A/N: No claim of ownership is made to Zootopia or any related intellectual properties
"Hello?" Nick whispered, easing the door open as quietly as he could. Seeing that the room's occupant was still in bed and burrowed beneath the covers, he raised his voice slightly. "Stu? You awake?"
The covers shifted slightly as a pair of brown-furred ears appeared, followed by a sleepily blinking Stuart Hopps. Rubbing at his eyes with one paw, the rabbit pushed himself upward and turned toward the door.
"Sweetheart, is that y...oh." Stu's eyes narrowed. "It's the fox."
"Hi, Stu." Nick forced a smile, tipped his head toward the tray he carried. "I brought you some soup."
"I can see that." The bunny sniped. "I'm sick, not blind."
"Of course not." Moving into the room, he carefully placed the tray on the small bedside table. "Are you feeling any better?"
"Well, I'm glad to hear that." Pulling over a bunny-sized chair, Nick settled himself in as comfortably as he could manage, picked up a small piece of toast, and began to butter it lightly.
"You going to be spoon-feeding me, as well?"
"Wasn't planning on it." He calmly placed the buttered toast on the tray and picked up another piece. "I know you like your soup piping hot. I didn't want it to cool off while you were buttering toast."
"And how exactly would you know that?"
"Judy told me."
"Judy told you?" Stu growled.
"Judy told me." Nick repeated, smirking faintly at the older bunny.
"Smart remarks make for lousy first impressions, fox."
Nick briefly fumbled with the rabbit-sized butter knife, but didn't respond.
"Cheese and crackers! Give me that before you make a mess. I'll butter my own damn toast." He began smearing the butter angrily. "Was there something else you needed, fox?"
"My name isn't fox, Stu." Nick sighed. "It's Nicholas Wilde."
"And why should I care?"
"Because I love your daughter." Nick answered simply. "And she loves me."
"You love her? You barely even know her."
"I've got a lifetime to fix that."
"You really think you'll stick around that long?" Stu scoffed.
"Would that be so terrible? You seem to get along with Gideon well enough."
"Gideon's a friend and business partner." Stu fired back. "Both of which are a far cry from being...involved...with my daughter. Which, by the way, is not something I'm alright with!"
"I've gotten that impression." Nick muttered.
"Well, why would I be?! It's completely inappropriate!" Stu cried. "Look at you! You must be twice her age!"
"I'm not twice her age, Stu."
"Like hell you're not! You're practically grey in the whiskers!" The rabbit leaned in to glare at him. "What are you? Forty-five? Fifty?"
"I'm not..." Nick trailed off, unwilling to fight over something so trivial. "Say, did I ever tell you about the day I met Judy?"
"Can't say as you have, fox."
"Man, was she ever a sight to see." He chuckled, ignoring Stu's dig. "She saw someone being treated unfairly and came running in with that bright orange safety vest to save them. In just a few sentences, your daughter had this speciest shop-owner back-pedaling so hard I thought he'd fall right over!"
"Oh, I heard all about that." Stu muttered. "Judy told us all about it, including the way you treated her in return. Where do you get off trying to tear down her dreams?"
"Come on, Stu. You already know that it takes more than a few discouraging words to keep Judy Hopps down."
"And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"I didn't know who I was messing with." Nick laughed, ignoring the question. "Because when she came back for round two, I didn't see the hit coming till I was flat on my back."
"Sounds like you got what you deserved. She'd been in Zootopia for less than a week before you'd dragged her into your shenan...nan...ahchoo!" Stu sneezed loudly and reached blindly for a tissue. Nick lifted the box from the bedside table and handed it to the sniffling bunny.
"To be fair," Nick countered as the box was snatched from his paw. "I was the one that got dragged into her shenanigans."
"I told you, don't get smart with me."
"Sorry. Force of habit. I should probably be going anyway." Nick stood, gathering the dirty dishes onto the tray. He was just about to close the door when the bunny called out.
"Nick, wait!" He turned back to find Stu smiling back at him. "Thanks for the soup. I was really famished."
"I..." Nick hesitated. "You're welcome."
The rabbit's smile faltered slightly. "I'm sorry to be such a burden. I promise, as soon as I'm feeling better I'll be back on my feet and out of your fur."
"You're not a burden, Stu. I promise."
"Well, if you say so."
"I do say so." Nick assured him. "Now get some rest. I'll check in on you later."
"Okay." The buck settled down, pulling the blankets up to his chin. "Bye, Nick."
Closing the door behind him, Nick quietly made his way to the kitchen where Judy was waiting for him. Sitting by the window with her paws were wrapped around a cup of tea, she didn't turn to look at him until he placed the tray on the counter. "How's he doing?"
"Better, I think." He answered, settling down beside her. "His appetite is back."
"That's good." She nodded solemnly. "Did he seem...was he...?"
"He was...just before I left, he seemed to, y'know..." Nick shrugged. "He thanked me for the food, at least."
"I'm sorry, sweetheart."
"It's not your...I mean..." Judy's voice hitched as she wearily leaned into her husband's embrace. "He's right there, b-but I can't even..."
Holding her closely, Nick let his gaze drift over the pictures on the kitchen wall. Inevitably, his eyes came to rest on a photo of him and Stu sitting on the old covered porch at the Hopps' farm.
They'd been playing checkers on a spring afternoon and hadn't noticed Judy sneaking up on them. She'd jumped up over the railing just in time to capture the pair of them laughing uproariously at some joke Nick couldn't remember anymore.
"I just miss him so much." She sobbed.
Behind them, Judy's own reflection was just visible against the window, suspended in midair with her phone in one paw and an impossibly enthusiastic grin on her face.
"Me too, Carrots."
Taken almost sixteen years ago, it had always been one of Nick's favorites.
A/N: Take it from a guy who's seen it up close way too many times: plenty of diseases can kill, but Alzheimer's destroys. If you'd like to donate to Alzheimer's research, go to alz DOT org SLASH give.