Back at Nick's house, Judy slowly became aware of her surroundings as she awoke from her deep sleep. The ticking of the wall clock was the first sound she was conscious of, followed by the softer beat of her mate's steady heartbeat beneath her ear. His comforting scent was the next thing she took in. It enveloped her like a warm blanket, as did his arm and fluffy tail, which completely relaxed her as a soft smile turned up the corners of her mouth.
Lifting her head slightly, she glanced at Nick's clock on his nightstand to see it was almost 10. It had been a long time since she had last slept in so late (not since her first day home from the academy). Dropping her head back on Nick's warm, fluffy chest, Judy took a deep breath, not at all put out about sleeping in late for once. After her marriage to Nick yesterday, she had earned a late morning in bed. This thought had her smile growing even bigger.
As she lay, enjoying the peace and warmth of the morning and her mate's presence, the memories of the previous day and (more importantly—the previous night), began trickling into her mind. As her cheeks, nose, and ears flushed a bright red at the memories, Judy sucked in a deep breath, then buried her face into her mate's fluffy white chest. With this, the dam burst, and the memories flooded her mind, even as her body began to respond in kind. "I'm such a shameless rabbit," she murmured softly into Nick's thick, creamy fur.
For once, she felt like she was living up to the 'rabbit stereotype'…at least half of it. Not the part about them being timid, of course, but the part about them being unable to keep their paws off each other…that whole 'rabbits are good at multiply' thing. Well, she only had a problem keeping her paws off Nick—not any rabbit buck. The saying, 'They're breeding like rabbits,' now took on a whole new meaning to her. Not that she was complaining. After last night, and going by how her body was responding to the mere memory of what she and Nick had been up to, Judy figured it was probably a good thing that Nick couldn't easily get her pregnant (she was still hoping for a miracle baby).
Because after spending yesterday afternoon, and again last night, in Nick's strong arms—Judy fully intended to spend many, many more hours in the grasp of her husband's criminally talented paws. Thinking of the fun and sensual pleasure she and Nick were sure to get up to later made her scent spike, even as her fingers began wandering across Nick's stomach.
A moment later, Nick's nose began twitching as the delicious smell he was surrounded by just turned a hundred times sweeter. Licking his nose, he subconsciously took a deeper breath, then rolled over on his side as he pulled his honeybun closer into his chest. Burying his nose into the short fur between her ears, Nick murmured sleepily, "Something smells delicious." Turning his muzzle slightly, he nibbled on the base of Judy's ear, then he murmured, "Tastes delicious, too."
With her nose and tail twitching, Judy giggled, then rubbed her nose into Nick's chest, even as she ran her fingers and dull claws through the thick fur of his lower belly and across his sheath, making him purr while her own abdominal muscles began tightening in anticipation for the pleasures to come.
Running his claws down Judy's lithe back—which had her humming in happiness—Nick then captured her quivering tail. After combing through it with his claws for a few minutes, he then dug his sharp claws through her fur till he found her tailbone, then ran two of his sharp claws up his honeybun's hypersensitive little nub, sending warm shivers up his mate's spine.
With an "Eep!" at Nick's sensual move, Judy gripped the fur at the side of his chest tightly with one paw while gripping his belly fur tightly with the other, even as she pressed her face into the middle of his chest. Sucking in a deep breath as Nick ran his claws back down her sensitive little nub of a tailbone, Judy moaned, "Ni-ick!" As Nick teased her tail again, Judy moved the paw gripping his belly fur over to return the favor by running her fingers up and over his sensitive sheath. Two could play at this game!
Groaning at his honeybun's move, Nick growled and then rolled her over onto her back. Grabbing the eager paw teasing his sheath in one of his own, he pinned it against the pillow before grabbing her other paw and trapping under the first. With both of her paws now trapped securely beneath one of his own, Nick locked muzzles with his fairy princess, even as his free paw began doing its own exploration of her hot, reactive body.
Having been captured by her hot mate's predatory jaws, Judy moaned at every one of Nick's criminal touches and devilish kisses. But when he finally released her captive mouth to nip possessively down her jawline to her exposed neck, Judy took a deep breath and murmured in a husky whisper, "Sorry, Slick, but you'll have to hold onto that thought for a second."
