I'm not dead.
I give my thanks to Cimar for his help with editing this chapter.
Judy's ears twitched when she heard keys rattling in the hallway. Moments later, the main door swung open and Nicholas rushed through the doorway to the living room, still in his coat. Before she could even utter a word of greeting, he rushed to her, tossing his briefcase aside. The fox dropped to his knees before the couch and cupped the stupefied bunny's cheeks with his paws.
"Are you alright?! Did she do anything to you?! I knew I shouldn't have agreed to this!" His frantic words and panicked expression confused her even more.
"Nick? What is this about?"
"No coat, her smell is faint, so she's not here anymore…" His eyes kept searching her face and body for… something. "Did she do anything or say anything-"
"Nicholas Wilde!" Judy raised her voice while grabbing his wrists, pulling down his paws. Her sternness seemed to have worked on the hectic fox and he froze. Judy took a deep breath before continuing. "What are you talking about?"
"Uh… I…" With how Judy derailed his train of anxious questioning, Nick found it difficult to explain himself. "Thing is… During today's trial I got a really ominous feeling and… and… " His eyes blinked under the amethyst gaze of his girlfriend and instead of explaining himself any further, Nick threw his arms around the doe and pulled her smaller body to his chest in a hug. Judy let out a short yelp when her boyfriend made this move. "I'm just glad you're fine."
She usually welcomed this kind of gesture from him, but this time the doe gently, but firmly, pushed the fox away.
"Nick," she narrowed her eyes, "have you hit your head on the way here?" Judy asked, not so jokingly.
"Fluff… You don't know my mother."
"Apparently I don't, as you're talking about her like she's some serial killer."
The fox sighed. "That wouldn't be too far from reality."
This actually caused the doe to roll her eyes. "How can you compare your own mother to a murderer?"
"You're right," he nodded to that, "murderers can be locked up in jail."
"Nick!" She slapped him on the chest, while a goofy grin started showing on her lips.
"What?" The tod muttered, but now he also started to show a small smile. He leaned his body lower and nestled the side of his muzzle under her chin. "Am I not allowed to worry about my girlfriend?"
She grabbed his ear and pulled a bit to turn his head and look him in the eye with a faked annoyance. "Weren't you supposed to be worried about me, instead?"
His smile grew and he decided to play along. "Oh I am." The fox moved his paws to secure a hold around her waist and stood up, lifting Judy with him. "You are my girlfriend."
She giggled and placed her paws on his cheeks. "Say that again." The bunny whispered.
He happily obliged. "You are my girlfriend, Judy." He kissed the side of her mouth, drawing a short gasp from the doe.
Though she quickly returned the favor and leaned forward to kiss him with her paws on his cheeks.
When they broke apart, both were gazing dreamily into the eyes of the other.
"Good fox." She whispered, while caressing his facial fur with a paw.
"Good enough for you?"
The grin returned to her face and she moved her fingers to flick one of his ears in a playful manner. "Do you ever shut up?!"
"Hmm, let me think…" He mused theatrically and slowly spun around with the bunny in his arms. "No, not really. Not when I can open my mouth freelmmh!"
He was cut off by very eager bunny lips that locked with his own. Nick was taken off guard by how fervent she was in this kiss. Her little tongue danced around his mouth as she moved to the side of his muzzle, only to return to trap him in another fierce, deep kiss.
He wasn't one to complain, but this sudden move got him curious for the reason. He pulled back his lips to mutter with the corner of his mouth. "Fluff-"
She grabbed a double pawful of fur on the sides of his head and pulled, smashing their mouths together again. For a second Nicholas thought that his girlfriend turned into some ferocious predator and wanted to kiss him to death. Or maybe he was mistaken and that's how all does were? Either way, he was in deep trouble.
But that thought passed like a flash of light when this eager girl's lips ignited that spark in him. The very start of a flame he once thought long gone. A low growl rumbled in his chest when Nicholas held Judy tightly with one arm and moved his other paw to hold the back of her head. However, before he could do that, Judy placed both her paws on his chest and pushed them apart.
