as he gently moved his paws up her diminutive arms and he slid her close; away from the cushions that she'd sought refuge in only minutes before. Slowly but surely the fox drew the rabbit closer to him until her legs draped themselves over the edge of the couch on either side of his chest, and Nick closed his eyes tightly as he buried his muzzle in Judy's neck; wrapping his arms around Judy's lithe waist tightly. He breathed deeply, her scent was muddled with so many smells but it had a calming effect on the fox; the soft fur tickling the cold and wet flesh of his coal black nose. "After the Nighthowler case I knew I loved you."
He winced slightly as he moved to elaborate quickly. "I mean, the feelings were muddled and hazy…but I knew where they were leading me. I thought a lot about you in the Academy. When we weren't talking over Muzzle Time every night, thoughts of you swirled through my head all day, every day."
Nick laughed as he slowly drew away from her and took the moment to give her a reassuring smirk; the way her eyes lit up made his heart leap. Judy had been very respectful of his wish to speak uninterrupted, but small smile let Nick know that she couldn't let her thought go unheard. "It was a wonder you graduated second of your class then, Slick."
"Carrots, please." He let his eyes drop back to their usual half-lidded gaze, "I only graduated second because I had a hard time keeping up with the young guns; if I weren't a decade older than the rest you can bet your fuzzy, wuzzy tail that I would have been number one."
Nick wasn't sure if Judy had done this on purpose, but the brief aside eased the tension between them. It seemed to do the trick, however, and the fox felt the connection between himself and the rabbit resonate; the friendly banter bringing the pair back to a moment in time when there wasn't so many volatile emotions between them. Nick smiled gently as he let his paw rise up to cup her cheek; the fox let his features slip back towards seriousness. "I tried to be number one. I pushed my body and mind much further than I thought I ever could."
When Judy's paw came up to rest against his own, it gave him the courage to try stroking her fur gently with his thumb. The bunny blinked rapidly a few times, but the fear that had filled her eyes was wholly absent as he brought her gaze to lock with his. "I did it all for you. No one else. After the Nighthowler case I felt empty without you by my side. You were like a strong whiskey that I couldn't seem to get enough of; a strong bite on the front, but smooth and mellow on the back. Pleasant. Comforting. Relaxing."
"It was why I joined the ZPD-." Nick saw her violet eyes narrow slightly, almost accusingly. "Woah, fluff. Don't get me wrong, I love this job. Helping people, saving the day, handing out parking tickets... you know nothing beats it. Besides, it was the happiest I've seen my mother in my entire life. I'm not going to say it didn't feel amazing to make her proud. However..."
Nick released the bunny's cheek and let out an audible sigh. His eyes dropped to the floor as he twisted himself to sit on the couch next to her; his larger body seemingly engulfing half of the frame. The fox made sure that Judy wouldn't had to shift her position. "However?" The rabbit asked, her large ears making their way off of her head for the first time, perking up intently.
"However," Nick bit his lower lip hard, clenching his fists. "I woke up every day and thought of you at the academy. Once we were officially partners I would disobey my nocturnal nature and drag my tail out of bed at 5:30 every morning. Which I assure you Carrots, is a feat that still amazes me every time I do it."
The russet colored fox let his paw slide up the rabbit's back to rest on top of her head, scratching gently the fur between her ears. "But I would do it. I would try not to drown in the shower. I would brush my teeth, comb my fur, and don the uniform I had meticulously pressed the night before. I wanted to see the approval in your face as your saw me looking crisp and clean; a requirement for anyone looking to call themselves the partner of Officer Judy Hopps."
His paws had long since relaxed from their grip, and not knowing what to do with them he interlaced his fingers and dropped his nose to rest upon them. "Over time, my feelings for you matured, and I fully understood where my heart was."
"Oh, Nick." Judy's voice was soft and serene, and the contact of her paw on his arm sent electricity through him.
"It was in your paws, Judy. It always has been. I just needed time to learn that for myself. But I was afraid, Carrots, that you wouldn't feel the same way. You'd made it quite clear to me that I was not only just a 'dumb fox', but I was your partner. Your best friend." It took considerable effort to swallow the lump in his throat, and even more to turn his head towards her. He could see Judy's face contort into something he hadn't ever seen on her before, but he knew she was finally realizing just what he was saying.
"What we had, Judy, was something special. I finally had someone that I could relax around. Someone that I didn't have to put on an act for. We could talk for hours, without any reservation or fear, and I could take in all of the cute, little bunny things you did and lock them away. The way you thump your foot on the ground when you're irritated, the way your noses twitches when you're afraid or anxious... and the hypnotizing way your tail twitches when you get excited."
