Judy set two zucchini squash in the wooden crate beside the large yellow squash and two-dozen carrots, then took the money from Mrs. Hopperson, a light-tan elderly rabbit that always had a fresh pitcher of lemonade ready whenever Judy and her siblings stopped in for a visit. Mrs. Hopperson owned a beautiful flower garden that Bonnie would always send some of her kits over to twice a week to get fresh bouquets for the kitchen, living room, and several of the studies. Judy's mom simply loved Mrs. Hopperson's flowers for they always had the best scent and looked and remained fresh longer than anyone else's.
As the grandmotherly rabbit took her crate and loaded it onto her small, three-wheeled scooter, Judy glanced at her watch while turning to the next customer (a mother prairie dog and her eight kits who wanted a large bushel of broccoli and asparagus). Judy's shift was almost over and she couldn't wait to leave. Although she never minded manning the roadside booth before, her heart was no longer in it. After destroying the city, ruining the best friendship she'd ever had, and then giving up on her dream job—she just didn't have the heart to do much of anything anymore. And putting forth the effort to deal with a bunch of random mammals just exhausted her.
But she promised her parents she would do the booth once a week (to get her out of the burrow) if they stopped setting her up on blind dates each week (her mom was setting her up with at least 2 a week). It was their way of helping her get over her melancholy mood and hopefully move on with her life by settling down and giving them some grandkits (as if they didn't have enough already). But she wasn't ready to move on and she certainly wasn't ready to settle down—especially with some nameless buck she didn't care two-cents about and who probably didn't care about her—the Ice Queen of Bunnyburrow—unless it was to get bragging rights for scoring with her.
As if she'd waste her time with some lowlife who only wanted a one-night stand. She was saving herself for her mate. The first male she chose to be with would be the only male she was with. So, if he wasn't willing to commit to her, then he wasn't worth her time or attention.
Now if she could just convince her parents of that, then she'd be having a much better time. They wanted the commitment part (oh, yes, they wanted commitment—her mother and sisters couldn't wait to plan her wedding, and her father couldn't wait to hand her off), but they hoped she would settle to get it.
But becoming a kit-popping doe standing bear-foot in the kitchen (as most bucks expected from their does) was not her. Her mom might be happy settling for that kind of life, and most rabbit does found a lot of joy in raising huge families, but she, Judith Laverne Hopps, could not. That was not her and never would be. She needed excitement and adventure, along with someone who would happily share those exciting times and adventures with her (and slapping a sleeping cassowary on the rump and then running to dive under the fence was not her idea of a daring or exciting adventure). She needed someone who could think fast and run fast, someone like . . . An image of a certain red fox popped into her head.
Judy wasn't quite sure why she suddenly thought of Nick, but it might have something to do with the fact that when the guilt over breaking the city wasn't eating at her insides and knotting her stomach all up, then she was missing Nick immensely (who had time for bucks when she couldn't get her fox friend out of her head?). Sometimes she'd even catch herself turning to say something to him only to realize she was alone or that it was one of her siblings who was talking to her. And whenever someone yelled carrots, she'd always look up expecting to see Nick grinning at her with that smug smirk of his or rolling his eyes at something dumb she'd said or did.
This left her feeling disoriented at times as she struggled to keep the past and present separated. Then again, the fact she wasn't sleeping very well might have something to do with it.
When she wasn't having a nightmare over all the heated arguments, fights, and riots that broke out between predators and prey, then she was having a nightmare of the press conference where Nick accused her of not trusting him and storming off (this was a recurring nightmare of hers). But what really got her, was when she had a happy dream of returning to Zootopia to find him sitting under some bridge and after properly apologizing for being such a small-minded, dumb bunny he forgave her—only to wake up and realize she was still in Bunnyburrow—alone—and that she never did find Nick (she did look for him before returning home, but trying to find one small fox in such a large city was like trying to find a needle in a haystack).
The worst part about waking up from this dream, though, was realizing he never did forgive her—that he still hated her. She could somehow handle all the other predators hating her for what she said at the conference, but thinking of Nick hating her, or wishing he'd never met her or that she'd never been born tore her up inside like nothing else. The thought made her heart bleed.