"Wha-" He mumbled in a confused voice.
"Oh, you would like some more? No can do." She teased him in response. The obvious smirk on her face said it all. This was payback.
"Fluff…" He croaked,but partially glad that he now had room to draw breath and that the flame slowly diminished.
"See, we could continue," she leaned a bit forward, tracing his lips with a finger, "but I suddenly don't feel motivated enough to do that…"
Her sultry voice caused the flame to return and it began burning away his self control. As a result, Nick's fingers involuntarily clenched on his girlfriend's body.
"Oh!" She exclaimed, taking his move as a sign of willingness. "What happened to Mr. Take It Slow? Hm?" The doe teased, while shuffling in his grip.
Nick opened his mouth to answer, but his throat was too dry to produce words. Instead, he swallowed dryly.
"However, luckily for you, I am not so mean as a certain fox I know, so…" Judy said this as she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned in to another kiss.
Which didn't come.
Nick lifted her up with paws under her arms and placed the confused doe back on the ground. "Look," he began in voice that cost him a lot of effort. "I can see that you are very eager about it, but I just have returned from a long court session and ran up the stairs to get here as fast as possible. Those two things add up to one sweaty fox." While he was speaking, Judy's ears were directed at him to catch every word. "So I really need a shower right now. It's a rather embarrassing thought that I'm smelly in a company of a girl."
Immediately after his words, the doe's ears fell and she leaned closer to him while closing her eyes and taking a whiff.
Then her eyelids snapped up and he was subjected to a piercing gaze. "You don't smell any worse than after your jogging and you didn't mind kissing me then." The bunny pointed out, as she took a step towards the fox.
Nicholas took a step back.
Judy narrowed her eyes. "Is there something you have left out of your explanation, Nick?"
The fox raised his paws in a defensive gesture. "Carrots," he began, but his voice lost all confidence, "that was kind of... in the spur of the moment-"
"And now it's not?" She pressed on, folding arms in front of her.
"Look, I… I'm sorry…" He gave up with a sigh and he lowered his ears. "It's not something I could exactly explain to someone who is not a fox…"
Judy's features softened, as she raised a curious brow. "Is this that 'fox thing' again?"
Nicholas' shoulders slumped slightly as he exhaled. "Yes. I'm sorry, Judy."
The doe's initial irritation dispersed and she closed the remaining distance between them to place her paw on the fox's chest. "Nick… You can talk to me about anything, alright?" She looked up at his face. "I want you to understand that."
This caused him to let out another sigh, even gloomier than the earlier one. "I know, and I will." He said while placing his paw over hers on his chest. "I promise you that." He squeezed gently. "But not today."
Judy tilted her head a bit to the side. "Can you at least give me a rough estimate when that's going to happen? This week? Month? Year?"
"I…" He shook his head. "I don't know. And that's the truth." Nicholas crouched to be at the same level as Judy and brushed her cheek with a thumb. "Believe me when I say that I am trying to find the best way to talk to you about it."
The doe wanted to pry more into this subject, to ask more, as she could see the hurt in those brilliant, green eyes. She wanted to free him from it, but before she could say a word, Nicholas spoke again.
"Please…" He plead in a low voice, while staring deep into her eyes. "Just a little longer..."
Judy couldn't help but shake her head as she placed her paw over his. "Why do you insist on keeping this from me?"
"Because," he moved his other paw and cupped both of her cheeks, "despite the short time together, I have high hopes for us." Nicholas said softly.
The doe's eyes widened at his confession. It caught her off guard and now she was clueless how to answer that. "Nicholas…" Did he just...
"Shh." He placed a finger on her lips. "Please trust me on this."
Looking at him for several more moments, Judy eventually let out a sigh while lowering her head a bit. "Alright, I will." She then looked up at him. "But not too long, okay?"
Nick smiled at his girlfriend and gently pulled her into a hug. "I shall do my best."
