Opening Author's Note: Haha, hey, what's up?
Neither Edmund, Joey nor Charlie could help finding the vixen stood in the middle of the room awfully beautiful in spite of her age – though Claire would later claim that, in the moment, she didn't find the women either gorgeous nor notably ugly. All she'd really taken note of was the fact that the look on the old fox's face when she noticed the rabbits, while not particularly mean in any way, was far from pleasant.
"It really is so good to finally meet you, Mrs. Wilde," Judy said, wearing the dopey, overly pleasant grin she always wore when trying to get on a mammal's good side. "Nick's told me a lot about you."
The vixen stole a glance at her son before looking back at the rabbit. "Has he now?" she said, returning the doe's smile. "Oh!" She breathed out, almost as though a sudden realization lifted an immense weight off her shoulders, "You're his partner, aren't you?"
The bunny rabbit's grin grew as though she had been tickled on the pads of her feet paws, just as Nick – her boyfriend, her partner – had often done. "Yes! Yes, I am!"
"- in fighting crime." Mrs. Wilde finished.
Nick cringed as the wind seemed to dissipate from his mate's sails, leaving disappointed rags that hung just slightly more limp then her shoulders.
"Yes, that's me."
"Ma'am?" Joey's voice piped up as he tugged at the vixen's long black skirt. "Would you like some apple cider?" he offered, holding up the glass.
With a pleased smile and a pat on the bunny's head; Mrs. Wilde took the drink from his paws and held it gingerly. "Why, aren't you all just the most polite bunch?"
Edmund and Finnick exchanged looks of scorn, both faces matching the other's (with their eyebrows titled at the most unfortunate angle and their lips pursed in a way which, while they were supposed to look quite mad, truthfully seemed to be on the verge of a pout).
Mrs. Wilde lifted the glass to her muzzle and sniffed. The cider was curiously divine, that much was apparent within the first whiff of it. The drink, while entirely unassuming in the cute little novelty glass adorned with carrots, hid within itself an aroma that easily outdid any apple scented perfume you might find at a bath shop here in Zootopia. She took a moment before drinking, mulling over the likelihood of it being half as good as the smell suggested, but took a sip all the same – and she was amazed! The cider slid down her throat with the same eagerness as she drank it with. There was a certain pureness about the drink that you wouldn't have ever expected.
On the dining table sat several more cups, all made by Judy and the kits in preparation for Nick's coming home. On the kitchen counter sat the cider keg, wooden and brown. The kits had brought it down from the farm when they first arrived and any bunny from back home could tell you that it was the finest batch they'd whipped all year.
Though Mrs. Wilde knew nothing of the sort, so there's probably not much point in rambling on about it now.
"Mom!" Nick called.
"Yes! Hm?" she mumbled, climbing out of a sweet, sweet, cider-induced trance.
"I was asking what we did to deserve the early visit. We weren't expecting you until tomorrow."
"Oh." She said, lowering her glass, "I'd only wanted to meet this girl you've been blubbering on and on about for the last few months is all!"
Nick clutched his chest. "B- Blubbering!? Me!?" he asked, feeling faint.
The insides of Judy's ears turned a sweet shade of pink and the doe found she only had a second to bite her tongue if she wanted to stave off an even sweeter smile. Instead, Bonnie gave her husband the sweet smile, which he happily returned; both of them reveling in the fact that the fox apparently rambles on about Judy to his parent as much as she rambles on about him to hers.
Finnick simply joined the kits in a fit of cackling, much to Nick's own un-amusement.
"I have never blubbered." Nick said.
"Honey, you've gushed!" his mother replied, sending herself and the kits – plus one tiny fennec fox – into another storm of laughter. "Oh…" she whimpered through a few more chuckles, wiping a tear from her eye, "where is she anyhow?"
Nick bit the inside of his cheek and smiled a lopsided smile, almost as though he was about to tell a funny joke of his own. "You know what?" he asked, walking over to Judy so as to put his paws on her shoulders, "As a matter of fact, she's right here. Mom, I would love for you to meet Judy Hopps, my mate."
The look on old Mrs. Wilde's face was an awe-inspiring one, and I only wish you'd have been there to see it. Her muzzle hung open, slack-jawed, and her right eye seemed to, in that very moment, develop the most persistent twitch. Really, she tried to stop it – tried to tug and smush her baffled face into a presentable look, but it just wouldn't budge. Her ears rotated, curious as to whether or not she quite heard that right.
Judy tilted her head upwards so as to get a better look at the fox stood behind her, his paws still firmly wrapped around her shoulders. He looked down at her so that their muzzles very nearly touched and they rubbed their noses together.
Nick didn't usually support this type of behavior done in public, but had they not shown at least a little love, his mother may have never believed him.