And because of this, she found this dream to be the worst and left her crying the hardest. She wanted it to be true. She wanted it so badly that some mornings she found it hard to get out of bed as it left her curled up in a ball crying. She hardly knew the fox, and had only spent a few short days in his company, and yet all she wanted was to see his smug grin again, to hear his laugh (even if it was at her expense while telling one of his lame jokes), and to hear him call her Carrots or Fluff or even Officer Toot-Toot again. Anything—as long as it was his voice she was hearing.
With a heavy sigh (and looking at her watch again—her sister was late getting here for the shift change), she rolled up several carrots in a newspaper and handed them over to a chocolate-colored buck (who was vainly trying to hit on her and didn't like the fact she ignored him) and then several ears of corn to a grey and white billy goat. Once the goat left, there was a break in the line and Judy turned her attention back to her thoughts and how much she wished Nick was here with her.
At this point, she'd even take being yelled at. She knew she didn't deserve to be his friend anymore and she wouldn't blame him if he never forgave her and never wanted to see her again. But even if she knew this with her mind, her heart couldn't accept it. She wanted to see him again. She wanted to hear him again. She even wanted to touch him again. And for reasons she couldn't understand that brief moment on the gondola where she had touched his arm was now imprinted on her mind.
Touching him then didn't mean much at the time—but now—she couldn't forget it. Flexing her fingers briefly, she could still recall how warm and thick his fur was (even after being drenched in sprinkler water), and how firm and strong his muscles felt.
With a slight chuckle while leaning over the booth's countertop and staring at a small basket of blueberries, she contemplated how funny her memory could be. When she'd first met Nick and followed him around as he carried out his popsicle hustle, she could only think about how dishonest he'd been in tricking and lying to her, but now . . . other things stood out in her memory—things she'd overlooked at the time. Such as how strong he had to be to haul one of those giant popsicles up a drainpipe of a two-story building. Or how agile and flexible he was sliding down and jumping off the same two-story drainpipe. Or how fast he'd been in running from her when she accused him of lying to her. He'd also been able to keep up with her while running from Manchas (after gaining the top spot at the academy, she discovered most mammals couldn't keep up with her).
And of course, there was no denying how smart and brave he was. Not only did he have all the right permits to ensure he wasn't jailed on a technicality, it was Nick who figured out they could use the jam cams to find out what happened to Manchas. And it was Nick who stuck with her when Manchas was chasing them, and it was Nick who stood up to Chief Bogo and his rhino and tiger officers so she could keep her badge. And it was Nick who snuck into an abandoned asylum with her, past a pack of armed wolves, just so she could find her missing otter and prove she was a real cop.
"Hey, Judy, I'm here," a black rabbit doe with a white muzzle, belly, and paws spoke up as she walked to the booth.
Judy looked up to meet her sister's pale, blue eyes and gave a nod (her sister was almost 10 minutes late). "Hey, Mandy, am I glad to see you," she murmured.
With a raised eyebrow, Mandy observed, "You're spacing out again." At Judy's shrug, the black and white doe added, "Are you thinking of him again? That buck you met in Zootopia?"
At her sister's question, the light pink insides of Judy's ears turned several shades darker. "Is it that obvious?" she asked quietly. Her and Mandy were fairly close, and during one of her morning crying sessions, Mandy had found her and talked her into spilling the beans on how she'd ruined her friendship with Nick. But because she intentionally left out the fact that Nick was a predator and a fox (she did tell her sister that he wasn't a rabbit), Mandy automatically assumed Nick was a hare. And she never felt the need to correct her sister's thinking. It's not like she would ever see Nick again.
Walking around the booth, Mandy took Judy's shoulders and led her back behind her truck so they could have a little privacy (a couple of mammals had shown up and were looking over the produce while trying to decide what to buy). "You know, sis, if I didn't know any better—I'd say you and Nick were a bit more than just friends."