They have remained in an embrace for a bit, until Nick slowly pulled away. "Actually, I have a suggestion how we could spend today's evening."
This caused the doe to raise a brow. "Oh? Do tell."
"How do you feel about going to a banquet?"
Now both brows were high up, along with the doe's ears.
"Mhm. Leodore is organizing an annual Christmas event and it so happens that I have an invitation. For me and a guest of my choosing." He showed her a smirk.
"Whoa, whoa, hold on a second!" She waved a paw in front of her. "Leodore? As in Leodore Lionheart, the mayor?"
Nick nodded to that. "The very same."
"And you got inv-" Judy noticed the smug expression on her boyfriend's face. "Of course you got invited." She finished with a roll of her eyes.
"Is that a yes or a no?" The fox chuckled.
His direct question actually made the bunny pause and Nick immediately noticed the hesitation. "Fluff?"
"Um…" She looked slightly away. "This banquet… Is going to be a very formal event, right?"
"I… I've never been to such a fancy party." Her gaze returned, her purple eyes looking a bit ashamed, up at him. "I would have no idea how to act there." Judy added with a shrug.
However, this was met with a soft smile from Nicholas.
"You only need to be yourself."
"What if I embarrass you?"
"That sounds fun."
"I don't know anyone who goes to such parties! A street beat cop at a banquet? Come on."
"This would be a refreshing breeze, actually."
"I freeze whenever I try to speak in formal events!"
"Good. Means mammals will avoid you and I'll have you all to myself."
"I…" She was losing and she knew it. "I don't think the dress you got me would be fitting for such an occasion…"
"I'll get you ten new ones to choose from."
After he said this, Nicholas leaned down to her with a glint in his eye. Glint reserved for predators cornering their prey. "Anything else?" He asked with a smirk.
Judy struggled to keep a straight face, but soon realized it was a futile task with him staring at her like that. Her facade of defense quickly crumbled and she threw her arms in the air. "Alright, alright, I'll go! Happy?"
The smirk turned into a regular smile. "Yes. Yes, I am." With that said, he lifted Judy with both paws. "Let's not waste any more time, then. We must find a dress for you." The fox directed his steps towards the door, carrying the surprised bunny in his arms.
"Wha- Right now?!"
"Of course." Nick replied with such a broad smile that Judy couldn't find it in her to argue about it. Still, she could make a small jab.
"Really? Aren't you too sweaty to go somewhere public?" She purred into his ear, as he carried her.
Her comment caused a moment of hesitation in his stride. A very short one, but she noticed it and noted it down as a point for her.
"I should have some scent mask in my car." Nicholas replied, as they were almost at the door.
Judy simply shook her head with a smile.
Their ride wasn't a long one and soon they arrived at one of the biggest shopping malls in Zootopia. Once they were out of the parking lot and inside the main hall, Nick's telephone buzzed. The fox fished it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. This caused him to click his tongue.
"Blast it, it's the office again." He gave her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, I need to make a call. Why don't you go ahead and start looking at the dresses and I'll join you shortly?"
The doe shrugged with a smile. "I can wait."
Corners of his mouth rose up slightly, but without any joy. "You could, however this deals with confidential information."
"Oh…" Her ears flopped down.
Seeing her reaction, his own ears partially imitated the movement. "I'm sorry."
The doe let out a small sigh. "Fine, fine… But don't take too long, alright?" She asked of him, while slowly retreating towards the gallery's map, located in the middle of the main hall
After parting ways with her boyfriend, Judy approached the map and easily found the shop Nick was talking about during their drive. To the best of her knowledge, Otteriani was a really expensive brand, but the price went along with its top quality. She suggested that they could go to a cheaper brand, but Nicholas wouldn't budge. He claimed that he wanted the best for his girlfriend and wouldn't settle for something cheap. Now, arriving at the entrance of the store, Judy surveyed her clothes askance.
