A/N: Written for the Writers Anonymous Holiday Challenge.
The Gift of Life
The winter holidays were upon them once again. Judy was in Nick's home talking about their holiday plans. She asked a question that puzzled her.
"Nick, tell me something, why do you never eat on Kitmas?"
"How does your family celebrate Kitmas then?"
"Wow, you have no idea what Kitmas is about. That certainly explains your family's behavior initially."
She gritted her teeth. "Hey! My family improved, they warmed up to you besides, you spent the last two Kitmas celebrations with them. Including the first time where you made feeble excuses for how their cooking was bad while salivating. How do you celebrate Kitmas?"
"By sending food away."
"How sweet, giving to the needy." Judy clasped her paws.
Nick laughed heartily. "Oh, you naïve bunny. Maybe, we should spend Kitmas together."
"I'll hold you to that."
He growled, "Better than what others use the holiday for now anyway, but at least it's not illegal."
"Mammals forget why traditions exist. One day, Kitmas will simply be receiving money electronically. Everything is just a waste of time. What do you think the origins of Kitmas is?"
"We receive gifts that make us happy? Under a Kitmas tree?" She never gave the question much thought, but she felt like she knew because that's what everyone else did.
"It's already too late for you! Oh no!" He posed dramatically. "All is lost! I guess it's not your fault that they didn't teach it in school and your backward family wasn't much help."
"I don't suppose you'll show me the true meaning of Kitmas? Oh, wise one." She was getting annoyed by his cryptic behavior.
"There's no guarantee that you'll understand, but I will try."
"I'm not some dumb bunny."
"That remains to be seen." He chuckled.
With the holiday plans finalized, they spent time enjoying each other's company. She left his home looking forward to the holidays. The Kitmas traditions couldn't be that different, could they? A day of fasting helping the poor certainly seemed okay.
Judy followed Nick's car since he forgot his cell phone at work. She wanted to give the cell phone to him and be on her way. They were close friends, so a surprise visit wouldn't hurt, but he wasn't driving home.
Intrigued, she followed him out of Zootopia Central. He stopped in front of a strange building. It seemed like both a shopping center and a military installation.
"Nick!" she yelled.
He jumped as he turned as if he saw a ghost. "Carrots, what are you doing here?"
"You forgot your cell phone at work, what are you doing here?"
They stood in front of Lionhearts' Hearts which was a cheesy name for an establishment, but there were signs of no prey allowed, along with the use of deadly force is authorized.
"You know, stuff. Thanks for the phone."
"I don't suppose they sell hearts inside there?" She joked. Although, given Lionheart's role in the Night Howler scandal she wasn't sure if it was beyond him.
"Of course not, that'd be illegal. They only sell packaging. See you tomorrow, Carrots."
She should trust him but given his history, there was always a residual fear that he'd do something illegal. When the possibility started her right in the face, she remained to see what would happen. He had to come out of that place sometime with something.
Of course, he entered the building without a hitch, that she couldn't since she was prey. She also feared for his safety even though the building looked government operated. Hours passed until he walked out carrying a comically oversized light green box.
"Carrots, what are you doing here?"
"I was worried about you."
"And? Honesty is the best policy."
She saw slight irritation in his face which compelled her to tell the truth. "I didn't trust you." Her ears wilted in shame.
"It's okay, I still trust you."
She could see that she hurt him, but she couldn't resist asking yet another question. "What did you buy?"
"Everything for Kitmas apparently. The store decided to expand beyond its initial function, and no you can't look."
"I'm heading home now."
She enjoyed her weekend with Nick just like usual with that incident all but forgotten. Nick didn't hold it over her head thankfully. Her guilt gnawed at her until she wanted to apologize. "Nick, I'm sorry."
"Spying on you that day."
"It's okay, Carrots." His tail slithered across her back causing an enjoyable sensation.
She heard yelling when she arrived at the precinct for work early.
"Why don't you add an enemies option? It's my money to lose. You need to face reality," Wolfard yelled.
"Because it's not going to happen," Clawhauser replied.
"So, let me waste my money! It'll be more for you at any rate."
She hadn't seen Wolfard this frustrated since about ever. "What's going on?"
"I'm so sorry, Judy," Wolfard's fur bristled as he started down the cheetah.
Clawhauser slammed his fist on the counter. "Look, Wolfard, I don't know what's gotten into you."
"I never took you for one to be cold-hearted."
"You're certainly one to talk."
"I'm just going to go." Judy walked away from the bizarre situation.
The day went on as normal despite the altercation in the morning. Although, she noted Wolfard accidentally bumped into Nick once sending his files to the floor. Of course, he immediately apologized, and everyone helped clean the mess up.
The pattern repeated the following three days.
"Alright, Wolfard, I don't know what's gotten into you, but those aren't accidents," Judy said. "Stop before I report you to Chief Bogo."
"Oh wow, you'd go this far for me." Nick walked by.
"Doesn't that make you feel guilty?" Wolfard asked. "Shouldn't your conscience tell you something?"
"That's quite the projection. I believe you owe me an apology."
Wolfard apologized grudgingly. Judy walked with Nick back to their desks.