But she certainly had to believe him now – booping snoots is undeniable courting behavior in zootopia, as I'm certain you're already aware – and judging by the look on her face, she had something to say about it. Try as she might, though, the words tangled themselves together as they rose up in her throat and when she untangled them all that bounced off the tip of her long fox tongue was:
"Man oh man, it sure is going to be crowded here tonight." Finnick offered the party goers, sticking his paws in his pockets and looking up at the ceiling in a search for nothing in particular.
"Mhm, Mhm." The rest of the party chorused, everyone looking off in different directions so that they too could find nothing of any importance. Mrs. Wilde went back to nursing her cider.
"I can sleep in Judy's bed if there isn't enough room out here." Claire peeped.
"Hey, I wanna sleep in Judy's bed too." Charlie echoed.
Joey - looking very excited - scampered up to Nick, almost tripping over his own ears. "Then I call Nick's bed." Edmund toddled over to the fox and gripped his pant leg, which was really all that needed to be said.
The fox and the doe stared blankly at one another. "We…um…" Judy began, not sure how best to put this.
"We only have one bed." Nick spoke for her.
The fox didn't have to look in his mother's direction to know she was now choking on her drink – the sounds were enough to base a serious guess off – and Judy's parent's ears turned the same sweet shade of pink their daughter's had moments ago.
The kits – who saw nothing scandalous in this revelation at all – beamed.
"That's perfect!" Joey exclaimed, recognizing the convenience of it all. This way, they could all share a bed, and it could be just like the old snuggly sleepovers he sometimes had with the other school bunnies.
Stu must have caught a bug of some sort, as he cleared his throat with a labored cough. "Well, would that be ok with you two?" he asked.
Judy looked to Nick, who gave her a gaze that seemed to say, "Carrots, please don't let them share our bed tonight."
"Sure!" She said, turning to the kits, "You guys can share our bed tonight!"
"Well, there are pillows and blankets in the hallway closet. We'd better go off to sleep if we want Shanta Claws to visit us some time tonight." Nick explained as he pointed down the aforementioned hallway.
Without another word, both kits and adults alike scampered off to get said blankets, as a Passover by father Christmas, I should think, would make for a very scary tomorrow morning.
Everyone except two.
"I'm serious man, the vans out front. I can give your guys' family some space tonight." The shorter of the foxes said.
"Finn, you are my family."
"Just saying man, I'll do it."
"You helped me out today, you aren't sleeping outside."
Finnick looked the taller fox over once, and then he looked him over twice. Shaking his head, he snorted a little.
"Well, merry Christmas then, ya big, dumb sap."
The red fox simply gave his buddy a content smile, watching the little guy walk down the hall in search of blankets.
He nearly jumped out of his fur before he turned around, meeting his mother snout to snout. "Ma?"
"Is it wrong of me to be thoroughly confused right now?" she whispered, clutching her blankets and pillows tight to her chest.
Nick peered down the hallway at Judy, who raised an eyebrow. He gave her a weak wave hello.
"I don't think it's wrong, no, as long as you get over it quickly." He turned back to his mother.
"But Nick, that's a bunny!" she whispered, harsher than before.
A dreamy smile grew on the fox's face. "That she is."
"You know that prey don't- "
"Mom, the past is in the past." He said, leaning against the door frame.
"I just don't want you getting hurt."
"No one is getting hurt here, Ma."
The vixen inhaled deeply before breathing out shakily. "Look, I'm sure they're good mammals- "
"Then you've got nothing to worry about."
"Mr. Nick, get in bed!"
"Coming!" the fox shouted down the hall, "Just keep an open mind is all I'm sayin. I've gotta go now though, these kits can be a pain in the tail to put to sleep." He gave her a quick peck on the cheek, "Goodnight Ma, it's really good to see ya."
The mother fox stood there no less flabbergasted than before, only lying down once Finnick flicked the lights to the living room off.
Nick climbed on the mattress pad and parted the sea of rabbits currently taking up his bed space. Orange limbs sprawled out at various angles, forcing the rabbits to mold to him the best they could. One would think this sleeping arrangement to be very disagreeable, but to a lazy red fox who had just finished moving mountains for Christmas, it was really quite comfortable.
Judy squirmed her way into the crook of one of his arms, which received her nicely. The fox smacked his gums and licked his chops. Joey tossed and turned in place, unable to find a cozy spot to settle into; that is until the fox's free arm scooped him up and held him close. Claire tried to wedge herself in between the big old fox and Judy, but after the fast discovery that this wasn't going to happen, happily curled herself around a red bushy tail. Charlie laid down upon the fox's chest, which was almost immediately deemed a no-no as the vulpine had begun to feel asthmatic. Edmund crawled to the head of the predator and curled up there, not picking the spot for any comfort it might provide, but because he thought that maybe, after the fox had started snoozing, he'd be able to pull the beast's lips back and get a closer look at those sharp, sharp teeth.