Hearing the strange urgency in his honeybun's voice, Nick paused before glancing up to meet Judy's burning amethysts with his own confused emeralds. "Come again, Carrots?"
Pulling one paw free from her mate's suddenly loose grip, Judy ran her finger along the bridge of Nick's nose, then bit her lip in embarrassment. After a moment, she pressed a placating kiss on his big, black nose before replying, "I need to relieve my bladder before we get too deep into this." With a quick nose rub, Judy added, "And I do want to get back to this heavenly moment, my handsome demon prince."
Nick's eyes widened a moment, dumbstruck, but then he smirked, saying, "You forgot that I'm 'devilishly' handsome."
Giggling, Judy nodded, then corrected herself, saying, "My devilishly handsome demon prince."
Nick's grin grew wider, then he leaned forward to steal another deep kiss. Tangling with her tongue briefly, he licked the roof of her mouth, then pulled back and broke the kiss. With a sigh, he rolled over onto his back and rubbed his eyes. "Yeah, that's probably a good idea," he muttered, not wanting to stop at all, not even for something as needful as a bathroom break (though he wasn't about to pass it up—a bathroom break was something they definitely needed first thing in the morning). Regardless, Nick couldn't wait to find out if this morning would be just a wonderful as last night, or if it would be even better. You know what they say, 'Practice makes perfect, right?'
Judy merely giggled as she rolled out of bed, landing on her good leg, then sauntered into the bathroom with just a slight limp in her injured leg. Nick watched her fluffy tail the whole way while licking his chops. As she slipped through the bathroom door, he dropped his paw over his eyes. Nick figured he had to be the luckiest fox on the planet to win such an amazing rabbit as his mate.
Waiting until he heard Judy washing her paws, Nick rolled out of bed and joined her in the bathroom. Stepping behind her at the sink, Nick wrapped his arms around her middle and kissed the back of her neck, then raised his muzzle to her ear. With his hot breath tickling the inside of her ear, he murmured in a husky voice, "It's a good thing we don't have to stop by the doctor's office this morning because I plan to start the day off right."
Giggling, Judy dried her paws as she looked up to nip his chin, saying, "Then you better hurry, Foxy-Loxy, 'cause I don't want to be kept waiting."
As Judy flicked his lower abdomen with her tail, Nick growled hungrily down at her, even as he raked his claws through her fluffy tail as she turned and sauntered back towards the bed, her limp barely noticeable.
When his honeybun reached the bed, Nick turned back to getting his own business done, but as he stepped back into the bedroom, his jaw dropped as drool started pooling in his mouth. What a luscious sight! Judy had not only crawled up on the bed but was lying face down in the center. But that wasn't the whole of it. She had pulled her feet up underneath her with her tail flicking high in the sky, just begging to be eaten. With everything he wanted on full display, how could he leave his honeybun waiting?
Dropping down onto all four, Nick stalked towards the bed. With a low growl that had his delightful morning 'snack' moaning in anticipation, he pounced up on the bed and landed right on top of Judy. Growling deeply, he wrapped his arms around her middle and bit down lightly at the base of one of her ears. Judy shrieked at the suddenness of his attack, and then started giggling as the two squirmed around on the bed—Judy tried to twist around in Nick's arms so she could tease him with her own paws, claws, and flat teeth while Nick preferred their current position.
After several minutes of tussling which was filled with Nick's low growls and Judy's squeals, giggles, and moans as Nick's teeth, claws, and strong paws worked their magic on her young, eager body, Judy finally gave in to being eaten by Nick. Her time to eat him would come and then he would be the one squirming around and groaning while eagerly waiting to be devoured and satisfied. With an excited and eager smile, she knew it was just a matter of time.
It was nearly noon by the time the two found their way downstairs, dressed and fully satisfied, while feeling far more in control than they had been the last couple of days. A late morning in bed followed by a long, hot shower that was steamier than the previous one they had shared left them both feeling relaxed and content with themselves, with each other, and with the world in general. For this one moment in time (and hopefully many more), everything was perfect and right in their world. This was where they belonged and whom they belonged with.
Seeing as they were both ravenous after their morning 'workout', with neither wanting to cook, they pulled out the leftover biscuits and gravy Amy had made the previous morning. They didn't feel like talking as they ate, either, but enjoyed the comfortable silence as two lovers stealing warm, happy, satisfied glances at each other while playing footsie under the table.