She has changed into one of her sets from the suitcase, one she brought from Bunny Burrow. It was… simple, to put it lightly and definitely faded in comparison with the clothes she could see in the store.
After taking a deep breath Judy entered the alien world for her - one of wealth and luxury.
Nicholas was still in the middle of the call, staying in the main hall, when his eyes noticed the figure of his bunny walking in his direction. A frown formed on his face and when she got closer, it shifted into concern.
The doe had a troubled expression, which she tried to hide when she met his gaze, changing it into a bleak smile.
"I'll call you later." He quickly said to the phone and then stowed it into one of his pockets. Right after that he crouched in front of his bunny, gently grabbing her arms.
"Judy, what happened? Why are you not in the store?"
Moments later they were on the move.
"I'm sorry. I'm just… not used to such shops."
Nicholas shook his head, while leading the bunny, by her paw, back to the store she left barely five minutes ago. "You have nothing to apologize for. If anything, those mammals should be apologizing to you."
"Nick, wait! I don't want to make a scene. Let's just go to a different store." Judy pulled on his arm to make him stop.
The fox attorney turned to her with an expression she saw on his face for the first time since the day they've met.
He was angry.
"You want me to ignore the fact that some maggot of a clerk, a mammal that should prioritize the satisfaction of their client above anything else, insulted and embarrassed my girlfriend? No, I don't think so." He continued his march towards the store.
Judy knew that his reaction was purely emotional and it was somehow sweet how upset he got after hearing what happened. Apart from her family, no one had ever cared for her that much. Still, she really didn't want to blow this out of proportion, so once again, she attempted to stop him. This time she pulled with enough force to make him turn on the spot. The doe grabbed both his paws and looked straight at his bewildered expression. "Nick, I really appreciate that you are concerned about me, but I won't allow you to go overboard on this. Please don't tell me you want to sue them?"
This time she got a sigh out of him. "As satisfying as that would be, I simply plan on speaking to them in the only language they comprehend."
Judy raised a curious brow. "Which is?"
She finally managed to get her boyfriend to smile. Even if it was his trademark smirk.
Raymond Riverson, the store manager, had an eye trained in assessing a mammals' 'market worth'.
Though already a manager, the otter's salesmammal's instincts never died and when he spotted a red fox in a suit in their store, all alarm bells in his head almost exploded. Said fox was wearing an attire that, based on his quick estimate, was most likely worth thrice the price of their own most expensive merchandise.
He swiftly approached him and politely cleared his throat. "I am Mr. Riverson, the manager. May I help you, sir?"
The fox turned towards the elderly otter with a bright smile. Then he moved his paw forward to give the manager a firm pawshake. "Nicholas P. Wilde."
He proceeded with placing a friendly arm around the otter's shoulders. "Mr. Riverson, I hope you can help solve a mystery for me." Raymond nodded, though he wasn't sure what this was about. "Can you see that gorgeous lady over there?" The fox posed a rhetorical question while pointing his paw at the couch for guests. There, Raymond saw a grey furred bunny, dressed in very plain clothes.
The otter nodded again to confirm that he saw her and then the fox went on. "As you may know, mayor Lionheart is holding a Christmas banquet for Zootopia's cream of the crop. Of course, being his chief legal advisor I have also received an invitation. This means that I want to get my plus one a dress matching her beauty, therefore I chose your store to get it." Nicholas paused to let the otter digest this piece of information. "However, "the fox nodded his head towards the seated Judy, "I cannot fathom why my girlfriend was told by one of your employees that she is, 'not fitting', to shop at your place. Would you be so kind and explain this to me?"
The years of working in retail kicked in and Raymond ushered a automated response."I must say, I am terribly sorry that such a situation took place. We shall immediately find a proper dre-"
Nicholas shook his head and started walking, pulling the otter with him. "Excuse me. We're going to need a few more mammals helping us. Let me tell you why. We're going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here." The manager's face visibly lit up. "So I'm going to burden you with what I know is the impossible task of making my lady even more beautiful than she is right now." Nicholas let go of the otter and stood in front of him. "And I'd like to see her treated with utmost respect, one that she deserves. If I see her treated like a queen, I will be happy and if I'm happy, so is my credit card. Do I make myself clear?"