Nick let out a short laugh, closing his eyes as he laid back against the couch, waiting for her to punch his arm and call him a 'dumb fox'. But the hit never came. Instead he felt a soft thump on his shoulder and he cracked an eye lid to see Judy resting her head against him, her paws tightly clutching onto his shirt. "Dumb fox."
"You bunnies," Nick teased, "So emotional." Judy let out an exasperated sigh as she nuzzled his shoulder.
"You..." Nick began, trying to add just the right amount of smarm to his voice. He hoped it would lighten the mood a little more. "You're not acting cute to try and hide the fact that you're rubbing your boogers all over my shirt, are you fluff?"
There was a pregnant pause, and Nick felt a pang of guilt flow through his body. It was selfish of him to try and manipulate the mood; a dizzying number of ups and downs were only fun on rollercoasters, not in heartfelt confessions of love following emotional train wrecks of epic proportions. Nick was about to apologize when he heard Judy snerk and giggle, and he couldn't take it anymore, cuteness was just too much. The fox twisted his body and scooped the small rabbit up, and he grinned when she let out the most adorable squeak. Nick cradled her against his chest, and Judy's paws lay idle against her belly, her nose twitching franticly, and her deep amethyst eyes gazing up at him with a mixture of astonishment and wonder.
Nick couldn't help the tears that fell as he peered down at her motionless form. "Looking at you, Judy, every day, became a pain that I couldn't bear. You were always so close I could reach out and touch you anytime I wanted..." Nick whimpered as he fastened his eyes shut clutching the rabbit tightly, as if she was his only lifeline in a storm sorrow.
"Yet..." He wheezed for air, as the emotions overcame him all at once, "You were so far away. Out of my reach. I could never hold you the way I yearned for, Carrots. I couldn't speak to you because there was no way for me to know how you'd react. Should I keep my trap shut and enjoy the company of the mammal I loved and suffer in silence? Or should I take the leap that I didn't have much faith in and tell you how I truly felt?"
Everything part of his being hurt. Nick felt so exposed and defenseless. That was standard fare when it came to his partner. "You're the only one I trust, Carrots. The only one I can let see the real me. My walls are nonexistent around you. I can't lose you Judy, I don't think I could..."
"Please." He heaved, his throat tightening. "Please Judy... please stay."
When Nick felt the bunny wriggle quickly out of his grasp, he helped her stand, her hind paws steady on his thighs. There was a slight discomfort, but he forced it down as he let his head fall; ears lowering to his skull. This was it, he was ready to accept whatever she had to say. "I love you, Judy. There's no other way around it. However, it seems that maybe this love has been... one-sided."
A weary breath escaped his muzzle; the fox felt so drained. So tired. "I'm ready for whatever you have to say, officer fluff. Lay it on me."
It was hard for his trademark smirk and hooded eyes to look authentic with tears streaming down his cheeks; his eyes locked on the patterns of her flannel button up. When she took a deep, steadying breath Nick couldn't help recoil away from the paws that reached up to cup his cheeks. Unperturbed the rabbit pressed forward and gripped his fur tightly, slowly raising his head until their eyes were even. When her thumbs began to softly stroke him, Nick couldn't help but feeling something surge deep within his chest. Hope? No, it was too early.
"How..." Judy murmured, "How deep do these feelings go, Nick?"
Nick wanted to speak, but the words froze on his tongue. The fox could only stare at the bunny's eyes, and the way her nose twitch. Judy's eyes were soft and comforting, but they still managed to belay her true thoughts. Wincing, the fox forced himself to continue.
"If I could slip a ring on your finger right now, Judy, I would. In a heartbeat. Without hesitation or reservation. Nothing would make me happier than to have the privilege of loving you for the rest of my life."
Nick wanted to cross that small gap in between their lips so badly it ached. Instead he settled for placing a lingering kiss on her forehead, relishing the feeling of her warmth and soft fur against his flesh. The fox reluctantly let his own brow settle against hers, his muzzle gently resting on the side of the rabbit's own. She was so close that the fur on his tail stood ramrod straight, and he could feel her short, warm breaths ghost across his cheek. It would have been so easy to tilt her head to the side and give her all of the kisses and affection that had built up over their two years together, however he held himself back. He respected her too much to take advantage of this emotionally charged incident. Nick also knew that the bunny was just too caring, and she would respond with kisses in kind, even if she didn't have the same feelings.
If that happened, it wouldn't be out of love that she returned his affections, but out of pity. That wasn't what Nicholas Wilde craved for.