In the dead of night, Nick tried his dandiest to figure out what that strange taste in his mouse was as he roused Finnick with a hushed voice. They left the apartment, the only sound to suggest them moving around being the little "pat pat" of their feet-paws upon the floor boards.
They quickly returned with wrapped gifts, dropping them by the tree before stealing off to bed again. To this day nobody knows where they got them; I figure Shanta Claws must've had a paw in it.
It was chilly in the living room so early in the morning. That was Nick's first thought as he trudged out of the hallway and over to the fridge. He balled his paws into tight fists and rubbed his eyes.
"Since when did you ever wake up this early in the morning?"
The voice had spoken to him from across the living room, and his eyes were still sore from the firm rubbing he had just given them. The room seemed to have a blue haze resting over it, nearly as cold as the air itself.
When his eyes adjusted, he noticed the vixen sitting up with her blanket wrapped around her shoulders. He smiled. "Believe me, I'm trying to avoid forming the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn." He yawned. "If it wasn't for those rabbits, I'd still be in bed."
The she-fox seemed to frown, though it was sort of hard to tell with all the lights off. She looked over to the couch, where Mr. and Mrs. Hopps laid snoozing peacefully.
"You know as well as I do that this isn't natural."
Her son turned away and opened the fridge, hiding his grimace. "It feels pretty natural to me."
The vixen sighed, breathing out through her nose. "They're nothing like us. It would be for best if you just let them alone."
"I've never known a vixen who was more like me than Judy." The son explained, pulling the milk from the refrigerator and setting the coffee machine.
"You don't have to find a vixen." Mrs. Wilde said, rubbing her face with her paws before continuing in a whisper, "But you have to let prey be with prey and predator be with predator."
He wanted to whisper something back, something as hurtful as what she had just whispered to him, but for one reason or another, he didn't. Instead, he shook his head and laughed very softly, careful not to wake the other mammals who had the good sense to keep sleeping. "If there's anything I've learned since meeting Judy, it's that we prey and preds aren't as different as you'd think. But let's forget about all that. Can I get you anything before the kits open presents?"
At the mention of the word the vixen raised an eyebrow in confusion and immediately lost herself, forgetting where she was. "Presents?" she asked in a voice two times too loud.
Nick's ears flattened against his head. Not a word was said, but the rumbling came all the same. Across the way – in his bedroom – you could be sure a fluffle of bunnies was crawling over itself in a frenzy to get into the living room.
The sound of ten rabbit feet – ten because Charlie led a half-asleep Judy by the paw – stumbling across the floorboards must've sounded like thunder to whoever lived on the floor below. Bonnie and Stu rose as if the storm of rabbit kits was something they had long been expecting, and even Finnick sat up (however begrudgingly).
Nick poured himself two cups of hot coffee, one in a mug slightly smaller than the other. In the smaller of the two he added a little milk before dropping half a spoon of sugar inside and stirring it into a light brown mixture.
"Presents?" asked Charlie, letting his older sister's paw go.
Nick walked purposefully towards the tired bun, catching her in the bend of his arm – he still had the two cups of hot coffee to hold – as she fell backwards without her little brother to keep her up. She turned around and buried her face into Nick's chest, just as she always did in the mornings, almost falling back asleep, and she would have if it wasn't for the fox whispering something into her ear before handing over her coffee.
"Isn't it a little early in the morning to be opening presents?" Bonnie joked, smiling at her kits.
The fluffle whispered amongst themselves for a moment before turning around and shaking their heads no, having decided that it was, in fact, never too early to open Christmas presents.
Stu stood up from the couch and reached his paws high into the air before bringing them down to touch his toes before speaking. "It's not too early for presents?"
The fluffle shook their heads again.
"Well I'll be… I suppose we'll just have to start opening them then, huh Bon?"
Mrs. Wilde took care to note the loving way the in which the buck-rabbit looked at his wife and children as he spoke.
Anyways, I feel as though I hardly need to tell you what happened next, as the following events were so pre-destined that it would really only to be proper to speak of them had they not happened at all.
But I'll tell you anyways.
Charlie, after listening to his father give the go-ahead on present opening, attacked the gifts under the tree with about the same amount of thunder in his heels as one would come to expect.
"Careful! Careful!" the mother rabbit scolded as the self-appointed first-present-opener shook a red plastic box with his quaky paws. "There's something fragile in one of these boxes and I don't remember which one. Just pick a gift for now, we'll get through them all eventually."
The tot scanned the plethora of pretty presents in search of the perfect first pick, eventually resting his eyes on a poorly wrapped rectangle (and believe me, those are the best words for describing what it was).
The gift bore the name of father Christmas himself in curved red lettering next to the word "From:" and right under the phrase "to Charlie."
"This one." The bruiser said as he tried to drag it from its resting place and into the center of the room.