Raymond quickly eyed the fox's friendly expression, his suit, the doe on the couch and the suit once again. He did some hurried math and came to a rather obvious conclusion that this fox's visit could mean a great profit for the store and a very short career for whichever twit that insulted this mammal's girlfriend.
"Yes, sir! I shall personally see to it that she shall receive the best service our store has to offer!"
Nicholas leaned to him with a predatory gleam in his eye. "I expect more than that."
The otter actually snapped to attention. "Yes, sir!"
Judy watched from the couch as Nicholas lectured the store manager and how the otter scrambled away, yelling orders at the staff.
She shook her head with a smile and raised her gaze a bit when Nick approached her.
"You sure do have an effect on mammals." The doe chuckled.
"What can I say," he replied with a smirk, "I'm a charmer." The fox reached to take her paw in his fingers and laid a kiss on top of it.
"That you are." The doe answered and relished the warmth of his lips on her fur. Then her ears drooped while she used her paw to squeeze his fingers. She kept her gaze fixed on their paws. This action caused him to raise a brow.
Judy looked at him from under her eyelashes. "Gorgeous?"
Confusion crossed Nick's face for a brief moment. "Wh- Ah. Of course, rabbit ears…" He muttered as he rubbed the side of his neck.
He paused and let out a half-chuckle, half-sigh. Then he crouched down before the sitting doe before brushing her cheek with the back of his paw.
"You are undisputedly beautiful." Nicholas leaned forward to lay a chaste kiss on the lips of the blushing bunny.
"I… I don't even know how to respond to that…" She mumbled with an apologetic smile.
Nick responded by cupping her cheek and kissing her once more. "You don't need too." He whispered, his lips barely away from her own. "Just let me admire you."
While her blush intensified, Judy placed a paw on his wrist. "Even when mammals are staring?" She saw slight confusion on his face and replied with a nod of her head that pointed behind him.
Nick looked over his shoulder to see Mr Riverson and an assembly of the staff. Six female shop assistants of various species were lined up on both sides of the main alley, standing at attention. They were all staring ahead, with one exception, when a young gazelle turned her head slightly to see who was their VIP guest, but she instantly corrected her posture when the manager shot her a glare.
"Ah," Nick smirked at this sight, "I guess that they are here to kidnap you. Oh well…" He pecked her lips and sent her a gaze that carried a promise of more to come. Then he settled on the couch next to bunny. "Have fun, Judy. Pick everything you like and don't worry about the cost, alright? I'm sure they will stand up to the task and take care of you properly. Isn't that right, Mr Riverson?" He directed the question to the otter and the manager nodded, before bowing before the doe.
"Madam, may I ask you to accompany my girls, so we can find a fitting attire for you?" His voice was laced with professional respect.
Judy was struggling to keep a straight face at this display of royal treatment, but managed to keep it together. For a moment she considered refusing such a bizarre twist in the attitude towards her, but decided against it. After all, Nick was clearly having fun with this and she wanted to indulge him a bit. Therefore, she slid down to the floor and approached the lined up staff.
"Well then," Judy sent her boyfriend a smile, "I'll be off."
"And I'll organize something to eat within half an hour." Nick waved her off with a grin, to which she rolled her eyes, but then gave him a nod. He watched as the group of females walked away, the staff guiding Judy to a separate room. He was pleased with the effect of his intervention and it gave him some sort of nasty satisfaction to see pompous mammals knocked down a notch. Nicholas couldn't even remember if he had ever used his money in a way like this. It was always just means to an end, something he learned to save, rather than spend. He always used good quality products for dinner or clothes, but looked for cheaper alternatives whenever possible. But now…
He felt like no amount of money spent for Judy would be a waste. Even more, he gladly entrapped the shop's manager with a promise of great profit. Nicholas was fully aware that this visit will cost him a small fortune, but he didn't mind. His grin turned into a smirk. Not one bit.