Instead he settled for removing her paws away from his muzzle and gently intertwining their fingers. The way their forms melded together so easily tore at his soul. It felt so right, even just holding onto Judy's paws like he was, and yet he was a fox, and she a bunny. Nick waited for her response with baited breath. It was agonizing, but he was willing to suffer; the tenderness of the moment was something that he relished.
"Nick." The way she said his name made his chest tighten, but he didn't dare remove his head from hers; it might be the last chance he could hold the bunny who stole his heart so close. "Give me a second think, okay? You've had hours rehearse while I've… only had a few minutes."
Nick let out a loud whine as the dam that had been leaking in his heart burst forth, and he freed his fingers form hers, enveloping the rabbit in a strong hug. He wept openly, and Judy tenderly nuzzled his neck, her paws stroking his ears soothingly. Nick didn't know he could cry harder, but he did. When he finally found his composure the only thing he could think to say was snarky. "Thanks for being such a good sport about all this, Carrots."
Nick released her from his grip, and she pulled away from him lightly; the rabbit patting his cheek. A warm smile spread across her face, and that was all he needed to see. It wasn't a 'Yes', but it most certainly wasn't the 'No' he had been dreading. The fox's ears perked attentively as she spoke again, this time her voice was deeper; Judy's paw moved up to scratch his ears affectionately. "You... aren't alone Nick."
"Well, when I'm with you I'm never alone." The Reynard smiled back, "However, I'm fairly certain that the literal sense wasn't quite what you were going for. Therefore, fluff, I think this dumb foxy woxy just might need a little more detail."
Judy's eyes went wide, but they softened quite a bit before the rabbit's 'I-don't-know-when-to-quit' steely determination set in. With shoulders set, brow lowered and chin raised the bunny pushed forth; it didn't escape Nick's attention the few times her nose twitched. "I might... um-."
Nick couldn't help but grin inwardly. Usually when Judy set her jaw it was game over; whatever his goal was, unless it aligned with hers, the rabbit always won out. To date the fox didn't think he'd ever seen her falter, but to see her lose composure so early really gave him a little bit more hope; he won a pyrrhic victory earlier, but it seems that the terms of surrender just might sweeten the victory. "I might have, you know, somewhat... um... similar feelings."
It wasn't lost on Nick that the last part had been little better than a mumble. "Similar feelings?" He asked, laying back on the couch with an overly theatric gasp. The fox let the moment simmer for a moment before sitting ram-rod straight in a sudden movement that startled the rabbit standing in his lap. "You mean years of quiet, unrequited love that burns your soul with the intensity of a thousand suns?"
When her face scrunched up Nick was quick to wrap the bunny up in his arms, eliciting a soft squeak from her. He gently stroked the fur on her soft, floppy ears and absent mindedly wondered how it would feel to nibble on the flesh and fur. "I'm sorry, Judy. I don't mean to tease you. Too much anyways."
Nick recoiled slightly when he felt one of her delicate paws bop him on the nose. When she spoke her tone was annoyed, but it tapered off towards something more akin to appreciation. "Seriously, Nick? I give you the opportunity to explain yourself with few interruptions, and yet here you go and ruin my moment. Anyways…"
"I don't know when it happened, Nick." The rabbit officer began timidly as she leaned into his chest, her tiny paws softly running over the still wet fabric of his shirt. "One day you were Nick Wilde, my partner and best friend, and the next you became something…more."
"As the days went by I began to notice things about you that I normally wouldn't have thought about." Judy smiled warmly as she began to tick down a mental list. "Your smile, the way you're always there when I needed someone to talk to, how at ease I was around you… I even noticed that on your bad musk days everyone else would hold their noses and yet…it didn't bother me in the slightest. In fact I found your scent…"
She let out a quick laugh before she placed a tender kiss on his cheek. "No, I was going to say 'comforting'. Thank you, though. I'm not sure my little bunny heart could have taken such a serious conversation without your-"
"Wit? Roguish charm? Deliciously delectable smarm? I can keep going if you're at a loss for words, Carrots."
Judy's expression was deadpan. "Do I have to hit you? Maybe if I knock you hard enough you'll actually let me finish." She slowly rose her right paw to punctuate her words.
The fox let out a deep, guttural laugh as he let his paw envelope her raised one. "Are all bunnies this violent, or is it just you?"