"I've got it buddy," Nick said as he stepped over to Charlie, quickly joined by Mr. Hopps, "Bring it here."
The rectangle sat on its side (one of them) and the little rabbit sat on the heels of his little rabbit feet. His paws hovered mere inches away from it, almost as if they were warming themselves against the strange Christmas mirth the gift seemed to breathe.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Nick asked, and with that, the first layer of wrapping paper tore.
Shanta's elves (a whole family of lemmings) must have taken this Christmas off, as the gift was wrapped and taped quite poorly, clearly done by the old saint himself. Claw marks punctured the paper in multiple stretches of paper and stranger still were the much smaller cuts and scratches which accompanied them in several places, almost as though another, tinier fox had tried to lend Shanta a paw. It was – overall – a pretty shoddy wrapping job, but "we've got no one to blame for the rush but ourselves since we only told him what we wanted yesterday." Or at least that was what the chubby bunny thought to himself.
"No way…" was his next thought as he finally ripped a large patch open, revealing the smooth, rounded corner of the rectangle. "No way!" he shouted again, now hopping up and down like a march hare. He yanked the rest of the wrapping off as forcefully as he could manage. A joyful scream caught in his throat.
"So, was it what you were hoping for?" Nick asked as he sat down on the couch, placing a now snoozing Judy in his lap.
Charlie held the teacher's whiteboard firm to his chest, still trying to catch his breath in between joyful giggles. Most of the room was breathless with laughter too, Finnnick included.
"It even has the markers!" Charlie wheezed, clutching the board a little closer, "And a really big eraser!"
He inched away from the center of the room, taking care in stepping over the paper scraps and tape left on the floor but unwilling to take his eyes off his new board's snowy white surface. He sat down cross-legged, quickly joined by Joey and Claire, both curious to see what all the hub-bub was about.
In the midst of it all, Edmund stepped towards the circle of gifts, flexing his paws as he eyed his mark.
"You're up next, huh?" Nick asked the rabbit, only to be ignored. The little tyke didn't see much reason in dignifying the silly fox with a reply.
Of course he was next.
So, being next as he was, the little fluff ball snatched his gift up off the ground. It wasn't at all shaped like his brother's gift (though it shared the same quality wrap job); the present took the shape of a ring with shiny red paper coiled around it. The bunny undid the wrapping paper with one quick tug, letting it fall to the floor as his new toy was revealed. Nick gave a sharp gag – which disturbed Judy, who, lest you forget, was still sleeping upon the fox's lap – and Finnick laughed a laugh through his nose; the type of laugh which sounds something like a pig's snort. Nobody was quite sure why.
"Ah ool-oop?" Edmund gasped, holding the newly unveiled hula hoop in his paws.
"A Hula hoop?" Bonnie and Stu echoed in unison.
"He never mentioned anything about wanting a hula hoop." Bonnie said, turning to face her husband.
"No… not once." Stu replied, looking his mate in the face, both rabbits raising an eyebrow.
"I guess Shanta really did understand your request, huh bud?" Nick said to the squirt of a bunny, but his words fell on deaf ears – which is particularly impressive when the words are addressed to a rabbit – as Edmund had gone off to the opposite end of the room. He held the hoop close but never attempted to use it.
Judy stirred on Nick's lap, shuffling around in an attempt to roll over. When she managed, she stared up into the fox's face, her nose twitching curiously. This, of course, prompted Nick to give it a little poke, which, of course, led to a fake growl erupting from the bunny (you'll have to understand; this was all part of their song and dance now). When she pushed back against his finger her took to tickling her fluffy paw pads, causing her feet to curl at his loving touch.
Mrs. Wilde's hackles rose as she watched them.
-and they rose ever so slightly more when the first "bang ba bang" came to them from the stairs outside the apartment door.
Nick's muzzle turned sideways into a devilish-looking smile and his ears twitched in response to the next several bangs. All the while he tickled the foot of the rabbit sitting on his lap.
There seemed now to be a stomping outside in the hall, and after it came a heavy clopping.
Edmund paused for a moment – as he was fiddling with his hula hoop – and furrowed his wavy bunny brow. It seemed as though a word or two was on the tip of his tongue, but he decided against speaking and swallowed them.
"Reindeer hooves?" Joey wondered aloud. "But I thought Shanta got here last night? Why is he out in the hall with his reindeer helper?"
"I don't think it's Shanta, bud." Said the fox.
Most of the adults in the room wore looks of confusion. Bonnie looked towards the front door. Judy sat up, a little more awake than she had been before.
Nick looked as pleased as ever.
Finnick seemed absolutely disinterested.
"Ah, there they are!" the fox shouted, startling Judy a little. "Joey, Claire, could you two get the door please?"
The rabbit kits looked at one another and then at their mother, who looked back at Nick. The vulpine gave her a wink, a very sly wink, and so Bonnie shrugged, waving them off.