They were just about done with the meal when Judy's phone rang. Nick and Judy both stared wide-eyed at each other knowing it was bound to be one or both of Judy's parents, judging by the ringtone.
With a blink, Judy took a deep breath, then pulled out her phone and smiled while hitting the accept button to the MuzzleTime call. "Oh, hey, it's my…dad!" Judy almost said parents but then realized her mom hadn't appeared on the screen.
"Hey, bun-bun," Stu said while looking a bit surprised that Judy answered the call so quickly. "I half expected you to be taking a nap or something."
Judy rolled her eyes while glancing at the kitchen clock. "Dad, it's barely noon. There's no way I'd be napping this early in the day." In her head, she thought, 'Especially not after seeing how late I slept in this morning!'
"Well, yeah," Stu said while scratching his head, "but it seems like every time we called earlier this week you were always sleeping."
Judy rolled her eyes. "Dad, that was the first few days while I was recovering from my depression and a leg injury."
"I know, I know," Stu muttered, "it's just…I guess I'm just relieved to see how alive and happy you seem now. You were really startin' to scare us back there in Bunnyburrow, Judes. It was like the life had gone right out of you."
Judy didn't immediately respond as her ears began to droop. "Yeah," she murmured softly. "For a while there, the life had gone out of me." Her short stay in Bunnyburrow these last several weeks hadn't been the happiest time of her life, what with her feeling like she had not only set the city ablaze with fear and hate, but had completely ruined her relationship with Nick by dropping what felt like a hydrogen bomb on it. Talk about a royal screw-up!
But that was all behind her now. With her ears perking up again, Judy smiled while saying, "But I'm all better now, Dad. I got my dream job back and a wonderful…boyfriend…who understands me and supports me in my dream."
Judy almost stumbled over what to call Nick seeing as her dad didn't know they were already married and mated. She hadn't called her new hubby her 'boyfriend' for long, and it had been a delight to call Nick that for the few days they were dating, but now… After everything that happened between them yesterday afternoon, last night, and again this morning, Judy had a hard time calling Nick such a tame term. They were now mates—now and for forever—so how could she be happy calling him something so simple as 'boyfriend'?
Stu studied Judy's blinding, buck-toothed smile. Seeing as she was now looking over the phone at something (or someone) sitting across from her, he assumed his bun-bun was looking starry-eyed up at Nick. As a father, the scariest moments in his life had always been whenever his wife gave birth to their children and when his daughters brought home their boyfriends for him to meet. Where his daughters were concerned, he still worried whether or not the bucks would treat his little girls right, that they would show his daughters the respect they deserved.
There were a few whom he was happy to give his blessing to their growing relationship, but most had to work hard to earn his trust and blessing. But seeing how happy his little Judes was with her new foxy boyfriend, Stu had to re-evaluate his feelings towards their relationship. The idea of any of his daughters held in the strong paws and sharp claws of a predatory fox absolutely scared him to death, but this wasn't just any fox. Stu couldn't deny it any longer. This was the fox who had saved his little girl's life, her dream, and then her heart.
After spending most of the night lying awake in bed and thinking of the shocking relationship bombshell Judy had flung in his face yesterday afternoon, Stu couldn't deny the things Nick Wilde had done for his daughter. The fox had gone way past the extra mile in keeping Judy happy and safe, and there was nothing Stu could fault the todd for. Nick had treated his little bun-bun with respect and dignity, far more than any other mammal had ever bothered to before (including himself).
Putting his own name down on the long list of mammals, rabbits and other species alike, who had underestimated Judy was one of the hardest things Stu ever admitted to himself, but it was true. He never had given his little 'Jude the Dude' the respect and dignity she deserved. He always assumed her big dream of being a big city cop was just a pipe dream. And even after she graduated from the Police Academy and was sent to District 1, he never believed she would last, so when they saw Judy was just a meter maid, he was ecstatic because that was a safe job a 'little rabbit' could do.
But Judy wasn't your average rabbit, and she would go on to do things no other rabbit had ever done before. His 'little trier' didn't just try—she succeeded! So, admitting how much he had misjudged his little girl was harder to swallow than he had thought, but Bonnie was right to read him the riot act on the long train ride home yesterday. Judy wasn't a little girl anymore but a full-fledged adult with a good head on her shoulders, and he needed to have more faith in her when making life decisions—including the one about her current boyfriend.