Judy's face didn't soften as she slowly raised her other paw, this time forming it into a tiny furry fist. Nick let his ears drop slightly, speaking smoothly to placate the bunny that looked to be slowly coming to a boil. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry, fluff. I get it. It's just... I'm happy that I'm not the only one who felt this way; how about you tell what is going on with your end and I'll keep my muzzle shut-"
Nick's words were cut off when he felt her free paw wrap around his muzzle; the fox didn't try to puzzle out how her grip could be vice-like and yet affectionate. The twinkle in her eyes and the uncharacteristic smirk that tugged her lips upward practically screamed 'You're done talking'. While it was unspoken Nick gave her as winning a smile as he could with his mouth shut and shook his head up and down in acknowledgment. It took a few moments of dead silence before a soft smile returned to her face, and with an exasperated sigh she released his muzzle; the lagomorph taking the time to gently pat the top of his head before spinning around and thumping into his lap.
Nick let out a soft whimper at the sudden weight that had been applied to him, but he bore it with a surprising grace. He eyed Judy as she leaned over the side of the couch to pull the lever, the legs slowly creaking up at the back rest slid them towards the relaxed position armchairs like this were known for. The fox wanted to comment about how awkward he felt in his supine position, with his ankles and head nearly hanging off the foot and head rests respectively, but he decided it was better to enjoy the moment instead; the vulpine officer of the law bent his knees and scootched his body downwards to get a little more comfortable.
He smiled when Judy rested her foot paws against his thighs before pushing, the rabbit sliding her body up his chest until her right shoulder firmly came to rest underneath his chin, the rabbit squashed her cheek against his own as hard as she could, and a disappointed sigh escaped her lips as she relaxed. "Not... yet...comfortable..." The rabbit shimmied from side to side on his chest, her elbows and the heels of her foot paws digging into his fleshy body with a vengeance, if only for a time; her head didn't move though, and then she settled back down, letting out an even louder exasperated sigh.
Even from the corner of his eyes Nick could see her muzzle turn up a playful grin. When Judy began to shift and wriggle for a second time the fox was quick to wrap his arms around her waist; didn't she realize that bunny elbows hurt just as much as regular elbows? She stilled immediately, and when the third sigh escaped her lips, it was intoned with contentment as she patted his arms. "I knew something was missing... just what I needed."
"Anyways…" The rabbit murmured as she let her arms rest on top of his. "It was just a collection of little things, Nick, that lead me to believe that I might not just see you as a friend. When you weren't around me the city didn't seem as lively. Those few times when we were assigned to temp partners or off getting certifications everything was black and white; they just didn't seem… real."
Her forefingers began to trace lazy circles on the backs of his paws as she continued. "And… every time you and I reunited color came back into my world. I felt… happy when you and I were together and sad when we were apart."
"So yes…you're not alone, Nick." Judy spoke up slightly as her paws began to inspect his claws with interest. "While I don't think I could accept a ring, even if you presented it to me at this very moment, I know that at least I'd be willing… to give us a chance."
Nick didn't say anything; he just gave her a gentle squeeze and laid his head against the cushion. The rabbit relaxed in his arms and they laid there for a minute it complete silence. Without warning Judy jutted her paws to the ceiling and let them fall backwards to cup the base of Nick's ears, fingers scratching gently as she cooed. "A girl could get used to this, you know? A fox fur mattress that cooks and cleans-yyyeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Her words were cut short when she felt Nick's warm, broad tongue leave a trail warmth and wetness from the base of her right ear straight to the tip, and her body tensed at the strange cornucopia of sensations. "In Soviet Furrussia, mattress cleans you!"
Judy so desperately wanted to be angry, but the giggles that echoed in her own ears betrayed her; his jokes seemed to be getting cornier and cornier the more desperate he got. The rabbit gently shot an elbow into his ribs, and he gave a playful chuckle in response. "Oof, I deserved that for how bad that was... but Carrots?"
His words melted from jovial to terse, "If you wouldn't mind... continuing with your end of this heartfelt confessional? I think I did pretty good job of not keeping you on the edge of your seat, fluff."
"Oh! Says you! I don't have anything else to say, so I think we're done emptying our hearts out onto the floor." She scoffed, one paw lazily reaching above her to touch the tip of his snout. "Boop."
Nick opened his muzzle and animatedly snapped at the offending digit. He expected to hear another squeak that would delight him to his core, but when she twisted in his grasp and rolled over the fox found himself at a loss. Both of her paws were splayed on his chest, her thighs straddling his stomach, and felt her small, athletic breasts press against his sternum. The fox wanted to swallow, but the crown of her head rested just underneath his adam's apple; when he pressed himself into the cushions to try and escape her head followed him. Thankfully he was given respite when Judy's nose moved to trace his jaw line, however, it still didn't seem to make swallowing any easier.