Judy's eyes widened and she waved her paws back and forth in the air in front of her while exclaiming, "Whoa! No, no, no. Trust me, Nick and I are just friends. There is nothing more between us." Shaking her head again, she stated, "There's nothing."
Mandy looked her sister up and down, and then walked around her while giving her a critical eye. Coming to stand in front of her once more, she said, "I don't know, Judy. From where I'm standing, it looks like you're pining over your dream date after being dumped for some two-bit floozy."
Judy's jaw dropped and she stared at her sister for several heartbeats before whispering hotly (she was suddenly aware of the other mammals who were milling about the booth just a stone's throw away from where they stood), "There is no way I'm in love with Nick! He's . . he's a . . ." She couldn't possibly tell her sister Nick was a fox now! "I mean . . . We hardly know each other!"
"Doesn't matter. Love has this nasty habit of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, sis." With a knowing gleam in her eyes as she had experience in that department, Mandy continued, "And from the way you've been acting since coming home—thinking about him all the time, dreaming about him, crying over him, feeling crushed that he now hates you and wants nothing more to do with you . . ." Setting her paw on her hip and giving her sister a knowing look, Mandy said, "Judy, you show all the classic signs of having your heart stolen and then broken."
Judy just stood there as she tried to get her head wrapped around her sister's words. At the idea that Nick had stolen her heart. Is that why she was feeling so mopey and depressed all the time? Because when Nick left, he ran off with her heart? But how was that possible? They barely spent three days together! And he was a fox and she was a rabbit! How could she possibly see Nick in that way? And why in the world would he ever look at her that way? She was just the dumb bunny who stabbed him in the back.
Slowly shaking her head, Judy repeated, "Sorry, Mandy, but trust me when I say there is nothing between us and never will be." Rubbing her arm while glancing off to the left, she whispered, "He's not a rabbit, Mandy."
"Oh, phooey. Rabbits and hares are practically the same species. The only difference between us and them is that we like to burrow and they don't." As Judy continued rubbing her arm and staring at the ground in denial, Mandy decided to take a different approach. "Okay, forget the whole species thing and just look at it this way: Nick is the first male you've really connected with, correct? The first male to make you sit up and notice him?"
Judy couldn't deny how aware of Nick she was or that she felt a connection to him. With a slight nod, her sister continued.
"He's strong, dependable, handsome," (Judy couldn't hold the smile back while remembering how good Nick looked with his orange fur and ruddy ears and paws.) "has a sense of humor, trustworthy, and makes you feel safe with him—so what's there not to love?"
Judy nibbled on her lower lip while she continued to rub her arm. Mandy was completely correct in her assessment of . . . how she felt about him. There really wasn't anything wrong with loving Nick—except the fact that he was a fox! Not that she really cared what species Nick was. But—she was pretty sure Mandy would be singing a different tune if she realized her sister was heartbroken over a fox and not a hare.
Finally, she turned back to her sister and said, "Even if you're right . . . about how I feel . . . What difference does it make if he never wants to see me again? I broke his trust and essentially stabbed him in the back."
Mandy nodded and folded her arms, saying, "If he's as great as you say he is, then don't you think that after his temper cools down that he'll want to talk to you, too? Maybe even miss you a bit?" Judy gave a slight nod, but didn't look very convinced, and so Mandy added, "And if not, that just means he's not who you thought he was and there's no point in losing sleep and tears over him."
Judy gave a half-hearted chuckle as she nodded. Before she could reply though, their conversation was interrupted by a loud "Excuse me," coming from the booth. Both does turned to look over and noticed a line of rabbits and prairie dogs, along with a couple of sheep, waiting to get produce. Judy's ears dropped. Where did they all come from? There were just a few mammals a moment ago.
"Look, Judy," Mandy said, "you need some time to think and I need to get back to our impatient customers. Do you want to take my truck and drive somewhere?"
Judy thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I think I'll go for a walk. I need some peace and quiet and a chance to think." Taking a deep breath while considering everything her sister had told her (and finally putting a name to her emotions), she added, "And besides, a walk will give me the perfect chance to clear my head."