Although Nick might have agreed grudgingly when Judy first roped him into helping her on her case, after spending a day chasing after leads with her, Nick recognized her ability in being a real, big city cop. He believed in her. Stu had to wonder… Had he, her own father, ever truly believed that his little trier could actually be a real police officer in a massive city like Zootopia? Had he ever really believed that she, a small country bunny, had what it took to make it with the big boys, as it were? The answer was a loud, resounding NO.
Being a rabbit from an isolated, predominantly prey town, Stu had never really believed in Judy's dream. He always assumed she would fail, and when she did, he was prepared to give her a shoulder to cry on and pat her on the back while encouraging her to do a much safer, rabbit-friendly job. It didn't even have to be a carrot farmer like him, just something close to home and safe. But Nick, a city fox, had seen his daughter's hard work and talent for being a cop—regardless of the fact that she was just a small, country bunny. And so, he stood up for her, and fought for her dream. Something no one else had ever done for her.
This gave Stu a lot to think about. Did he, her own father, who never stood up for, nor fought for her dream, have any right to complain about the slick todd swooping in to steal her heart after risking his neck and tail for her? Could he really complain about the todd—a predator—sweeping his little bun-bun off her feet after fighting tooth and claw to protect her?
Taking a deep breath, Stu knew he couldn't. Not in good faith, anyways. As Bonnie had so recently pointed out to him, Nick had done what no one else would ever think to do for such a daring, little rabbit like Judy. And if Nick continued to support her, and fight for her dream, could he, as her father, really ask for a better partner for his daring, over-achieving daughter? No, no, he couldn't. Nick was even willing to become a cop, too, just so he could continue protecting her! What buck out there would ever do that for his little trier? There wasn't one, that's what!
Taking a deep breath, Stu swiped a paw down his face, then focused on his daughter once more. "I can see you're better now, Jude's, your ears ain't all droopy anymore, and you found your smile again. I'm happy for you, sweetie, I really am, but…" Stu took another deep breath while trying not to sound overbearing, nosy, or annoying. Finally, he took his beat-up old John Deere cap into his free paw and waded into the hardest father-daughter conversation of his adult life. Squeezing the brim of his old green and white hat tightly in his grasp, Stu asked the million-dollar question: "Are you sure about Nick, Judy?"
Stu had asked this same question before to all his married and engaged daughters, but more than he ever needed to hear from them in the past, he needed to know Judy's answer to this loaded question. His 'Jude the Dude' wasn't just marrying some buck from the next town over, but a city fox, a predator from a culture completely different from the one she was raised in (both geographically and species-wise). This meant that Judy had to be more sure of her answer than any of her sisters before her. Stu needed to know that she was prepared for the cultural differences and changes being with a city fox would bring.
Seeing Judy's nose start to scrunch up with an angry retort, and the inside of her ears turn an angry shade of red just like her mother's did yesterday when Bonnie told him where he could sleep if he caused any trouble for Judy and her new boyfriend, Stu quickly waved his hat back and forth in front of his face. "I'm not trying to break you up, sweetie, I'm not…it's just… I'm just…"
Dropping his paw and the hat still grasped in it, Stu spoke in a softer, more contrite voice as he explained, "I know you, Judes. You're not like your sisters. You commit over 100 percent to anything you do, and, well, I saw what happened when you lost your dream job. If this…relationship…with Nick falls apart—and I truly hope it doesn't—I know you're not going to bounce back and get over it like your sisters would." With his ears drooping, Stu added, "I just…I just want to know that you'll to be happy with the male you've chosen…as happy as I've been with your mother."
Judy's face relaxed while a few tears pricked the corners of her eyes as she could see, and even feel, the love and concern her dad felt for her. Her father had come a long way from the fox-fearing buck of three months ago. Not only had Stu teamed up with a fox—Gideon Grey, her old kithood bully, no less—but he had also accepted her relationship and involvement with a city fox. Furthermore, her dad was no longer trying to get her to move out of the house, but merely wanted to be sure she would be happy with her choice. Just two days ago, she would have never believed that her dad could so easily and quickly accept her dating a predator, even if the predator was such an incredible red fox like Nick.