When her nose rubbed across the underside of his bottom lip Nick couldn't hold it in any more. His jaw dropped as he began to let out a slow, deep pant. Inwardly the fox wondered just who replaced his Judy with this sultry tease, but the fox's mind took a sharp detour when he felt the rabbit take his lip in between her teeth and bite it gently. Nick was floored. Was this lip bite a message from the gods themselves? Judy's paws gently pressed into his cheeks, and the pressure slowly parted his maw.
Sensations and emotions swirled within him, but he was more than happy to let the little rabbit do as she pleased, and a soft, shocked whine escape his throat when he felt her teeth release his lip. His tongue slid out to moisten the tender flesh the rabbit had worried quite thoroughly, but he froze completely when he felt Judy's nose push his upper lip up. The rabbit's eyes were closed, and the little bunny seemed to be in a trance as her tongue flicked out to lick one of his large fangs. A chill of arousal and astonishment followed her tongue, from the tips of his toes to tops of his ears.
The fox let out a strained groan when the warm, pink muscle left his canine and began to trace along the outside of his other teeth. Nick felt his eyes slide shut as he reveled in the strange but welcome sensations; he'd heard of intimate kissing, but this seemed on a whole other level. Truth the told he didn't want her to stop, and when Judy's tongue began to work on his bottom teeth it only reaffirmed his desire; however, he knew deep down that this probably wasn't something she'd normally do, let alone in the living room of her parent's home. Nick struggled within himself for a moment as her paws left his muzzle and gripped his shirt with an intensity he'd experience only in his most lurid of dreams. The fox's sensible side won out, much to the chagrin of his desire. She only paused when he spoke. "Auh, 'cahwats? Wuy ah' yah lickuhin' mah tee'f?"
As if a spot light was shone right on her Judy gasped loudly and sat up, ears erect and large amethyst eyes wide like saucer plates. Her paws pried themselves away from his shirt and they covered her mouth. "Wow, fluff. Gotta admit I'm surprised. I know you love me, but I didn't expect you to be a 'tooth and claw'…kinky kinda' bun."
Judy's embarrassed cry was his only warning before her foot paws found purchase on the sofa and her legs coiled to spring away. Nick didn't even give her the option to jump, wrapping his left arm around her tightly while his right paw forced her head away from her paws and the fox brought his lips to hers. His kiss was firm but gentle, and when Judy's body slumped into his embrace the fox let his tongue flick across her bottom lip; Nick mulled over the thought of biting her lip and returning the favor, but he ruled it out. This kiss was far too important to him; he would be damned if he messed this up.
Judy's lips parted as her lithe form trembled in an addicting mixture of joy and excitement, the abashed rabbit momentarily forgetting her shameless, although uncontrolled, display of affection towards the fox. When their tongues began to dance in the space between their muzzles both parties could hardly suppress their desires, paws roamed freely across each other's forms; fingers relishing in the warmth and the different textures of their partner's fur.
All five of Nick's senses seemed to be on overdrive. The taste of her lips made him press into her for more. The softness of her fur caused his paws to grasp at her greedily; one paw was audacious enough to slip up the back of her shirt roam the vast expanse of her fur freely. Judy's provocative gasps and moans left him shivering; in satisfaction or delight the fox didn't know, but what he did know was that he didn't want it to end. Nick's sight, however, received the best treatment, however, when they broke the kiss and he gazed upon the rabbit's lascivious expression; her hooded eyes and panting breaths through parted lips ruthlessly ensnaring his attention. The last of his senses, the fox's sense of smell, was busily sifting through the whirlwind of colors that filled the room; anger, fear, tears, arousal, and Judy; a clean, fresh scent of sunflowers and daisies ticked the back of his mind, but it was mostly muddled by the intoxicating perfume that was Judy's desire.
Sunflowers, carrots, and daisies to be more precise. The cogs of his foxy mind began to crank at his sub-consciousness until the malfunctioning machine spit something to the forefront of his mind: Mr. and Mrs. Hopps.
Oh, that's right, her parents had never really left, just stepped outside onto the front porch to give them some modicum of privacy. Nick wanted to kick himself, but he was too busy being stiff as a board, and much to his dismay Judy looked far more embarrassed than he felt. This was probably killing her. She was the first move, but instead of breaking free from Nick's grasp she put on her most resolute expression possible and pulled Nick close; her brilliant violet eyes glaring at her parents in defiance. "I love him, mom! I know he's a fox, but -!"
"Judith Laverne Hopps! I know for a fact that I've told you it's okay to have boys over, but there will be no nookie in my house!" Bonnie Hopp's voice was stern and she waggled her paw at her daughter, "Tut, tut! Stu. Stu, dear?"
"Wha? Oh. Oh! Right!" Stu Hopps chuckled nervously as he approached the pair still intertwined on the couch, "Nick. Nicky. Nick-a-rooskie-."
