A/N: Written for the Writers Anonymous Random Opener Challenge.
AU: Starts on Judy's first day.
All right, maybe it wasn't the best way to start off a conversation. The team left her to apologize after they learned they were at the wrong location. The new locale was too "dangerous" for her. Sadly, there was no proper way to apologize for everything that happened, some of it by her own paws.
Her inexperience and fright led her to skip over several critical words once the fox opened his eyes. A sleeping fox was still a fox. "Wrong address–"
A loud yawn from the fox drowned out the message. It also caused her to stumble backward in fright. After the fox blinked several times, he gave her such a coherent tongue lashing as well as getting up from his position on the floor. It was a far cry from what she expected to be a drowsy fox barely able to mutter a sentence. Her paw moved to her tranquilizer pistol on instinct.
"Why are you still here? Your fur is on edge. You're clearly afraid and don't even care about foxes. Why just look at that nice can of 'Fox Away.' How cute, even now your paws are next to your weapon, while I'm so far away," Nick said.
"I'm here to –" Judy's body shook from terror, causing her to stutter, "apologize."
"Can you offer money? Compensation? Empty words don't do much for me. Not the first time I've heard them, and it won't be the last."
Her ears drooped from the realization that she couldn't do anything but offer empty words. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Let me live with you."
"What? Why?" she yelled instinctively. What this fox was asking was outrageous.
Nick raised his paw to his chin. "I have my reasons. As a bonus, I won't file a complaint to the mayor. You're part of that new experiment they're calling the 'Mammal Inclusion Initiative' are you not? Not a promising start given your performance so far."
"No, it's an offer to turn a blind eye. How about it?"
"What do you get out of this?"
"Come again?" She didn't feel safe with the prospect of living with a fox.
"Are your ears defective too?"
"Fine," she grunted. "Don't try anything!"
"Wouldn't dream of it. Seeing as your department practically destroyed everything, I guess I'll be living at your place."
A small flicker of hope entered Judy's mind. "My apartment is far too small."
"Don't worry, I can sleep on the floor. It's going to be fine. I won't be a bother. There's not even much to pack, seeing as you've destroyed everything."
That hurt given how truthful it was. It never occurred to her that this house was the wrong one until it was too late. Of the possessions in the house, not much remained intact. Even though it was her first day on the job, and first raid, it was of little comfort to what happened.
"I'll help you," Judy offered. They had to carefully navigate shards and pieces of furniture as they made their way towards still usable items.
"So, what did you hope to find here?"
"You know he's a hare, right? Not a fox. Wouldn't that be the first clue that your department screwed up? Especially when you see a fox living inside said house."
"Can we just move on?" Judy couldn't think of anything to say in her defense.
"Your wish is my command."
They couldn't salvage much from the wreckage, only a few pieces of clothing that required cleaning. Reckless destruction fit the bill much more than a drug search throughout the house. It took thirty minutes for them to finish gathering clothing. Even more to find a suitable container to carry it all.
Just now it dawned on Judy that she had no way of traveling to her apartment or back to the precinct. "Don't suppose you have a way to get to my apartment?" There was some chance that the logistics would make the fox reconsider.
"Why certainly, I'll call Finnick to pick us up. Would you mind stepping outside so I can have some privacy?"
She went outside, waiting for Nick to give the signal for her to go back in. It was such a relief to be away from a fox even though Nick wasn't threatening her at this very moment, but it was the capacity to do so. Foxes were innately dangerous. After what seemed like thirty minutes, she was still walking around the driveway waiting for Nick to let her inside but enjoying the time away from him just the same.
A van pulled up to the driveway. What she saw defied explanation. A fox kit that sucked on his pacifier was in the driver's seat. It was her duty to stop this madness, but she couldn't take it out on the kit. "Where are your parents?" she asked.
The kit pointed towards Nick's house without uttering a single word in response.
"Come with me." Judy led the fox kit towards Nick's house. They had to walk slowly as the kit had difficulties merely walking. He kept tripping over himself with shaky steps. Once she opened the door, she said, "We need to talk."
"What seems to be the problem now, officer?"
Finnick moved towards Nick, cowering behind him as soon as possible.
"There, there, it's going to be okay," Nick whispered. He rubbed Finnick's head.
"We need to talk alone," Judy stressed.
"I'm sorry, I can't do that. My kit needs me. Ever since my mate left us, I gave him everything he's ever wanted."
Judy sighed. "When's Finnick coming to get us?"
"His name is Finnick."
