Chapter 2: Sleepless Nights
Three days passed since he revealed the truth to Judy. She was right outside his house after he lumbered home in his sleep-deprived state after their shift.
"Why are you here?" His voice quivered with every word.
"Nick, you didn't drive?"
"I wanted to save gas?" He smiled weakly.
"Something's wrong isn't it?"
"What's the use in hiding." He opened the door to his house. "Why are you here?"
They sat beside each other on the couch. He ran his claws gently through her fur.
"You forgot your bag," Judy said.
"And a few other reasons: Not being mentally present during conversations, two misfiled parking violations."
"And you told no one?"
"Because you're my partner and friend. What's wrong Nick?"
"I can't sleep. I have the same nightmare every single night. Sometimes it gets worse before I wake up to see it's all a dream. Your fur ends up in a box shipped to me while I have no way of knowing whether you're dead or alive. Not that being alive would be any good." He cried. It had been so good to get that off his chest. "I don't want to lose you."
"I'll spend the night with you, Nick. For the benefit of your health, I'll tell you everything that I plan to do once I have a plan. You don't have to worry."
"You don't have a plan?" He arched an eyebrow.
"Everything's so grand and complicated that it seems hopeless."
"I don't suppose you'll give up?" He looked at her with pleading eyes.
"I'll think of something."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"You'll be there every step of the way."
He felt so relieved he let exhaustion take hold.
Nick blinked several times as he felt Judy's paws stroke his head over and over. "What happened?"
"You fell asleep."
His head laid across her lap. "Can we stay like this?"
"Go back to sleep, it's okay."
It wasn't until tomorrow noon that he opened his eyes. Judy was asleep with her paws on his head. Several thoughts of impending doom entered his mind as they missed work, and this was beyond late. Judy certainly wasn't in any condition to work. He gently moved his head away as not to disturb her. Not knowing if Judy called in sick for them, he had to do that next.
He moved away from Judy before dialing Chief Bogo. Even though Chief Bogo made efforts to be less judgmental Nick knew his biases still lingered despite the efforts he made. "Sir, Hopps and I would like to call in sick. I'm not sure if she's done so already, but we're in no condition to work."
Nick moved the phone away from his ear as he expected an incoming rant. "Noted, I don't care about the details," Bogo replied.
"You're taking this rather well."
The line went dead immediately without another word.
He decided to cook food for them since he could imagine what Judy did just for him. She was still soundly asleep on the couch in an upright position. There was enough time for Nick to finish making ramen for two before she woke up.
"Nick! What time is it?"
"Noon," Nick replied lethargically.
"We need to get to work."
"Don't bother, I already called in sick for both of us. You were still soundly asleep before I woke up. I also made us lunch." He phrased this response much more coherently as if mentally awake.
"But we can show up for the last two hours. We're not sick." Judy made her way to the table.
"I don't know about you, but I am. I don't think I can maintain focus for the rest of the day. I'm running on adrenaline right now, I think before a crash." His eyes closed involuntarily while his head tilted to the side.
"Just how tired are you?" Judy asked.
"You try going three days without adequate sleep while putting on an act to show everyone that you're awake." Nick haphazardly consumed the noodle soup he made. It wasn't elegant, but he finished without any spilling on himself. "I think I want to go back to sleep now." Without seeing her reaction, he moved upstairs to sleep.
He laid his head on his pillow before covering himself with a blanket.
"Carrots, why are you here?" He felt her paws stroking his tail repeatedly.
"I heard screaming. You were twitching in your sleep until you breathed in my scent then your face slowly turned into a smile, even more, when I started playing with your tail."
"That … did not happen," he said. It wasn't that he thought she was lying but didn't want to admit that he did that.
"Do you want me to leave?"
"Stay, your paws feel comforting."
"It's okay, Nick, I'll stay with you as long as you need me to."
"Am I that shaken up that I can't sleep alone?" Nick laughed bitterly.
"You don't need to keep everything to yourself anymore."
"And you'd go so far for a friend."
Nick and Judy spent a few hours watching television until it was time for bed once more.
"You can have the bed, Carrots, I'll take the couch."
"Not happening. We're not going to skip work tomorrow because you didn't get enough sleep. And I'm not going to stroke your head until you wake up because I need sleep."
"I'll be fine, Carrots, trust me." He moved out of the bedroom where they were watching television.
Before he could even get comfortable, Judy asked, "Can I sleep with you?"
"It's going to be fine."
"But I won't be."
Her ears pointed downwards. "Never mind, I should've left when I had the chance. Is it too late to drive home?"
He envisioned that he could sleep knowing that she was close by instead of being right next to him, but she didn't want that. "How should we sleep then?" They went back to the bedroom where she suggested that he sleep on top of her. "Won't I be too heavy?"
"I did this with my siblings all the time. It'll be fine."
Without daring to argue, Nick assumed the position while hoping he could keep the inappropriate dreams at bay. There was a positive note that this position should keep the nightmares at bay. He took a few whiffs of her scent before drifting to sleep.
He heard shouting in his ears. "Nick! Nick!" she grumbled. "Wake up!" He blinked several times before realizing that last night happened and Judy slept within his clutches. "Finally! Did you know that you're a really deep sleeper?"
"Your forehead is wet," he remarked.
"A certain fox is responsible for that, but I don't care. My siblings have done worse before. We're going to be in so much trouble, we're going to be late again!"
"Fine, let's get ready for work." Nick moved enough to let Judy slip away. "After five more minutes."