"Stu." Bonnie's voice turned harsh as her paws dropped to her hips. "You boys need to go outside. This is girl-talk time."
"Ha, ha! Yup! Time for the men to go have a nice chat, outside." Stu turned towards the screen door on the front porch and motioned Nick to follow. "Where it's cold, lonely, and raining sideways."
Nick laughed weakly as he pulled Judy into his lap briefly to push down on the cushion of the leg rest, the seat creaking as it began its journey upwards before locking with an audible click. When he tried to stand up Judy's paws clutched at his shirt and she looked up at him with eyes that were so deep and full of emotion the fox could have sworn he could dive into them if he felt so inclined. "Judy, sweetheart." Nick murmured as he grasped her paws lightly and gave them a squeeze. "Time for you to have some one-on-one time with momma Hopps."
Judy could hardly suppress a laugh as tears pooled in her eyes, her paws reluctantly letting him go. "Yeah, I guess it's that time. Be careful with my dad, Slick, he's prone to waterworks."
Nick stood up and moved towards the front of the common area towards the front porch. He paused just before stepping out and looked back at Judy, a smile coming to his face when Mrs. Hopps rushed forward and embraced her daughter in a smothering hug.
"Shut the door on your way out, if you please; best to give the girls some privacy." Stu Hopps said brightly, although an edge of weariness was poorly hidden as he gestured to the solid wood door instead of the screen door.
"Oh, like the 'privacy' you gave myself and Judy?" The fox scoffed in an annoyed fashion, but he complied, shutting the wood door and screen down behind him. The older rabbit stayed silent as he lit his corn cob pipe and flicked the match over the porch railing; an impressive feat considering the wind and rain that was falling outside. Nick had to admit that Mr. Hopps had good taste in tobacco, the prominent woodsy and earthen tones had a somewhat soothing effect on the fox; he was mostly grateful, and at the same time sorrowful, to have his nose filled with something else that wasn't 'excited bun'." The fox shivered as a gust of cool, moist wind licked its way over his fur; he was still hyper sensitive, and it no doubt would be a few more minutes before he calmed down.
"Hey, I built this home. I can eavesdrop whenever I please." Stu finally said, "Besides, Judy was a blubbering mess not a few hours earlier because of you. I had to make sure that whatever you said... didn't hurt her anymore."
Nick sat down on the unoccupied side of the bench and buried his head into his paws. "You don't need to remind me."
"Oh, but I do, Nicholas. I do." It was amazing how Stu's demeanor changed in the blink of an eye, the rabbit continuing on without missing a beat, pausing only to give his pipe a soft puff. "It's a father's duty to look out after his children's happiness, and while Bonnie and I have been... less than stellar in regards to supporting Judy's desires to become a police officer, we just want her to be safe. And Happy, of course! But mostly safe."
"You're saying she can't be safe, or happy with me?" Nick's tone took an edge that he didn't realize he was capable of, but he kept himself in check, it wouldn't do to explode, not now.
"Woah!" Stu yelped before coughing on his pipe smoke, "Hold on there, I ain't said nothin' about that. What I mean is..." The grayed buck harrumphed and crossed his arms, puffing on the pipe again after his spasms subsided. "When you have kits of your own Nick, whether you have one little girl or a hundred and forty-four of them, it feels like as a father no mammal in the world is good enough for your little princesses."
Nick closed his eyes and let the rabbit continue, allowing the words to sink in as he leaned back and rested his head against the wood siding of the house. "Judy's one of our oldest, only one litter before her has left the nest, and when I saw my little angels grow up, become women, and have kits of their own... I - I... augh!"
Stu let out a decidedly un-manly sob as he wiped his teary eyes and runny nose on his right shirt sleeve. Nick mulled whether or not to pat the weeping rabbit on the shoulder, but decided against it, for now. "It's a constant reminder that no matter how many babies you have, you're going to grow old and they're all going to l-l-leave you!"
Nick winced uncomfortably and he decided to give the rabbit a couple of stiff pats on the back. His ears stood up on end when Stu grabbed a paw full of his shirt unexpectedly. "But that doesn't mean you stop caring for them! You got to vet the mammals your daughters bring home, because your babies are special, and not just any mammal will do! Just because you might have settled for a very safe, quiet, comfortable, and safe life doesn't mean you let your little girls do the same!"
The Reynard decided to let the fact that Stu listed 'safe' twice slide, some rabbits were serious about their safety; nothing wrong with that, is there? "So, Nick," Stu began as he softly poked the fox in the side of his chest with the stem of his pipe, "What are your intentions towards my daughter?"