"Mr Riverson." He addressed the otter and the manager immediately turned to him, as if he had wheels under his soles.
Nick leaned back on the couch, placing a leg over his knee and pulled out his phone. "It appears we will spend some time here. Given the hour, I am sure that Judy will want to eat something soon. Therefore," he continued, not even looking up from his phone, "I ask you to prepare a quality carrot salad for her and it is to be ready within 20 minutes."
"As for me, any kind of salad will do. Also, I'd like a cup of tea right now. No sugar, with ginger."
The otter's jaw moved in an up and down motion for a couple of seconds before he could get the words out. "Sir, I'm afraid we don't-"
Nick's paw went into the inner pocket of the fox's jacket and a moment later returned with a black, rectangular object. He placed it on the tea table by the couch.
"...we don-" Mr Riverson's voice got trapped in his throat when he recognized the object before him. It was a credit card, completely black and laced with a golden edge at the top and bottom.
The otter swallowed.
Working in retail, he has learned to recognize various types of credit cards. It allowed him to gauge the financial potential of the customers based on the tier of the cards they had on them. The one before him, he'd never seen before, at least not personally. However, he heard about it enough to feel that the collar of his shirt suddenly tighten.
The card that was on the very top of the banking hierarchy. One that you couldn't just pick from a list when you opened an account. This card was offered by the Zootopia Noble Bank to very few, carefully selected clients. And money was not the only criterium in the selection process. One had to be someone with a reputation and high standing in society.
In return, a client received a card that was meant to tell the world of the wealth of its owner. The were many tales told about the benefits that it guaranteed. VIP tickets for Gazelle's concert ten minutes before the event? Of course. A private jet to fly to any location at any desired time? Not a problem.
Mr Riverson stared at the card that told him that if its owner wished to, he could buy all the dresses, the store and all the staff… at a snap of the fox's fingers.
"Yes, sir!" He bent down in a bow. "I will see to it at once!"
Ten minutes later, a portion of the finest carrot salad appeared before Nick, along with a salad for him. His serving, very thoughtfully, had tuna in it. He appraised the efforts of the store's manager while sipping the tea he had ordered.
"Very good." Nicholas gave his judgment. Then he placed down the tea cup and headed off to the dressing room to verify if Judy was receiving proper service from the staff, as well as deliver the salad he ordered for her. As the fox approached the dressing rooms, he noticed that the door to the room was left partially open. Huffing at this, Nicholas got closer, ready to confront the staff about such unprofessional behavior.
When he was close enough to see inside the dressing room his jaw dropped.
Through the unclosed door Nicholas saw his bunny clad in white.
The fox froze completely, body and mind, as he stared at his girlfriend wearing a pure white dress. She also had a pair of matching, fingerless gloves that reached her elbows. One of the female staff members next to her was holding a thin veil of the same color.
For a long while his face was unable to express anything but sheer bewilderment at this sight. He had no words in him when she twirled left and right in front of a large mirror, a shy smile present on her face.
His thoughts eventually came back online and he withdrew to the couch. On his way there, Nicholas passed the salad to one of the staff members and mumbled an absent minded instruction to deliver it to Judy. In the meantime, he diagnosed that his heart was split in two regarding what he has just observed. On one paw, he felt slightly lightheaded and exhilarated by that sight. On the other, he felt a sting of the painful past, supplying him with a mental picture of a different female in such a dress, many years before. He reached the couch on shaky legs and dropped on it, knowing that he couldn't stand any longer.
If he were a smoker, this is when he would light up a cigarette. If he were a drinker, he'd pour himself a large whisky. Deprived of such means, Nick could only support his forehead on a paw and rub it in thought. And there were many questions he had to process.
Why was she wearing a… wedding dress?
Why did she have to look so darn cute?
Why was she wearing a wedding dress?
Was it just for fun?