"We need to talk, alone," Judy stressed. She really didn't want Finnick to witness all this. It was criminally negligent even though she wasn't sure how it was technically possible that a baby could drive a car.
"Sorry, I can't leave him alone."
Finnick spat out his pacifier. "All right, let's drop the act. What did your department try and fail to find this time? You're certainly the first to show genuine concern." He glared at Nick. "Next time you lie to me I'll bite your face off."
Judy did a double-take. Her jaw dropped in surprise without any words coming out.
"Don't act so surprised. I'm usually followed by cops since there's at least one 'well-meaning' mammal that looks out for my 'safety.' At least, most of the police force are intelligent enough to realize it's a false alarm."
"Aren't you asking for it by walking around like that?" Judy said. Walking around in kit's clothing as an adult male could only cause confusion among the citizens.
Finnick laughed. "Oh, my friend here forgot to mention why he wanted me here. I thought it was for our usual activities. My costume doesn't make that much of a difference because it happens either way."
A weight lifted off her shoulders when Finnick revealed he was actually an adult, but what she just learned was troubling. It certainly didn't help that she made the same mistake, but she couldn't be sure that if Finnick was in his regular clothes, that she wouldn't have.
"So why did you call me here?" Finnick asked.
"We need a drive to her apartment. As you can see by the state of my house, so I'm going to live with her."
"You're kidding me, right? Don't you realize how uncomfortable she is? that and she's an actual cop."
"Don't suppose you have a better idea? Need I remind you why you're still living in a van?"
"For heaven's sake, if you want my help, be honest."
Nick grunted. "Fine, just watch her leave." He turned towards Judy. "The only reason I want to live with you is to prevent police from entering where I live."
"Explain?" Judy asked.
"Your group certainly wasn't the first to enter my house under false assumptions, looking for someone that wasn't even here. Wrong address only works so many times. Not to mention, just for being a fox, some neighbors report shifty behavior just because I exist. I do recall you were looking for Jack Savage, someone who doesn't even live here. Have I complained? Most certainly. Does it do anything? Absolutely not!"
"Not the first time?"
"And now you don't believe me and think that I'm crazy. Just walk away. My complaints won't go anywhere. You're free! That's what you want, isn't it?"
This was ludicrous. It was beyond belief that Nick wanted to live with her to feel safe, but with what he said, she couldn't just walk away. On a level, she understood why he wasn't forthcoming with his desires. "You know what? I'll help you," Judy said.
"Certainly, didn't expect that. All right, Finnick, you were right this time."
Despite learning that Finnick was an adult, she still held extreme reservations having him drive his own van. Nick and Judy loaded up everything they planned to bring which wasn't much in Finnick's van. Even though she knew Nick's motivations, it didn't make the journey much easier. He was still a fox that could be dangerous.
This was far closer to Nick than she would've liked. Considering everything in the back of the van, they had to practically sit side by side to make everything fit. She closed her eyes, hoping to make the trip bearable. Her thoughts drifted towards everything but the present.
A sudden accusatory question from Nick made her open her eyes. "What are you doing?
She glanced upwards at the fox glaring at her before realizing she held his tail in her paws. "I'm so sorry." It was unclear how that happened in the first place.
"Uh-huh. Please try to keep your paws to yourself."
To prevent another incident, she forced herself to focus on the present instead of seeking comfort in her mind. Several long minutes passed before they reached their destination. Judy wasted no time in getting out of the van.
Nick and Finnick followed her as she entered the apartment. Once they arrived at her room, Nick placed his belongings gently down on the floor before making a reckless dive towards her bed where her assortment of plushies resided.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Finnick yelled.
"I've always wanted to try this." Nick sniffed her precious plushies several times.
"Get out!" Judy yelled.
"But I love it here!"
Judy reached for her tranquilizer gun.
"I'm sorry, okay?" Nick quickly got off her bed. "Look, I'll even put everything back in its place."
"Fine," Judy grumbled. She watched Nick make even a bigger mess by carelessly tossing her precious stuffed rabbits on the bed. "Just stop, let me do it."
Finnick said, "Good luck with the crazy rabbit."
"You're going to leave me here with her?"
"Can't say I feel too bad for you." Finnick walked out of the room.
Judy focused on rearranging her precious collection. Her siblings used their own fur to create said plushies, so she treasured each and every one. It took some time before she rearranged every single one into correct order.
"Finished!" she exclaimed.
"Fine, you can trust me to stay away from them," Nick said. "I don't see what the big deal is, they smell lovely. I also enjoy their fur."
"Just leave them alone. I'm going back to the precinct to give in my report."