Nick resisted the urge to grin broadly, the rabbit's stern tone and tough-bunny gestures were completely ruined by the tears falling freely down the older buck's eyes. The fox took a deep breath as he cocked his head to the side, raising his nose towards the rabbit a little. He wasn't going to be intimidated. "Well, Mr. Hopps. If you were listening carefully you'd know by now."
Nick stood up and stepped to lean on the handrail of the porch, leaning out just a little bit so that a few droplets of rain patter onto his head. The water quickly seeped into his fur as it had done not an hour before, and it cooled the flesh underneath as the fox flexed his paws; his claws dug into wood solidly. "I'm going to put a ring on her finger. I'm going to marry your daughter, and I'm going to make her the happiest rabbit on the planet. Even if I have to fight you and the whole Hopps army to do so."
The fox slowly turned towards Stu and lowered his voice, a deep growl issuing from his throat as he rested his elbows on the porch railing. "If you intend to intervene then I will be forced to toss her over my shoulder and spirit her away back to my lair in Zootopia. Within my clutches she will laugh and cry, experience deep sorrow and the brightest of delights. I cannot promise that I will never hurt her," He paused momentarily and he felt the bubbling anger that had been building within the pit of his stomach fizzle out. "I think we've both seen that tonight, I'm only mortal."
"But, I will always be there to step up to the plate and admit when I'm in the wrong. I'd swallow all of my pride if it means that I could make her smile again." A slight frown worked its way across his muzzle, but he quickly wiped it away with his paw.
"I know that you're worried, and I can't say as I blame you: interspecies relationships are still pretty rare, and predator-prey relationships even more so... but..." Nick brought his paw up placed it firmly on Stu's shoulder. "No one is going to stop me from loving her, not you, not Mrs. Hopps, not the ZPD, and certainly not the city of Zootopia. As long as Judy Hopps says she loves me, the whole city could be burning down around our ears and I'd still be the luckiest mammal alive."
"Judy is my life, Stu." Nick's voice dropped so that it was barely audible to himself above the howling wind and rain. "Without her I'm lost, and I won't let anything or any mammal stand between us."
Stu dropped his pipe and enveloped Nick in the largest bear hug the rabbit could muster. As the rabbit rocked the pair of them from side to side, the fox could hear the older mammal's sniffles. "I'm sooooooo happpppppyyyyyyyyyy! Buwahahahahahahahah!"
Nick pursed his lips and sighed as he felt his ears droop, it seemed the carrot didn't fall far from the tree; like father like daughter. "Oh, you bunnies..." He returned the embrace awkwardly.
"We're so emotional, I know! But you don't understand, Nick!" Stu cried one last time as he sucked up his mucus, pulling away from the fox in a swift motion. "I've given away thirty-two of my one-hundred-and-forty-four daughters, and not one of them has married a mammal whose so honest and open about their feelings for them! Well... except for one, but we don't talk about her... although we probably should… anyways…"
Nick chuckled, "I not usually this…open about myself, but if you're to be my father-in-law, I guess it doesn't hurt to be honest."
Stu shook his head and moved to sit back down on the bench, "Nick, I have to say it's refreshing to have a future son-in-law who is as madly in love with your daughter as she is with him; sometimes it's a little one-sided, that crazy thing we call love."
The Reynard's eyebrow arched as a small smile slipped back onto his face; figuratively speaking? If Mr. Hopps knew what would happen to any buck dumb enough to get between Nicholas Wilde and his Judy… no, best not to think about it. Stu Hopps sighed as he made himself comfortable on the bench and fiddled with his pipe. "I approve of you, Nicholas. You've watched after my daughter for over two years as her partner... I think I could bear to let you continue your watch as her husband."
Nick felt a sudden release of tension in his body as Mr. Hopp's words washed over him. His smiled broadened as his 'hustler' mask painted itself back onto his features. "Thanks, Mr. H." The fox cocked his head to the side as he motioned towards the door with a flick of his eyes, "You want to hear what the ladies are talking about?"
Stu's own muzzle broke into a smile as he wiped an errant tear off of his cheek; he muttered near incomprehensively under his breath, something about Nick being a 'mammal after his own heart'. As quietly as he could Nick pulled back the screen door, and he marveled at how it never seemed to squeak or squeal; the Hopps sure did know how to maintain the place. The fox took a deep breath and held it as he slowly twisted the door knob and pushed inwards just a crack and pressed the tip of his ear in between. A powerful gust of wind ripped the handle from his paws and the door suddenly shot open. Nick's fur stood on end as it swung open and hit the spring-like door stop, sending a loud 'boooiiiiooooiiinnnnggggg' echoing through his ears.