What had her family told him, or, more likely, threatened him with that he would change his whole way of thinking around in just 24 hours? Judy wasn't sure what her mom or siblings had said, but she was grateful for it. This meant she wouldn't have to hide her marriage to Nick for very long. She still didn't think she should tell him right this moment, as he was still coming to terms with the idea of them dating, but Judy was sure she could tell her dad soon.
Perhaps a week or so after the honeymoon. And if he questioned their hasty actions, she could even tell him the truth—that she dragged Nick to the altar shortly after they started dating because she couldn't keep her paws off him. Her mind momentarily got sidetracked while remembering how it felt to run her fingers through his fluffy fur and across his powerful body.
Her mind didn't wander for long, though, as Nick nudged her foot under the table. As she glanced up at him in surprise, she saw Nick tap his nose, then point to her before pointing to her phone. With her ears and nose turning a darker shade of pink, Judy thought to herself in embarrassment, 'Right, my dad's still on the phone.' She needed to take care of him first, and then they still had to run to town before she could fantasize about her new husband again.
Focusing on her dad again, and ignoring Nick's perked ears and wide grin which told her he was eagerly waiting to hear her response to her dad's question while trying not to let her suddenly sweeter scent affect him, Judy smiled at her dad and said, "Thanks for your concern, Dad, but I'm certain: Nick is the one for me. I can't imagine living with anyone else, nor spending so much time with them. I've kind of gotten used to this scruffy-looking, snarky fox and I don't even want to think about trying to adjust to anyone else."
Looking up to meet Nick's mock-outraged face at being called 'scruffy-looking', she flashed him a blinding smile, then added, "Besides, I know Nick has my back no matter what happens." Touching her lips briefly with her tongue, Judy then said, "And another thing, Nick has proven he's strong enough to keep up with me, so how could I ask for anything more?"
Stu nodded in understanding while thinking of how Nick kept up with Judy while chasing after her leads. Nick, on the other paw, caught the double meaning in his honeybun's words and nearly choked on his mouthful of food while remembering how she was impressed with his ability to keep up with her last night and again this morning.
Judy merely grinned at Nick's reaction, knowing he got her hidden meaning, then turned back to her dad. "I'm happy, Dad. I'm really, really happy. Nick is everything I could ever hope to find in a…male," she almost said 'mate' but barely caught herself. "I wasn't looking for a boyfriend when I met Nick, but I can assure you, Dad, he's the cream of the crop. I could never ask for a better guy to stand beside me. He's everything I want and so much more."
Stu stared at his daughter's brilliantly glowing smile. He knew right away that she meant every word she'd just said…but at the same time…Stu got the feeling there was more to her words than meets the eyes. Hearing Nick nearly choke from Judy's earlier words of him keeping up with her gave credence to his gut feeling, but if he'd learned anything from raising over 300 kits, it was: Don't ask questions you do not want to know the answer to.
Judy had already shown him yesterday how much she wanted—and demanded—Nick's kisses, and if Judy was anything like her mother (which she was), Stu knew it was only a matter of time before she dragged the poor fox to the altar. As much as it scared him to think of his little trier being tied to a fox in such a permanent and binding way, he couldn't deny that Nick was probably the only male on the planet who could truly appreciate Judy, and who would show her all the love and respect she so richly deserved.
With a heavy sigh, Stu's ears dropped down behind his back as his shoulders slumped. "Just…will you at least tell me if you two get engaged?" He had a heavy suspicion that he would be left in the dark about something as drastic as an engagement between the two. They were already living together, so he knew it was just a matter of time… And knowing Judy, it would be sooner rather than later.
Judy's ears drooped slightly as she quickly glanced at Nick, who had a dear-in-the-headlights look, then back at her dad. "Um, are you sure you're…ready…to hear that I'm thinking of marrying a fox?"
Stu gave a start to hear that Judy was already contemplating marriage to the fox as it reaffirmed his suspicions that they were more involved than they let on, and that they were going to leave him in the dark about it. Clenching his fingers more tightly around the brim of his hat he held at his side, Stu told himself that he shouldn't be surprised seeing as it was Judy he was talking to—she was never a patient rabbit when it came to something she truly wanted.