Even though she didn't trust Nick at all, she left him alone in her apartment because she didn't want to lock him outside. She waited for the bus to take her to the precinct to give her end-of-day report.
"Sir, I need access to the database," Judy said.
"And here I thought you quit, but I'm not that lucky. Whatever do you need that for?" Chief Bogo rubbed his hoof down his face.
"I'll have you know that I followed Senior Officer Wolfard's order to placate the fox to the letter. He has agreed not to lodge a formal complaint against our department. In addition to that, he claimed this department entered his house mistakenly multiple times in the past. I would like to verify these claims and learn why this occurs. We tranquilize the inhabitants on sight per-protocol then destroy their property without giving them any compensation when we find nothing."
"You're going to believe a fox?"
"Until I have a reason not to. There wouldn't be any truth to this, would there?"
"Fine, access granted. It's unlikely you'll find anything. You're not getting paid extra for this. Go ahead and waste your time."
She walked towards a computer, eager to begin confirming if the fox's complaints were accurate. It didn't matter that it was unpaid overtime. The first anomaly she noticed when she opened the database was there were multiple criminals listed as living under Nick's address lending credence to the claim that the police wrongfully entered his house multiple times.
The closest thing to corroborating evidence she found was several police raids delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. That wasn't an outright confirmation that they raided the wrong place, but it was what she had. To truly confirm her suspicions, she had to wait until Wolfard submitted his report.
She headed back to Chief Bogo to relay what she discovered. "I've discovered that our system erroneously lists several criminals living at Nick's address. Would you be able to explain why that is?"
"Thank you for the report. I'll look into it. Dismissed."
Judy walked out of Bogo's office even though she felt that Chief Bogo would turn a blind eye. There wasn't much she could do until that point. As she headed home, the pangs of hunger were finally getting to her since she skipped lunch due to the day's extraordinary events.
She entered the apartment. On the way to her room, she heard someone reading a children's book aloud. As she drew closer, she was certain that it was from her very room. Quietly, she opened the door, trying not to make a sound. Nick was there reading to her stuffed rabbits. Slowly, she crept up on the unaware fox, trying not to giggle as he narrated the tale with all the theatrics.
"Having fun?" she asked as the tale drew to a close.
"I didn't realize you liked my reading that much. You were listening for thirty minutes."
She huffed. Her plan backfired! To add to her embarrassment, her stomach rumbled.
"Well, it's about time for dinner. Care to come?"
"I'm not that rich."
"I'll cover it. I do need to repay you after all."
Despite her own lack of comfort with the arrangement, she agreed if only to avoid a fight. She noted that they already walked past several fast food joints without stopping at them. "So, where are you taking us?"
"The closest place available."
"We've walked past ten places already."
"They don't serve foxes."
"I don't believe you. Come on."
With Judy's insistence, they walked towards The Hidden Glade because it was the closest place to eat. She couldn't believe that the restaurant had a sign that had a picture of a fox and an x on top of it.
"So, believe me now?" Nick smirked.
It was legal, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"That's just unfair," Judy grumbled.
Despite how much the current scenario enraged her, she couldn't do anything about it. It was all legal, and she knew it well based on her time in the police academy. It certainly didn't make it any less upsetting. On the sole basis that he was a fox, Nick couldn't dine in many places.
"If this is too troublesome, I'll just give you money so you can eat," Nick said. He waved a few paper bills in her face.
"No, it's okay," she said. Yes, she wanted to be away from a fox, but taking Nick up on that offer struck her as morally wrong. She continued walking with him. "So, where are the places that accept foxes and how much further?"
"We're rather close," Nick said. "Just a few more blocks."
"We're entering a park."
They walked inside a hollow tree that led to a restaurant.
"Welcome to the Dancing Pineapple," the badger said. "What's the occasion, Nick?"
"She's an acquaintance, Harold."
"As if I'll believe that."
"Can we not?" Nick said. "Table for two."
Nick and Judy followed Harold to their assigned table. With a quick glance at the other clientele, they weren't the only ones that were predator and prey. Although anything that had a mix had more mammals at a table, that seemed like they were having a business meeting.
She looked at the menu. "Things are expensive here, Nick!"
"And it's worth it to me."
Even though that's what Nick wanted, she still kept the cost of food in mind when selecting what she wanted.
"Relax, Carrots, I can cover it."
"What's with the nickname?"
"Figured you came from one of those carrot farming families. This is Zootopia. Money works differently here."
Judy didn't dare protest when Nick placed the order.
"How can this day get any worse?" she whispered out of frustration once the waiter left.