Why was she wearing a wedding dress?
Why was part of him happy about it?
Why was she wearing a wedding dress?
Why was part of him anxious about it?
Why was she wearing a wedding dress?
The number of things he asked himself was bearing heavily on his mind and heart. It all combined into one, complicated knot that was forcing him to think about his relationship with Judy on a level far deeper than what they have shared so far.
The fox didn't respond at first. It took him few more seconds to slowly raise his head and look up.
Judy was back in her casual clothes and looking at him with care. How long had it been since he sat down on the couch?
"Hey, what's wrong? You look troubled." She reached out to caress his cheek with a paw.
He had no idea how it worked and didn't need to know. All that mattered was the fact that she had a magic touch that dispersed all worries and troubles and turned them into pleasant warmth. Nicholas placed his paw on top of hers and leaned to her touch.
"Just overthinking something a bit…" He replied with a small smile.
The doe shook her head. "Did anyone ever tell you to loosen up a bit?"
"My mother, every time she sees me."
"Have you considered she might be right?"
"Not really." His smile widened.
Judy leaned forward to place a quick peck on his forehead. "And if I will tell you that?"
"Are you asking if I would disobey my girlfriend?"
"Would you?" Her own smile turned into a smirk.
"Of course. If she would tell me to kiss another." He used his free paw to pull her closer to him.
"I'm sure she wouldn't do that."
"Are you certain?" He moved his muzzle near her mouth
"Yes, yes I am." She placed her other paw on his shoulder and pulled the fox even closer.
Their lips met in a kiss.
Which was shorter than Judy would've expected. When her boyfriend gently pulled away, she couldn't help but look at him with a raised eyebrow. It was the second time today when he stopped a kiss.
"Let's deal with the formal part of our visit first, hm?" He nodded his head to the side to point at the otter manager and the store's staff.
Judy blushed, still not too comfortable with such public displays as they were currently indulged in. Hugging and kissing in the open was fine, but she still felt a bit uneasy, knowing that mammals were actually watching them.
Nicholas stood up from the couch and that's when he noticed a new face among the gathered crowd. Mr. Riverson noticed the fox's gaze and stepped forward, pulling a young opossum with him to the front. The youngster was staring at his own feet.
"Mr. Wilde," the otter began respectfully, "this here young mammal would like to offer his most sincere apology over the shameful incident with your lady."
"I- I am very sorry for what I said earlier." He mumbled with his head hung low.
In that moment Judy noticed how the fur on the back of Nick's neck bristled. She was no expert on foxes, but knew this particular one well enough to be aware that this was a sign of agitation. Therefore, she decided to step in and defuse the possible firestorm.
"Clarence, right?" She addressed the opossum, while standing next to nick and holding his arm. "I am just glad that we were able to clear up this little misunderstanding."
Nicholas frowned at his bunny and opened his mouth.
"What's important is that we learn from our mistakes, so that we can be even better at what we do, right?" She shot her boyfriend a broad smile.
He had no chance against it and was instantly defeated. With a little sigh, Nicholas looked at the pressured youngster. "My girlfriend's reasoning is heartwarming and perfectly logical, therefore there is nothing else I could add to it. Maybe just for you to learn from this experience and not be so quick to judge others."
Judy rubbed her paw up and down his arm in a silent praise of his words.
With this issue out of the way, all that was left was to pay for the shopping. The bunny was feeling slightly guilty about the number of clothes she picked, even with Nick brushing off the topic of money so many times already. The manager swiftly presented the complete bill to the vulpine attorney and Judy managed to catch a peek, which caused her to pale under her fur when she saw the total price. However, the fox only showed a smirk and paid without batting an eye. It was far more than what her dress for their first date has cost, yet Nicholas didn't seem to mind. It reminded her of what Michael said about his father's finances. She didn't even try to imagine his savings, if shopping like this didn't impress him in the slightest.