Furthermore, Stu reminded himself that he would be sleeping out in the barn should he blow up at Judy over her relationship with the fox. Trying to keep his cool while counting to 10, and then to 20, Stu then reached up to plant his hat back on his head, then rubbed his face. He had feared for so long that his little bun-bun would always be alone, that she would never find someone she could be happy with, so now that she did, did he have a right to be angry simply because it wasn't someone he had ever considered for her? Or that it was moving a little faster than he considered wise?
While Stu was trying to stay calm by mentally talking himself down, Nick reached a paw over the table and motioned for Judy to give him the phone. Judy met his stunning emeralds, then glanced back at her phone, saying, "Um, Dad, Nick wants to talk to you."
As Nick took the phone from his honeybun, he met Stu's surprised gaze and said, "Hey, Mr. Hopps…Stu…I just wanted to let you know that I was serious before, when I said that I would spend the rest of my life keeping Judy safe and happy. She means the world to me, and I cannot see myself living without her."
Stu was quiet for a moment as he met Nick's firm gaze. After several heartbeats, he then muttered, "So you're seriously thinking of marrying my daughter? The two of you have already discussed it?" Going by Judy's earlier comment, he was sure they had, but he wanted to hear it straight from the fox's mouth.
Nick flicked his ear, then said, "We have discussed marriage, yes. We're thinking of having a big bunny wedding in the spring after I graduate from the Academy."
Grinding his teeth, Stu knew they were leaving him in the dark about their relationship, but the fact they had already discussed marriage and come up with a general timeframe shocked him. Weren't they moving too fast? But at least the wedding wouldn't be for nearly a year. This thought soothed some of his ruffled fur, at least until he realized they were living together and already kissing. With them spending so much time together, he knew it was only a matter of time before their 'sleeping in separate beds' turned into 'sleeping in the same bed.'
With a scowl scrunching up his nose and eyebrows, Stu questioned, "You mean to tell me that you plan to keep your paws off my daughter until you graduate from the academy? Even though you two are already living together!?"
Nick had been hoping Stu wouldn't catch onto this little detail, but since Stu had raised over 300 kits (How did he and Bonny survive!?), Nick figured it was a given that Stu would pick up on it. Taking a deep breath, Nick reached up to tug on his ear, even as he replied, "Well, you're right." Tugging on his ear again while avoiding Judy's devastatingly cute, blushing face, Nick continued, saying, "Living together when we're already planning to get married would make it difficult to keep our paws to ourselves…sooo…we've also decided to have a small, private fox wedding before I enter the Academy this fall."
A vein popped out at Stu's temple as his ears perked back up in anger. "How long have you known my daughter!? And you're already thinking of marrying her in a few months!" Stu was practically quivering with suppressed emotions as he realized how far their relationship had progressed in the short amount of time they'd been together. "It's way too soon!" he added as he tried to wrap his brain around the curveball they had just thrown at him.
Nick's ears flicked back in irritation as he met Stu's livid expression. "Would you rather we live in sin, then?" he questioned hotly, "because that's our only other option." With his long, fluffy tail swishing angrily behind him, Nick quickly added, "Our time together may not have been long, but in this instance, I think quality trumps quantity. Besides, Judy already has me wrapped around her little finger, so I figure the only decent thing to do is to put a ring around that finger I'm wrapped around. Don't you?"
Before Stu could reply (he was practically strangling the phone), Judy swiped the phone from Nick and said, "Dad, I gave Nick until my birthday to marry me—the sooner the better—and I don't want to hear a word of complaint from you on rushing our marriage." With her dark pink nose twitching and her bright amethyst eyes sparking with anger, Judy added, "You and I both know I inherited more from mom than just her grey fur and purple eyes. Besides her stubbornness, it turns out I also inherited her instinctive drive to mate once I found my husband."
Stu's jaw dropped for a moment, then his mouth began moving as he tried to speak but only a stammer came out. Finally, he pointed to Judy and then off to the left where he assumed Nick sat. "You mean that you and…and Nick…."
With her twitching pink nose taking on a darker shade of pink, Judy merely nodded, then explained, "It only took 2 and a half days traipsing all over Zootopia and nearly getting killed several times, plus a miserable 3 months apart followed by another near-death experience for my instincts to figure out that Nick is the male I've been waiting my whole life to meet, that he's the one that is meant to be my husband and mate."