Mandy nodded, then gave her sister a quick hug before hurrying over to take care of their customers. She really hoped Judy could get over this slump she was in. First love was always the hardest—especially if it was one sided or ended tragically.
After exiting the diner, Nick looked down the street to where Saline had indicated Gideon's bakery would be, but he didn't immediately see it, so he decided to do some window shopping while looking for the bakery. Coming to one of the clothing stores, he took notice of his reflection in one of the large storefront windows and realized he stood out like a sore thumb.
Although his Pawaiian shirts helped him blend into the backdrop of Zootopia while doing his hustles (he was currently wearing a deep blue one with light blue palm fronds), they were just a loud eyesore here in Bunnyburrow. And if he wanted to make a good impression on Judy's family, he should probably wear something a bit more soothing and familiar. With a deep breath, Nick walked over to the door and pushed it open.
The store was about what he expected, with a large floor plan and lots of clothes primarily for rabbits, prairie dogs, and sheep. Moseying around until he found the canine section, he began browsing through the racks and shelves of clothes looking for something that would blend in but wouldn't be an eyesore to himself. The bright black and red flannel shirts were definitely out of the question.
He did eventually find a couple of blue button-up shirts that weren't too bad, several black shirts that set off his orange fur nicely, and then a couple of dark green shirts that set off his eyes. Each shirt had a different design sewn onto it and he wondered what Judy would think of them. After picking out the shirts, he moved onto the pants and picked out several blue jeans and a couple of black jeans. On the way to the checkout counter, he spied the shelves with hats on them—cowboy hats.
Walking over to them, he tried to picture Judy in one of the white straw hats, but since he'd only ever seen her in her ZPD blues, he had a hard time imagining it. With a chuckle, he picked up several hats sized for a fox and tried them on. The white one he tried didn't look right. The brown one didn't fit right. He tried a few more, but none fit or looked quite right, not until he picked up a black Stetson and plopped it on his head. Checking himself out in the full-length mirror hanging on the wall, Nick grinned as he tipped the hat back slightly and said in a country drawl,"Well, howdy, Pretty Lady." With a laugh, he pulled the black hat off his head and turned it over in his paws. It's not something he ever imagined himself wearing, but thinking about Judy, and wanting to see her expression when she caught him wearing it, he plopped it down on top of his other purchases and bought it along with everything else.
Looking at the receipt while walking out of the store, he was once again shocked to see the final amount. If he'd bought all this stuff in Zootopia, it would have just about cleaned him out of his money (he hadn't had anyone but himself to spend money on, so he'd been saving for years). The prices here were easily half or less of what the same items would cost in the big city.
With a wide grin while thinking of all the money he saved, Nick walked back to his convertible and stashed his clothes and the hat. Returning to the street, he continued his wandering and window-shopping (while avoiding the much smaller prey mammals who were giving him the stink-eye) until he came across a pink and white sign over a small shop that read: Gideon Gray's Real Good Baked Goods.
Nick tilted his head a moment, then shook it. Gideon was definitely a country boy. Walking up to the bakery, he could see several trays and glass cases loaded with cakes, muffins, pastries, and of course—pies. Licking his chops while making his way to the door, Nick pushed it open, with his ear flicking at the sound of a small bell ringing at his entrance.
"Just a minute," Nick heard someone holler from the back, "I . . . I'll be right with ya."
Nick raised his eyebrow at the voice (presumably Gideon's), but didn't say anything. Instead, he started looking around the place and taking notice of the different 'real good baked goods' along with their mouth-watering smells. Ahh, the smells. This place felt like heaven for his nose. Stopping in front of a shelf full of pies (and yes, he could smell the blueberries), he closed his eyes and took a deep whiff. Yes, this was definitely heaven for his nose—and soon—it'll be heaven for his mouth and stomach.
"I, I just needed to pull out these here pies," a rotund red fox said as he walked backwards through the swinging door that separated the store from the kitchen part of the bakery.
Looking at the new fox as he came into few, Nick guessed the fox was a few years younger than himself, but that wasn't what caught his attention. As the fox turned around, Nick's nose started twitching slightly as he began taking several deep breaths. The fox was carrying a tray that held two pies on it. One was obviously apple, but the other one . . . Nick licked his chops while his eyes zeroed in on the fresh blueberry pie, hot out of the oven.