Joey grabbed the knob (he was a good bit taller, at least by an inch) and turned it. When they saw who stood on the other side of the door frame they forgot any manners they had been taught and let their mouths drop to the ground.
"Well then! Aren't you just the most preciousest darlins this side of the city line!" a hippopotamus cooed in a motherly, singsong voice.
The Miss Hippo standing in the doorway wore a racer's jacket and large black leather pants. She carried a helmet under her arm, the same type of helmet you'd expect to see on a motorist down at the burrows race track.
"Ahem- "a gruff voice sounded behind the hippo, clearing its throat. "Hello there."
The ZPD chief stood there, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable.
"Our good friend Shanta Claws tells us we were needed here, is that tr- "the Hippo could hardly finish her sentence before she was pulled – nearly dragged – by the paw into the apartment.
"Oh, come in Shirley Gayla! Won't you come in come in?" Claire squealed. "We're opening presents now!"
Jack led bogo by the hoof in much the same fashion, and Judy nearly had a heart attack at the sight of what (or rather, who) her brother had just dragged in.
"Chief!" She shouted, hopping from her fox's lap. "What a- "she took a moment to smooth the wrinkles out of her pajama top, "What a pleasant surprise!"
"Easy Hopps" the cape buffalo murmured, clearly not incredibly pleased to be led around by a little rabbit. Joey motioned for him to take a seat on the nearest couch, which he obliged.
"So, Mr. Claws said you go by Claire." Miss. Gayla tittered as the doe led er to her own seat beside the police chief.
"It is!" said Claire.
"Is it short for something? Like Clarice perhaps? Or Clarabelle?"
"Nope!" Claire (not Clarice nor Clarabelle) said.
The hippo swallowed, recovering from the quick, dismissive answer – she knew that kits can get that way when they're even a tad over-excited – and smiled again. "Well, Claire is the bestest name I've ever heard, so I'm happy to meet you."
"Speaking of things Mr. Claws spoke to us about- "Bogo sat up in an uncomfortable position and cleared his throat, obviously not used to this sort of thing, "He told me you were hoping for a tour of the Zootopia Police Department. Did I hear him right?" He looked at joey as he spoke.
The buck had been pulling his long ears down against the side of his head, twisting and gripping them as one might do with their hair when talking with someone they really admire. When Bogo said this, however, he let them go so that they flew back up to attention.
"You heard him right!"
The chief started back in his seat, which was quite a sight to see. It isn't every day you watch a rabbit startle a full-grown bull several times his size.
Judy took her spot next to Nick again, deciding that it's a bit too late to change into presentable clothes seeing as her boss has already seen her lounging in her PJs up on her partner's lap. She turned to the fox, giving him a knowing smile.
Nobody ever did find out just why it was that Miss Gayla came to stay with them that Christmas morning. Some say she knew Nick back during his hustling days and owed him a favor, while others believe they'd been friends since childhood and swear by it. The general belief of most of the mammals gathered at the party that day – and I think this to be the most likely theory of all – is that Shanta himself hopped on his sleigh after hearing Claire's request, and flew right down to the track to speak with the racer.
There is something undeniably inviolate about a Christmas dinner. If you ask Nick or Judy just why that is – either one is fine; the answer is invariably the same – they'd tell you "It's because mom makes it."
There are some mothers out there (and quite a few fathers, don't misunderstand) who can really cook up a magical Christmas meal. That's why one would assume that both Mrs. Hopps and Mrs. Wilde in the same kitchen would be a heavenly combination.
And yet, somehow, Mrs. Wilde couldn't quite see it that way.
The Hopps family matriarch hummed a pleasant tune as she chopped the red onion in front of her into eight perfectly proportioned wedges.
It stung Mrs. Wildes eyes.
The vixen pierced the beetroot in her paws with an extended claw, peeling the skin away and revealing its red, red insides.
"Beetroot and squash wellington was Judy's favorite holiday meal back when she was just a kit." Bonnie explained, taking a break from humming her cheery song, "What was Nicks?"
Before she could respond – not that she was going to – Mrs. Wilde's attention snapped towards the sound of bunny laughter out in the living room.
"Roll over Beety! Roll over!" Charlie said to the great-horned bug on the carpet in front of him and his siblings.
Apparently, this year's Christmas gifts from Bonnie and Stu Hopps to their children were pet beetles and this set of siblings finally opened theirs.
"Beetles can't roll over Charlie! Pa, tell Charlie beetles can't roll over." Joey turned to his father as he spoke.
"Beetles can't roll over Charlie." Stu echoed, not wanting to be distracted from his engaging conversation with their buffalo guest who, coincidently, had quite the impressive knowledge base of botany facts.