Realizing just how far his bun-bun's attraction for the fox had progressed, Stu got lightheaded as he lost the strength in his legs and fell backwards onto his fluffy, cotton ball tail. He didn't faint, but he certainly came close to it as his vision swam for a moment there. His little trier—his baby girl—was already wanting to climb in bed with a fox and was struggling to keep her paws off him! The world was coming to an end as he knew it!
While angrily thumping the air with her good leg while sitting in the chair, Judy met her dad's stunned gaze and said, "You and mom couldn't make it three months to get married, and neither can Nick and I. Since you and mom eloped, we will, too. The next time we meet, you can be sure that Nick and I will be married so you better get used to the idea."
Stu sat gaping at Judy's stubborn and firm expression. She meant business! And although she didn't state it, there was definitely an implied threat there at the end. If he couldn't accept Nick as her husband—his son-in-law—then he could forget about them visiting the burrow any time soon, and holidays would be out of the question.
Realizing he'd just put his foot in his mouth again, Stu knew if he ostracized Judy here, he wouldn't just be sleeping in the barn—he'd be living in it! He had narrowly gotten out of sleeping in the barn last night, but he knew there was no way he'd get out of it this time if he didn't fix things right now. And it wasn't like he didn't understand what Judy was talking about. There was a reason he and Bonnie had over three hundred kits.
Snapping his mouth shut, Stu then took a deep breath and counted to ten in his head. He didn't like the idea of his daughter with a fox, but he already knew that it was just a matter of time. Learning that the time was much shorter than he'd originally thought didn't help, but neither did getting upset at them for it, especially when thinking about their reasoning.
Being married to Bonnie, one of the few does nowadays who still had that strong, instinctive drive to breed with their chosen mate, he couldn't fault the two for wanting to get married quickly. After 3 decades of marriage bliss, Bonnie still had the strong need to breed even though she had her tubes tied to prevent anymore pregnancies, so how could he blame his little trier for not wanting to wait to tie the fox to her, even if they couldn't have kits together due to their difference in species?
Taking another deep breath, Stu rubbed his forehead, then pushed his baseball cap up to scratch the top of his head. Grabbing his hat to keep it from falling backwards off his head, Stu pulled it back on straight before meeting Judy's piercing amethyst gaze once more. With one more deep breath, he asked, "Does Nick feel the same way?"
Judy looked across the table at Nick, who held his paw out for the phone. As she pawed it over, Nick held the phone up to meet Stu's concerned and suddenly wary gaze, and said, "Yes, I feel the same way. I've been waiting my whole life to meet Judy, and now that I have, my instincts don't want to wait any more than Judy's do. As long as Judy wants me, I'll never let her go and I'll never leave her. She has become the center of my world and has already ruined me for anyone else."
Stu sighed as his shoulders slumped. "That has to do with you red foxes mating for life, right?"
Nick glanced up at Judy wondering if she had mentioned something about that to her dad previously, but she merely shrugged her shoulders while shaking her head. Turning back to Judy's dad full of curiosity, her father continued speaking to Nick.
"Your mother, Vivian, mentioned it when she drove us to the train station." With his voice dropping to a murmur, Stu added, "She said…she said things don't…end well…for red foxes who've lost their mates." With a flick of his long ear, he mumbled, "I know my world would come crashing down if anything happened to Bonnie."
Nick's ears flicked back while Judy's ears drooped. After several heartbeats, Nick finally admitted, "Yeah, things don't end well for us if anything happens to our mates." Staring over the phone at his gorgeous bride, he added softly, "To say my world would come crashing down if anything happened to Judy would be a grave understatement."
"And that's how you really view Judy? As your mate?" Stu had to confirm how the fox felt.
With his ears perking back up as his tail began to wag, Nick smiled at Stu as he answered, "Yes, sir. I can't see Judy as anything else now." Winking at Judy, he watched her blush furiously as she remembered what they'd been up to last night and again this morning. 'Mates indeed, now and for forever,' he thought.
Stu nodded, then rubbed his paw back across his face. "I…" Stu took a deep breath. This was harder than he thought. He was agreeing to paw his little girl over to a big, strong, predatory fox and it was hard to get out. But this wasn't just any fox, Stu reminded himself. This was the fox who saved his little girl's life and gave her back her smile. With another deep breath, Stu scratched the side of his head again, then stood up. Dusting himself off, he met Nick's expectant face, then said, "I…I give you my blessing, Nick, to marry my daughter. Just…just make sure she keeps smiling."