"What's that about?"
"He's just grumpy during the holidays."
"Hmm." She knew something was missing even though she couldn't place her paw on what. Wolfard didn't act that way towards Nick last year. "What aren't you telling me?"
Nick simply smiled. "Why would that be?"
Even though something was off, she couldn't put a concrete answer to that question.
"Wait, you're asking me where I want to spend Kitmas?" Judy asked.
"Either here, or my mother's place."
"Shouldn't you do that before the last two days?" She knew her family had to schedule weeks in advance for a celebration.
"It doesn't matter for us predators. Kitmas Eve is tomorrow."
"Your mother's place then," she replied. She thought it was his way of admitting that he didn't put up any decorations at all.
They drove to his mother's place. She was disappointed that her house was just as barren as his. There was nothing festive about it.
"Mom, we're having Judy over for Kitmas."
"I see." Vivian ushered them in. "What type of Kitmas?"
"Don't you celebrate by giving food away to the needy? Does that mean we'll spend Kitmas Eve cooking?" Judy asked.
"So, in other words, you have no idea of what's going to happen." She addressed Nick. "You didn't lie, did you?"
"Of course not," Nick said.
"My initial assessment is that you won't be celebrating Kitmas with him."
"Are you asking me to leave?" Judy said.
"Oh, not at all. Always glad to have a friend over for Kitmas. I don't know what both of your expectations are for this holiday, but it can go badly. So, maybe don't set them too high."
"Is that why there are no decorations?"
"How much fun should I have with this?" Vivian smirked.
"What happened about having low expectations?" Nick asked.
Judy didn't know what to think as she made herself at home in the non-festive house. This wasn't her first-time meeting Vivian, but she expected something more. Back at her family, everything would be in a celebratory mood whereas here, not only were decorations missing, there wasn't even a true echo of holiday cheer.
Nick acted his normal self as far as she could tell, which wasn't an issue. But tomorrow was Kitmas Eve and there weren't even decorations. It was odd that they did have a tree in the front which was something that Nick lacked. There weren't any lights on the tree at all nor around the house.
"Can I help put up the lights?" she asked.
"That's not something friends do," Vivian replied. "And we don't have any enemies right now."
"The world wasn't always peaceful. Kitmas certainly helped the world achieve peace. Santa Claws included, but that's outdated."
"Isn't that just a kit's tale? Everyone knows he isn't real."
"Well, that's good. Worshipping Santa Claws requires blood. Not willingly given. He represents love and kindness."
"That sounds a bit contradictory."
"But it all makes perfect sense."
"I don't suppose I can learn your version of Kitmas?"
"Only on Kitmas day, and that's if you want to. It's an open secret lost to time. I really hope you ask."
Judy returned to the room where she watched television with Nick. "Is anything special going to happen tomorrow?"
"In a way."
They parted ways since it was late. Vivian gave her, her own room. She couldn't help but feel disappointed that It wasn't a grand day or by her standards even festive celebration. Nick gave her version of Kitmas a chance, and she owed it to him to do the same.
She woke up early to see Nick cooking.
"What happened to you?" Judy asked. His tail was missing fur so was his right paw.
"I lost an argument with my mother."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah. My fur's going to grow back."
"Wow, you're making my favorite carrot cake. Do I get to eat it?"
"Of course," he replied. "Here."
She took a bite while she noted that Nick like usual ate nothing. "Wait, you don't even eat on Kitmas even here?"
"I feel guilty, you're going to eat nothing today and tomorrow."
Vivian walked into the dining room. "I see he's taking good care of you."
"Do you eat nothing too? Or is that just him?"
"Tradition. All predators who celebrate this holiday eat nothing these two days for the most part."
"What happens for the rest of the day?"
"He tries to plan the perfect day for you."
"This certainly seems romantic."
"The roots of Kitmas are in forbidden love."
"Do we call the celebration off? Because, Nick, you're great and all but I don't know if I feel that way about you. We haven't even spent valentines together."
"it's also a one-sided holiday. So, don't worry about that."
"I think you told her too much," Nick said.
"Not at all. We don't need to be this cryptic, besides the less you reveal, the more disappointed you'll be."
"Is that why you said this can go badly?" Judy said.
"If expectations aren't the same, very much so."
"I need some time to think." She entered her room while not even finishing the carrot cake Nick made her. This wasn't at all what she expected. Nick was a friend, yes, but did she feel that way about him? Let alone, did he feel that way about her?
She walked outside of her room after an hour where Nick and Vivian sat at a table. "Nick, do you love me?"
Nick attempted to speak but Vivian stopped him. "I can tell you this much, he isn't doing all this because he's forced. He wants to. To calm your nerves, this includes platonic love."
"That's a fancy way of saying friendship." She changed the topic since she wanted a distraction. "Wait, when are we giving food away?"
"Tomorrow," Nick replied.
"I'm just confused about the way I feel about you, right now," Judy admitted.
"It's okay, Carrots, this is a complicated holiday especially when you have no idea what's going to happen. I think my mother revealed too much."
"Why did she do that then?" Judy said.
"She has higher expectations than I do."
"What do you expect?"