"Beety is the bestest name a beetle can have, don't you think Claire?" Miss Gayla laid on the floor next to the rabbit who summoned her, watching the kits play with their newfound pet.
Nick still sat comfortably with that rabbit of his, which shouldn't come to a surprise to the vixen as he hasn't left her side since she came in this morning.
"Dearie, could you hand me the thyme?" the motherly rabbit beside her started up again. Mrs. Wilde brushed the paw-picked leaves onto a nearby towel, giving the bunch over.
"I hope it's fine by you and your boy that we're having a vegetarian dinner tonight. We rabbits don't do well with grubs and that sort of stuff."
The look on Mrs. Wilde's face in that instance must not have been a good one, as Bonnie had sort of flinched and looked away the second they made eye contact. The fox composed herself, smoothed out her holiday dress and swallowed hard.
"It's fine, really. We can eat our veggies. Nicky – excuse me, Nick – used to devour all the green stuff on his plate before he even so much as glanced at the meats."
The mother rabbit looked at her foxy counterpart again, confused at first, but quickly adopting her sweet smile once more.
"Nick? I would never have guessed it."
"The boy would sit and munch on carrots." Mrs. Wilde almost sighed as she spoke, unraveling sheets of puff pastry. "He would do this thing…" she paused, holding a paw to her mouth as if acting out some distant memory, "he'd sorta peel the carrot with his teeth before eating them, so there'd be carrot shavings all over his chair and the floor. I don't know why, but he did it every time."
Bonnie, still slightly confused but not ever one to interrupt a mammal strolling down memory lane, chuckled.
"Judy used to do the same thing."
"Maybe foxes and rabbits are more alike than we thought." She said so as if it were more a joke than anything else, but something inside her made her pause – as if she'd just had some shocking epiphany, but she shrugged it off and started cutting pastry sheets.
Bonnie moved behind the vixen with the veggie innards in her paw. Without thinking, Mrs. Wilde spun on her heel to take another look at the cookbook, accidently bumping her cooking partner in the process. The rabbit kept a firm grip on the vegetables.
"Oh! I'm so sorry Mrs. Hopps!" the vixen had placed a paw on the other women's shoulder without so much as thinking.
The mother rabbit giggled a little, covering her mouth with her paw, and when she found she couldn't hold the laughter in any longer, she let it out. "It's fine dearie." She chuckled.
"Mrs. Hopps- "
"Really, it's fine. With as many kits as I've got running around back at home, I think I'm used to bumping hips with a mammal or two come dinner time." She delicately placed the vegetables in the pastry sheets the vixen had been preparing. "And really, Mrs. Wilde," she placed the pastries into the oven as she spoke and turned the dial, "We should be on a first name basis, all things considered."
The vixen was stunned. She brushed her ears back absent-mindedly, smearing dough into her fur in the process.
"So, call me Bonnie." The other mother said, her paw extended.
And the vixen took it.
"Martha, call me Martha."
"Lil' Fuch, go!"
"What do you think I am? Some kind of carnival attraction? I'm not gonna talk just because you ask me to." The fennec barked at the children as they watched him.
The fluffle broke into noisy laughter.
"Your voice is so deep, Mr. Finnick." Claire said as she sat atop her hippo hero's lap.
The fox rolled his eyes, but it was hardly hard to tell that he was enjoying the attention just a little bit.
"Hush up, we're supposed to be guessing right now."
Chief Bogo stood in the middle of the room, flapping his arms and pecking at the air with his nose. If you'd have just seen below his face fur, I have a feeling he'd be rather pink.
"Come on everyone, this is an easy one." The buffalo groaned as he acted his word out.
"No talking! This is charades!" Nick shouted.
The kits threw guess after guess at the bull.
"Close, you're close."
"Hey! What did I say about talking?" Nick admonished his boss again.
"Hik-in!" Edmund cried.
There was a pause. Nick, who was in charge of the game cards, took a quick glance at the word before turning the card over and shaking his head. "No, that's not it."
"What? What did he say?" asked Miss Gayla.
"Hik-in." the fox explained.
"Nuh! Hik-in!" the tyke repeated, enunciating this time.
"Yeah, sounds like Hik-in to me." Judy agreed, leaning into her fox.
Mrs. Wilde almost laughed.
"It's a bird, I'll give you that. Why don't you make the sound it says, chief?" Nick took another look at the card before wrapping an arm around his rabbit and reclining on the sofa.
"I thought we weren't allowed to speak?" Bogo hissed through clenched teeth.
"You just can't form words." Wilde explained, "though, if we're being honest here, this sound is all I hear when you talk anyways."
Judy smushed her face into the fox's linen shirt in an attempt to smother her laughs.
"You're walking on thin ice, Wilde."
"Excuse me, sir, will you remind me just who it was that invited Mr. 'I've got nobody to spend Christmas with' over in the first place?"