With upright ears and a determined nod, Nick replied, "You have my word. I'll protect her life and her heart with everything I've got."
Stu nodded, then let out a heavy sigh. As a father, it was never easy letting go of one of his daughters and entrusting them into the paws of their chosen mates. Finally, he looked up and asked, "Can I talk to Judy again?"
"Sure," Nick replied and then pawed the phone back over to his blushing bride.
With a grateful, hopeful look on her face, she met her dad's steady, tired gaze. "Thank you, Dad," she murmured before her dad could say anything more.
Stu studied his daughter's bright smile and happy gaze for several heartbeats, then asked, "Are you sure, Jude's? I mean, absolutely sure?
Glancing over the phone at Nick, Judy flashed him a blinding, buck-toothed smile as she replied, "Dad, I've never been so sure of anything in my life." With a happy flick of her tail, she added, "If it came down to it, I could give up my career if I had to and, as long as Nick was with me, I would survive and be able to find something else to do with my time, but…I could never give up Nick. He's the mate I've been waiting a lifetime for."
Stu could only nod. His little girl, his 'Jude the Dude' had finally found the right guy to sweep her off her feet and convinced her to settle down. Who could have ever imagined she would be swept off her feet by a sly city fox? Stu never would have guessed it while Judy was growing up, but he couldn't deny how happy his daughter had been these days. If Nick was the one she needed at her side, then all he could do was give her his blessings—even if it was a hard pill to swallow.
Squaring his shoulders, Stu then said, "Well, Judy, then you have my blessing to marry Nick. As long as you keep smiling, then…then you won't hear a complaint from me."
With a happy squeal, Judy met her dad's steady gaze again and said, "I will, I promise, Dad. And thank you again. You have no idea how worried I was about telling you about my feelings for Nick, so it relieves my heart and mind for you to know about our relationship."
Stu nodded while feeling like a world-class jerk. He was right before—Judy and Nick didn't plan to tell him about their engagement all because of his inability to accept their burgeoning feelings for each other. With a flick of his cottony tail, Stu thanked his daughter for letting him know about their engagement, then said goodbye to the happy couple.
As he ended the call, Stu stood staring down at his phone. So many things had happened in such a short amount of time that he felt like his whole world had just tilted and then flipped over on top of him. What was an old-school rabbit supposed to do when his baby girl ran off to marry a fox?
Grabbing the brim of his hat, Stu picked it up to scratch his head. He loved his kits, every single one of them, but as they grew older his worries for them grew exponentially, especially his worries for his daughters. The world could be so scary out there, away from the burrow, and he wasn't going to be there to protect them from everything (and everyone) who might want to hurt them. Having so many daughters, and watching some of them pick the wrong guy who didn't respect them, and in a few cases, even used and abused them, Stu had become a bit paranoid over the years.
And now, he was asked to paw one of his daughters off to a predator! A large, scary predator with sharp teeth and claws! There were so many things that could go wrong in this situation! But, if he was being honest with himself, Stu had to admit that although Nick was a predator, he was probably the safest and best male for an overactive bunny like Judy. But still, it was hard to give one of his little girls away, no matter who the guy was. Now if he had been able to spend more time with Nick before the two jumped into such a close relationship, it would probably make it easier to accept. As it was, he was gonna have to accept it, whether he liked it or not.
With a heavy sigh, Stu put the phone back in his pocket and headed out to the tractor garage. Tinkering around on the old, family tractor that hadn't run in years was very therapeutic. Whenever he had a lot on his mind that he needed to mull over, he always found it helpful to tinker around on that old tractor.
It was one his father had bought when he was younger. His father had used it on the farm for years and Stu had inherited it when he took over the farm. It had continued running beautifully for 2 more decades, chugging along the fields or pulling logs across the yard to be chopped up for firewood or fence posts, but for some reason, that darned old tractor up and quit when his father died. It hadn't run ever since, but Stu still found it therapeutic to work on it—whether he ever got the darned old tractor running again or not!
WingedKatt here. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I don't know when the next chapter will come out as I haven't started writing it yet, but I'll probably jump back over to Vivian and the girls, along with Justin's and Sasha's arrival in Zootopia.
I hope you all have a great weekend and a very Merry Christmas. 🎄 If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know.