"Today is still your perfect day, whenever you're ready or rather what I think you'll enjoy."
He ignored her question, that certainly didn't help matters. Nick made lunch for her too despite what happened in the morning. She enjoyed his cooking while he salivated over being unable to eat. It was certainly a strange way to celebrate Kitmas.
The rest of the day, he gave her plenty of opportunities to play with his fur. She certainly enjoyed the chances as it was something she didn't ask since it seemed rude. A nagging question plagued her mind of how she felt about Nick.
She was eating a piece of cake until her vision began to blur.
"Where am I?" She blinked.
"Judy, are you okay?" Bonnie said. "We found you underneath our Kitmas tree."
"Wait, is this a dream? And you found me in the snow?"
"Not exactly." Bonnie showed Judy everything that arrived with her including a blanket, a light-green box with several air holes, tied with a red bow. There were scraps of Nick's fur all about the container. A trail of lights leading to the box.
"Wait, where's Nick?"
"Back in Zootopia with his family?"
"I'm supposed to be celebrating Kitmas with him. Why am I in Bunnyburrow?"
"We thought so too, did something happen?"
She decided to visit Gideon since not only was he a fox, he helped solve her last dilemma. His house wasn't festive, but there were some decorations on his tree.
"Gideon?" She knocked.
"So, this is going to sound confusing. I was celebrating Kitmas with Nick, and suddenly, I'm in Bunnyburrow." She noted that his house wasn't festive at all.
"Is that all? Miss Hopps. Are you going back to him?"
"Go back to him?"
"If you want to, I insist on baking you some pies."
"What if I don't? I mean my family's here and all," she said.
"No one will judge you for what you choose to do."
She heard Gideon's stomach grumble. "Have you not eaten?"
"Not since yesterday."
"I don't suppose you know what he wants?" she said while expecting a no.
"Oh, that's easy, he wants you to go back to him. Of course, that rarely happens."
"Does that mean love? Cause I don't know if I feel that way about him."
"Not necessarily. It's certainly rare to celebrate Kitmas this way, these days. He should give you all the answers you seek."
"It's an open secret."
She waited for Gideon to bake a few pieces before heading back to Zootopia. Her parents let her borrow their car once more before much to her surprise otherwise she was stuck taking public transportation which ran faster than normal.
This time she took note how barren a few houses were with decorations. Predators happened to live in these houses. What Vivian said echoed in her mind, regarding enemies when wanted to put up Kitmas lights.
Vivian's house wasn't festive at all, even on Kitmas day. Judy rang the doorbell not knowing what to expect.
"I win." Vivian gloated.
"So, she came back."
"And made me lose a bet."
"I'm confused," Judy said. "Gideon also told me to bring a few pies."
"You got pies out of the deal, cheer up," Vivian said.
"Wait, he's going to eat on Kitmas day? I don't suppose I can take a picture?" She certainly didn't expect that.
Judy brought the pies inside. She wanted answers to the questions in her mind. "Just what happened? I want answers."
"Are you sure you want to hear this now? I did promise you an explanation, but over lunch?"
"Why aren't you eating while he is?" Judy took a bite of the pie.
There was that ever-irritating answer once again. "I want answers."
"Mom, are you sure, now's the time for a history lesson?"
"That's what she wants," Vivian said.
"Can't we wait till after?" Nick begged.
Vivian relented, thus Judy had to wait until they finished the pie.
Judy felt apprehensive when the moment finally came. Vivian said, "Sapience came first before insect farming."
"Well, I know Zootopia's history," Judy said. "I did a play on it when I was nine."
Nick and Vivian gave her the true version of history which churned her stomach. It wasn't even on the history books because it was taboo. A tradition passed down orally if at all. The government even stepped in to regulate the tradition because it was a sacred right as well as fraught with danger. It also was a felony if done on any other day. If the prey were alive without permanent damage, the predators got away scot-free.
"Just to make sure I've everything correct. Did you drug me, drive me all the way to Bunnyburrow in the dead of night without any instructions mind you, all in the name of tradition?" Judy failed to keep her voice calm as her thoughts were brimming with rage.
"And certain mammals use the holiday for the very opposite of what it stands for. They send prey that they don't like to far away relatives with the hopes of leaving them stranded along with inflicting maximum pain, so they wouldn't dare to return."
Nick nodded again.
"That certainly explains a lot." Judy finally understood why Wolfard acted the way he did towards Nick. She felt calmer now although still incredibly angry at Nick for daring to do something so stupid. It was some solace that Nick didn't beat her within an inch of her life even though the holiday allowed him to do so. "Can you please enlighten me, Nick, why you thought this was a good idea? Not only did you revel in everything, but what if I didn't figure it out?"
"I wanted to feel special, and if you were angry that gives you some time away from me. You returned because you wanted to."
"I'm not sure if I should be happy that you didn't try to lie. I doubted my own memories when I first woke up from your scheme. I returned to get answers and to make sense of it all, only to find out it was something so stupid and archaic."
"Please allow me to apologize and make it up to you."
She sighed. "I will allow you to try only if you promise not to do anything remotely like this again. You are my dumb fox."
A/N: This story might undergo multiple revisions.