The evening came quickly and both Nicholas and Judy busied themselves with getting ready for the event. The fox went with a classic, black tuxedo and a bow tie. In that aspect, he considered himself to be lucky to be a male. There were only so many options for a male to dress formally, unlike females, who had hundreds, if not thousands of possible combinations to choose from.
His ears flickered slightly at the sound of the bedroom door opening and he turned his head in that direction. Judy's head was poking into the room and she was wearing a rather nervous smile.
"Um, I think I'm ready..." She said without confidence.
"What's wrong?" He asked while making the last corrections to the sleeves of his shirt.
"Ah, to be honest, I initially thought that this was a good choice, but now I'm not so sure." The doe explained, still keeping the rest of her body from his sight.
Nicholas showed her a smile. "Well, if I am to judge, I would still need to see it first." He raised his brows to show that he's expecting a proper reply.
Judy's fingers squeezed the door. "Okay…" She stepped out of the bedroom and stood before her boyfriend with paws folded modestly in front of her.
He watched her, but didn't say anything.
Judy had chosen a black, trumpet evening dress with a v-neck front. Though, she was a bit worried if it wasn't too bold, especially given the occasion. The doe slowly ran a paw down the front cut, which revealed more of her white, chest fur than she has ever shown. Still, she liked how the bottom layer of the dress, which was pure white and plain, without decorations of any sort, matched quite well with her fur. To balance the light color, the top layer consisted of a black, embroidered ivy pattern.
"Well?" She inquired of him and slowly spun around, giving Nick a view of her grey furred back, as the dress had a cut down almost to the base of her tail.
"Aren't you going to say something?" She asked nervously.
With no response from him, Judy turned to the still silent fox. His mouth was partially open, but his face didn't express anything specific. She couldn't decide whether he was shocked and silent in a positive or a negative way.
"Nick?" At this point Judy started to feel slight anxiety and corrected one of the shoulder straps.
The fox finally moved, taking slow steps towards her. Then he circled around her in that same pace, still not saying a word. The doe didn't move from her spot, only followed him with her eyes. She saw him taking in her form while walking around. His gaze was heating her up internally, when she thought that Nick was looking at her so intensely. That and the fact that the dress was doing a fine job in hugging her thin, athletic waist and hips. In a way, she felt almost exposed before his eyes.
He made a full circle and stood in front of her again. Then he reached out and very gently took her paw in his fingers and leaned down. In the next moment, she felt his lips brushing the fur on top of her paw.
What followed made her already fast heart rate skyrocket.
Nicholas remained in a bow, but raised his head to look directly at her.
"You are so beautiful." He said in a quiet voice.
No smiles, smirks or quirked brows.
Just those words and his emerald eyes staring deeply into hers. Judy swallowed. She had heard about butterflies in one's stomach before, but…no one ever mentioned that there would be an entire swarm of them.
"You- You really think so?" She managed to mumble with a heavy blush on her face.
In response, Nicholas slowly got down on one knee before the young doe, keeping eye contact with her. Then he reached out to place a paw on her head and moved it down, in a delicate motion,brushing one of her ears in the process.
Both his words and touch sent a shiver down her spine and all the butterflies fluttered vigorously.
The fox shook his head and rose to his feet. "If this goes on, I will have to reconsider my dress buying policy. Otherwise, with how lovely you look, this might become a health issue for me." He showed her half a smirk, which she felt was as if he told a joke to which only he understood the punchline.
"Are you implying I'm a bad influence?" She huffed at him playfully, placing paws on her hips, slightly shifting them to the side.
Nicholas leaned down to place a kiss on her forehead. "In more ways than one." He murmured into the fur of her head, causing the doe's ears to twitch. And before she could relish the feeling of the tip of his muzzle resting on her head, the fox pulled away. "However, I must ask if you are truly ready, as we must go if we are to make it to the main event."
Judy smiled at her boyfriend, while making a mental note to ask him later about the ways she influences him. "Yes, I'm ready."
Nicholas replied with a smile and offered his arm. "Then shall we be on our way?"