Judy pulled on his ear. "Now!"
He growled but got out of bed. Although, he took his time getting ready for work when all Judy did was grab some fruit out of the fridge for breakfast before waiting impatiently for him to be ready.
"We're already late, Carrots, a few more minutes won't matter."
Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he took his time to prepare a proper meal. A waffle topped with insects, fruit as well as whipped cream. "Want some?" He gestured toward her while she stared at him from the opposite end of the table.
"Can't you eat faster?"
"Argh!" She tapped her foot on the floor endlessly.
"That's not going to make me any faster, you know. Why are you waiting for me anyway?"
"The chief will likely make me wait for you."
It took him an hour before he was ready to leave for work, much to Judy's irritation. He entered the car which Judy drove.
"You know that speeding is against the law, right? Do you want a ticket?" Nick smirked.
Judy grunted but slowed down within the acceptable range. "Are you trying to be annoying, or does it normally happen?"
"Why don't you tell me? You seem to enjoy my charming company."
"At least, you're back to your old self."
They arrived at the ZPD being only two hours late. The cheetah was snacking on donuts once more in his usual carefree attitude. Although his face twisted into a grin as the came closer while giggling to himself. "Hi, Clawhauser." Judy waved. He waved them away while looking intently at his latest Gazelle app.
Chief Bogo's office awaited them shortly after. He smiled as he looked over files on his desk.
"I don't suppose there's good news?" Nick asked. "You seem to be in a good mood."
"And there it goes," Chief Bogo said.
"Sir, I would like to–"
"Don't care about your excuses." Bogo interrupted Judy. "You're both going to Woodson Highschool to enlighten students about the Night Howler case in two hours."
"She's not good at public speaking," Nick reminded Bogo.
"That's why you're there."
"Well, at least, it's not parking duty," Judy grunted.
"You can't really screw this one up, at least," Nick commented.
"What do we do for two hours?"
"I don't care." Bogo waved dismissively. "Dismissed.
They left his office.
"It's not like him to give us time off," Judy said.
"He gives us time off too much. It's also known as parking duty."
"You're doing most of the talking."
"It'll be fine, what can go wrong?"
"I'm sure we'll have a list by the end of the day."
They certainly arrived on time at the high school. A balanced mix of predators and prey attended the school much to their surprise. The students certainly turned towards them immediately before they even entered the school.
A bunny doe wearing pink ran up to them. "Hi, my name's Oaklyn, can you tell me if it hurts to like like a fox?"
Judy whispered in Nick's ear, "I don't understand the question."
"Of course, you wouldn't," Nick grunted. He turned towards the curious rabbit. "Sorry to disappoint you, we don't know."
"I don't suppose you can find out soon?" Oaklyn asked.
"Not at this rate," Nick noted the complete lack of reaction from Judy. He debated if he should tell Judy to clean herself as anyone with a keen sense of smell could sniff his scent on her. His co-workers pretended that they couldn't tell anything different and she was too dumb to notice. But it was fun watching her being completely clueless despite the risqué question the student asked. "I applaud you on your bravery."
Judy whispered, "Let's find the principal's office."
They were soon presenting in front of an auditorium about their involvement in the case. Nick certainly noted that the students didn't care about the presentation itself, but they were studying him and Judy intently.
Of course, he left it to Judy to remain oblivious to everything that went on. She actually thought the presentation mattered when he was sure Chief Bogo used this to push their relationship along. He wasn't sure if he should be glad that Judy was this dense.
"Nothing went wrong," Judy said.
"That depends if you're visiting this place next week," Nick replied. He was certain that rumors were going to fly around the school thanks to their visit.
They made their way to the principal's office to formally notify the school they were leaving. One brave fox with a death wish charged in. He yelled at the top of his lungs. "Can you tell me how to have sex with a rabbit?"
The principal apologized profusely for the student's behavior while Nick laughed.
"Good job, you actually did it." A doe walked up towards the brave fox. "Here's ten bucks."
"You're giving him ten of your siblings? Does he even swing that way?" Nick asked.
The principal silenced him with a glare before turning towards his charges. "Alright, one week's detention for both of you."
"Are bears always grumpy?" Nick asked.
"Hey! How come he doesn't get detention?" The doe pointed towards Nick.
"Can we get an answer?" the fox asked. "At least?"
Nick waved his paws in front of Judy to see if she would respond. Since she made no movement, he licked her ear. "Nick, what's going on? We're in public!"
For his final quip of the day, he turned towards the two students. "You might need to teach us."
"What could they teach us?" Judy asked.
"Don't worry about that. We finished the presentation, let's go." Nick made his way to the door while the principal sighed in relief. Once outside, he remarked, "Well, tomorrow will be interesting."
"Did something happen?" Judy blinked.
"Not at all."
She drove them towards his house. "I'm staying at your place again in case you have nightmares."
Nick willed himself not to make another wise comment as she drove them home. He wondered what types of dreams she would be having if she actually understood what today's true purpose was. It was likely she never even considered the question considering how she went into shock upon hearing it. At least, she was a true friend even though she was totally clueless.
A/N: This chapter's mostly fluff.
I've been debating if I should write a new version of my longest story: Of Polygamous Rabbits and Monogamous Foxes exploring what would happen if Judy was honest about everything.
It's a story many many flaws and lost opportunities.
A small voice also tells me I should consider revamping Secrets of Everlight. (Changing it to third person, improving the overall writing, while keeping the story mostly the same.)