The kits were mildly confused by the fox's comment, as the answer, to them at least, was obvious.
"Why, Shanta Claws did of course."
"Um, Mr. Bogo, your turn is over." Stu explained, pointing to the little hourglass sat upon the coffee table.
"It's ok chief! You can sit next to me for this next round!" Joey chirped at him, scooting over to make room (although not nearly enough room for a buffalo).
Bogo sighed as he took his place, a little smushed, amongst the other mammals on that couch.
"Say, what was your word anyways?" Miss Gayla asked.
"Chicken." Nick and Bogo spoke in unison. Edmund's head hit his lap in frustration.
There was a time, not so long ago, that Nick's father would pull a chair out for his wife at the dinner table. He'd drag it to his chest and tap his claws against its back frame before smiling with that cocksure smile of his. So, when Nick did the same thing, the same chair pull, the same claw tap, the same smile, for a rabbit; Mrs. Wilde found herself looking in a funhouse mirror.
Nick rubbed his paws together as he looked down at this meal, licking his chops. "Boy o' boy, this smells delicious."
Judy nodded, watching her mate work himself up into that feeding frenzy he always worked himself up into whenever a good dinner was on the table. "You guys really outdid yourselves. I can't cook anything half as tasty-looking as this."
"Oh, well you can thank Martha for that, I just pittered about, helping out where I could." Bonnie said, adjusting her silverware.
Nick squinted at his mother in confusion, but a smile quickly found its way to his face. "Martha?" he asked, wide-eyed.
"That's 'Ma' to you." Mrs. Wilde said haughtily, picking her fork up off her napkin. She smiled at Bonnie, though just for a moment. A polite smile.
Nick laughed, shook his head in disbelief and whistled. "Glad to see you're making friends."
Mrs. Wilde scoffed. "Hush up, we're here to eat, aren't we?"
"So, like this?" Joey raised his paw to his forehead, puffing his chest out and straightening his back. He looked like an officer in salute.
"There you go!" Bogo said through a tired smile.
"Do you really think I'll make a good officer Mr. Bogo? Hones- hehe hehe- hey!" the kit was cut off mid-sentence by Nick, who took to tickling him under the arms (being in a salute as he was, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.)
"Sorry Joey, but a cop should be able to salute even in the face of the tickle fox."
"Yeah?" the buck asked as he tried to catch his breath.
"Yeah, I do believe that's in the rulebook." Judy explained as she flipped through channels, all the party having settled down for the evening.
"Well, I can take it then."
No words could have made Nicholas Wilde a happier fox in that moment.
Mrs. Wilde – Martha, as she had come to be known – watched as her son continued his teasing onslaught of ticklish terror on the tiny rabbit. There was something oddly familiar and altogether too familial about the scene.
The kit found he couldn't keep from laughing, and in his defeat, threw his arms around the fox and, as an octopus drags its prey into its break-back grasp, held him close. His twitchy nose rubbed against the underside of Nick's chin and then it was the fox who couldn't keep from laughing. He carried the bun back to the couch and took his place next to Judy again. The rest of the rabbits followed, piling up around the couple, surrounding them with fluff.
It was then that Mrs. Wilde had the most horrific realization, and if you had been there and had your eye on her you too would have seen the exact moment that her world turned topsy turvy.
Though, it could be argued that the word was gently shifting onto its head the moment she met the whole lot of bunnies.
"Martha?" Bonnie asked, concerned.
"Mmm- "the vixen cleared her throat, making a very wet sound, "hmm?"
"What's wrong dearie?
The rest of the party had turned their attention to the mother fox now.
"Nothing." She said, wiping at her eyes.
"Ma?" Nick had sat up from his seat.
There was a breath of silence.
"I- "Mrs. Wilde began, "I've really been quite awful, haven't I?"
Bonnie and Stu exchanged glances.
"Nuh- Not at all…" the mother rabbit said in a whisper.
"I thought we were worlds apart, you know." The mother fox chuckled dryly, her voice raspy. Bonnie handed her a handkerchief, which she gladly accepted.
Finnick, Bogo, and Miss Gayla, who really had no business hearing a word this, shrank into their chairs.
"But seeing you guys, what you have here I mean, well, I realize I'm just a beast." The vixen tried to conjure up a smile.
"No." the vixen interrupted the doe, "You don't need to argue, just accept my apologies."
The rest of the room turned to watch Bonnie, waiting on a response. For a while she said nothing. Her silence was smothering.
And then she did say something.
"Martha, if you're as humbled as you let off, and I do believe you are, you'll listen to my next few words real careful and real sincere like." Her voice was stern but loving, just like you'd expect a mother's to be.
Mrs. Wilde choked back a slight gag.