"You could be eaten in your sleep," Nick smirked.
"Keep acting that way, and I will tranquilize you."
"I hate you."
"This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship."
Judy remained silent because if she said anything, Nick would manage to infuriate her more. She certainly could tranquilize him, but it would be a blow to her pride. To pass the time, she glared daggers at the fox across the table.
"Are you going to act like that all night?"
She remained silent, refusing to give Nick even more ammunition to annoy her with. Once the food arrived, she eagerly dug into the appetizing salad.
"Glad you're enjoying this," Nick said. "Is it better than what you've eaten before?"
Judy shot a glare in his direction. She refused to give him any more satisfaction but was unable to control involuntary reactions of her enjoying the meal. Once she finished eating, the most she could do was scowl at Nick, who simply smirked as a response.
Even when they arrived back at her apartment, Nick was no less insufferable. It wasn't that he outright made himself unwelcome, just there would be little things he did that got on her nerves. Stuff that she shouldn't have an issue with.
He certainly kept his word by sleeping on the floor and far away from her.
Judy couldn't believe that Chief Bogo gave her parking duty for her second day on the job. This was boring compared to what she did yesterday. It was certainly to her misfortune that she bumped into Nick yet again. The fox always found some way to irritate her. It didn't help that Finnick was around in an elephant suit.
"Officer Hopps, just in time! I need your help with something," Nick said.
Nick gave her a twenty-dollar bill. "Go buy a popsicle from the store over there, they don't sell to foxes."
"I don't believe you."
"Now, have I ever given you a reason not to trust me?"
"Well no, but it seems ridiculous."
"Really? Given how some places have 'no foxes allowed' on their signs."
"That's not one of those places."
"Do you want to make a bet?"
"Are you afraid that I might be right? Do the stakes matter if you're guaranteed to win?"
"Fine, go on then, prove it." She figured the bet didn't matter since she was right anyway.
She watched Nick walk into the store and end up subsequently denied service from the elephant within. Even though he played the sympathy card with Finnick acting as his son. He smirked at her triumphantly as if to say, "I told you so" when he walked out empty-pawed.
"Now, would you be so kind?"
She entered the store while hoping for the elephant to deny her service just as he did to Nick, if only so he wouldn't be right. Just as Nick predicted, the elephant sold her a popsicle without a single issue.
"I believe, I win." Nick smiled. "Thank you for your help, officer." He bowed before taking the oversized popsicle off her paws.
The rest of the day was uneventful without a single interruption as she ticketed one car after another. It was just so boring compared to the excitement she had for the first day on the job. There was one more highlight before she returned home, Chief Bogo showed her how the database changed, addressing her concerns from the previous day.
By the time she returned home, Nick was already in her apartment. He had the audacity to snatch her favorite plushie and place it atop his head.
"Put Cotton back on the bed," she demanded.
"This makes her all the more special." He took the stuffed rabbit off his head and held it close to his chest as if treasuring it.
"Go buy your own."
"Now that's wishful thinking. You do know that they don't allow predators to buy these, right? And before you ask why not use a friend? Well, do you know how odd the request would sound?"
"I've seen at least one stuffed fox back at home."
"That's the double-standard. If a predator wants a stuffed prey animal, it's seen as partaking in banned activities. If a prey wants the same, it's solely because they want to become friends. Didn't they teach you this in school?"
"Doesn't make it any less true. I've taken a liking to this one. She's light enough to sit on top of my head."
She certainly didn't like Nick playing with Cotton, but she thought if she made a fuss, it would be childish.
"So, I've been thinking, this cramped apartment is far too small for the both of us, why don't you lease something larger for us both? I'll even provide the funds."
"And why can't you?"
"Do I need to explain to you how everything works again? Foxes drive down property values. Many landlords don't dare post 'no foxes allowed' signs despite not wanting them since it's seen as improper. As for purchasing a house, you saw what happened to mine, and gaining the ability to buy a house wasn't easy either."
"That's a database error that's been fixed."
"That's what they tell you. I'm sure it'll happen again."
"Fine," she agreed even though she didn't believe him.
Time after time, Judy learned that what was routine for Nick was outrageous and unacceptable to her. There wasn't much she could do to change the system, but her willingness to believe Nick had significant benefits. From time to time, Nick provided her leads to certain cases since she actually cared to investigate those claims. Zootopia at large wasn't about to start trusting foxes despite how truthful the allegations might be, but Judy was prepared to try.
A/N: Feedback welcome, might undergo significant edits until the deadline on July 31st.