His eyes were locked on the small rabbit that stood in the entry-way. Judy's eyes were shining brilliantly and her ears stood erect as she eased into her 'it's called a hustle' stance, hips and head cocked to one side, a saucy smile perched on her lips. "Throw me over your shoulder and spirit me away back to you lair, huh?"
Nick's jaw dropped and he pointed an accusing finger at her. "You were eavesdropping on our man-versation, Carrots!?"
Judy smugly pushed his paw away and grabbed his tie firmly, yanking him down for a quick kiss. "I think we both know that if anyone is going to get tossed over a shoulder in this relationship, it's going to be you, Slick."
Nick's smirk was devious as he slipped her paws off of his tie and placed them on his chest firmly before he began to lean into her. "Well go ahead then, fluff, whisk me back to your castle and seduce me with your absurd cuteness."
Judy laughed as she struggled to hold up his larger frame, "No! Oh, no! Stop it, Nick!"
When Nick's paws began to ghost up and down her sides she squealed and quickly side-stepped, letting the fox fall the last few feet onto the hardwood flooring. "Oofh," He weezed slightly, but when his smirk returned and his eyes rolled up to lock gazes with her, Judy knew. "Hey, Carrots. Guess what?"
"Nick? No. No,no,no. No,no,no,no,no. You are not about to say what I think you're going to say." Judy's foot thumped on the wood flooring and her eyes promised man, many unpleasant things.
Nick inwardly shrugged, how often was an opportunity like this going to present itself? "I think I've fallen for you!"
Judy let out a fairly impressive growl as she threw her paws up into the air and stormed into the kitchen. "You know you love me, officer fluff! Don't try to deny it!"
Nick called after her as he picked himself off of the entry-way and strolled towards the kitchen, the sounds of child-like laughter and giggling could be heard. When the fox poked his head in he saw Bonnie and Judy standing side by side behind the kitchen island, two small glasses of what looked to be blueberry wine sat half-empty on the counter top. The older doe rabbit was wiping a tear away as she flipped through Judy's phone, "Oh, oh, look at Nick here." Bonnie could barely suppress a laugh as Judy's paws enlarged the picture.
"Well... aren't you the most precious thing ever, Nicholas?" Bonnie smiled, "I don't think I've ever seen a full grown mammal sleep so peacefully."
Nick's eyes slowly made their way over to Judy who gave him a triumphant grin, and with that she gave a quick victory dance around the table. "You embarrass me, I embarrass you, Slick. I've been showing my mother all my photos of you, even the baby pictures your mother sent to me."
"Just how many pictures of me do you have on your phone, Carrots? Stalker much? And my baby photos? Officer Fluff, you've gone too far-" Judy just grinned in return and hopped up, grabbing the lapels of his shirt in her paws and placing her foot paws against his belly, planting a passionate kiss on his lips.
"Stop whining, Nick. Besides, I only have a few hundred-"
A soft chorus of gasps was heard from the corner of the kitchen doorway.
"Nick kissed Judy!"
"Nuh, uh! Don't lie Dorian."
"Yuh, huh! She did, I saw it!"
"No! Judy kissed Nick!"
"You think Nick and Judy are gonna have babies!?" One little bun shrieked enthusiastically.
"They have to get married first, Tabitha!"
"Can foxes and bunnies even have babies?" One young buck whispered loudly.
"I -uh, think they can?"
"No they can't, Ian. They'll just have to adopt some babies." An older doe stated matter-of-factly, sounding pleased with herself.
"What's 'adopt' mean, Lilly?"
Nick turned his attention back to Judy and Bonnie as the young Hopps gaggle's conversation continued on in hushed tones, and he quickly wish that he hadn't. Their ears were flat and their eyes were so full of fury that the storm that raged outside paled in comparison. "Run! Run baby bunnies! Run for your lives!" Nick cried out melodramatically, closing his eyes as he raised his paws to the ceiling.
The fox cracked an eye to see what the two does thought of his acting performance, but they were nowhere to be found. Only the shrieks of the young filtered into the kitchen as bunny bottoms were paddled without remorse. It sounded like the offending kits that were up way past their bed times were caught one by one, their cries swiftly cut short by sounds of paws meeting bottoms; a shiver shot down the fox's spine. Nick flinched when the lighting in the kitchen flickered off as the storm played with the electrical grid. Foxes had good night vision, but even his eyes needed a few seconds to adjust. Just when he could make out the table in the kitchen the lights turned back on and Nick nearly jumped out of his pelt when Judy appeared in front of him, a satisfied smile on her face and her paws firmly clasped behind her back.
Those poor baby bunny bottoms.