"You're my family now. You're our family now." The kit's ears rose to attention as they heard their mother say this. "What you did, how you acted, it wasn't the most polite way. But we're not always the most polite bunch ourselves, so if you think for just one second that you aren't one of us because you carried around some nasty prejudices before you got here, well I'm going to have to talk some sense into you darlin, because that just isn't how things work with us."
"You know, Martha." It was Stu's turn to speak, "I wasn't the most peaceable fella out there the day Jude first brought Nicholas down to the farm."
"Ya see, I was a bit of a buffoon myself. Had my own prejudices I suppose, but Nick helped me look past it, and If that's gone and happened to you today," he nodded to his wife, "well, we're closer family already."
Mrs. Wilde gasped for air again, wiping away the now streaming tears. A smile started to find its way back onto her muzzle.
But there was still something to be done.
She turned to Judy.
"Judy, darling, if there's ever someone I should be apologizing to, it's you. I want you to know that this old croon of a fox is sorry. I was so caught up in the assumption that my boy's mate would be a vixen that I hadn't made room in my thick head for the idea that she could be the most wonderful rabbit I'd ever meet. Do you think you could forgive me?"
Judy sat up and placed her paw atop Nick's.
"You're not an old croon." She whispered. Mrs. Wilde swallowed a sob. "But I have a question for you of my own."
The vixen looked her in those big purple jewels where she should have had eyes.
"Will you be able to love us?"
"I think I already do." The fox choked.
"Then there's nothing I need to forgive you for, Mom."
Mrs. Wilde fell forward and out of her chair, stumbling over to her son and his mate. The three embraced and kissed and cooed and giggled and cried.
Everyone turned to the source of the voice and were in awe at what they saw.
By the window, across the room, Edmund stood atop the window seat, a paw pressed to the icy glass pane. The thickest snow of the season had begun to fall.
Joey and Claire did cartwheels in the snow piles, landing on their backs and quickly transitioning into making snow angel-bunnies right there in front of the apartment complex. Charlie and Edmund, neither of whom could do a cartwheel, stomped around in the fluffy white powder, tugging their red scarves tight around their throats.
"Don't get much snowfall like this down at the burrows." Stu said with a whistle.
"No, not at all." Miss Gayla agreed.
"Don't see much of it here in Savannah central either." Bogo added.
"So, are you pleased with how all this turned out?" Judy asked the fox standing close beside her. They watched the street collect its pale blanket.
"Holidays with your family are always… exciting."
"I know that." The rabbit said with a nudge. "But what about your mom?"
The fox thought for a moment.
"I think…" he wrapped his paws around her waist as he spoke, tugging her into him, pressing himself against her, "My family just got a whole lot bigger, and that's always a good thing.
Judy looked up, meeting him snout to snout.
"Yeah… it is…" she whispered back, leaning her muzzle in towards his.
Nick turned to meet Joey face to face. The rabbit kit was stood on Charlie's shoulders, and on his stood Claire, who held Edmund up top, and in the tiniest bun's paw, held over his sister and her fox was a green sprig of mistletoe.
Nick grinned at the rabbits, and his grin widened more and more as time went on; to the point where Edmund knew it was time to start worrying. Without a word, Nick plucked the bun bun off the top of the lapin totem pole and kissed him wet and sloppy-like.
"Ugh! Fuch, nuh!"
Edmund wapped him in the face till he put him down, at which point he turned to Judy and did just the same.
Claire crawled off the bun tower and Joey leaped off after her, losing his balance and bracing himself with his arms as he hit the ground. When he stood up, two paw prints were left in the snow.
"Wow! My paws sure are getting big!" the eldest brother said.
Charlie, certain that he had the bigger paws, shoved his own two down into the snow next to the set left by his brother.
"Those are big paws." He said (though they weren't very much bigger than the ones beside them).
Edmund stuck his paws into the snow next, then followed by Claire to complete the set. The grown-ups, seeing what was going on, decided to add their own prints to the ground. Rounding them off were imprints clearly made by a rabbit and a fox.
Things most find awfully endearing:
Eleven sets of snowy paws on the ground, all very different, all undeniably the same.
The final Chapter of Snowy Paws has finally arrived, and it's only a month late.
Sorry about that, guys. I guess I just got caught up in thoughts and all that jazz. Compounding that, school started back up and I was given the position of environmental campaign coordinator in an organization I've been working with. Needless to say, I've been having a bit of a mental crisis trying to balance my time properly. I do hope the fact that the Christmas season has long since passed doesn't diminish your liking of this story much, though I couldn't really blame you if it does.
Still, thanks for taking time out of your day to read my trash! Leave a review/comment about what I did well and what I can do better, I'm horribly lonely.
As an announcement to whoever may be interested:
What I Didn't Do will be receiving an update soon, and the next story chapter is in the works as we speak (err- you read). Both of these chapters are shaping up to be fun ones (in all the worst ways possible), so stay tuned for that!
And now back to our regularly scheduled angst-fest!