Gideon froze upon seeing another red fox in his bakery. Except his family, there weren't any other red foxes in the area. There were some of the smaller fox breeds—a few swift and kit fox families, several corsac families, and even a family of hoary foxes who had recently moved in on the outskirts of town. They had bought up a bunch of land to start a cricket and cicada farm to help supply the insects to some of the predator food companies.
But red foxes—they were in short supply 'round these parts. Especially one as tall and lean as the one standing in front of him. "Um, can I, I help you?"
Nick licked his chops again as his tail swayed behind him while staring at the steaming pie in the other's paws. "I'll take it."
Nick looked up from the pie and said, "The blueberry pie. I'll take it."
"Oh, um, okay," Gideon said as he made his way over to the shelf the pies were to go on. Setting the apple pie on the shelf, he then walked over to the cash register and set the blueberry pie on the counter next to it, then stepped behind the counter.
As the fox rang up his order, Nick asked, "Are you Gideon, the owner of the bakery?"
"That's right," Gideon said proudly as he put the money in the register. But then, with a flick of his ear, he asked, "Do I . . . do I know you?" He still couldn't believe another red fox had shown up in his bakery. Was he a distant cousin or something? Had they met when they were little and he'd simply forgotten about it?
Nick shook his head. "Nope. I'm Nick. Nick Wilde." After Gideon shook his paw, Nick continued, saying, "I'm just visiting, but Saline, from the diner, said you were the best bakery in the tri-burrows and I simply must try one of your pies." Licking his lips, he added, "And going by the smell, she wasn't wrong."
A wide grin spread across Gideon's face as he said, "Ah, shucks, there ain't nothin to it."
"Let me be the judge of that," Nick said as he picked up the drool-worthy pie. Glancing at Gideon, he asked, "Spoon? And maybe a glass of water."
"Oh, right." Grabbing a spoon and handing it over, Gideon said, "Here ya go." He then filled a glass with water and followed Nick over to one of his tables reserved for customers.
"Thanks," Nick said as he took the spoon. Sitting down as Gideon placed the cup on the table, Nick then dug into the pie with gusto. He'd just finished a satisfying dinner, and yet you couldn't tell it to watch him eat now. The pie tasted like ambrosia from the gods and Nick couldn't help stuffing his face.
Gideon watched from the side as he wiped down a couple of the other tables and was surprised at how much Nick was enjoying the pie. The other todd acted like he hadn't eaten in days. Though, with as skinny as he was, that might be the case—especially if he was coming from the big city (Gideon couldn't see anyone from these parts wearing such a loud shirt). He doubted there were too many restaurants or stores in Zootopia willing to serve a red fox now a days.
Nick was half-way through the pie (with his lips and fur stained a dark bluish-purple) before he slowed down enough to talk. Taking a drink of water, he cleared his throat and said, "I heard you partnered with the Hopps and use their fruit in your pastries."
Gideon looked up and grinned. "That's right. I, I'm now partnered with them. It's actually saved my business." With a thoughtful expression, he scratched his neck, adding, "But when Stu first called I, I thought he might be pullin my tail."
"Oh?" Nick murmured with perked ears. "And why is that?" Motioning to the seat across from him, he invited Gideon to sit while they talked.
Gideon took the seat but didn't immediately answer. He fidgeted a minute with his paws, then looked absently at a shelf full of Danish tarts. "The Hopps clan ain't real trustin' of predators and . . . and I, I was a real jerk to a bunch of their kits when we were younger."
Nick froze with a spoonful of the heavenly baked blueberries halfway to his mouth. "You don't say," he murmured as he suddenly felt a claw of fear twisting around inside his gut at the implications of his fellow fox's words.
Gideon nodded as he put one of his paws on the table and started drumming it with his claws. "I had a lot of self-doubt in my youth and it manifested itself as uncontrolled rage and aggression." Bringing his other paw up, Gideon rubbed it across his face while remembering all the fights he got into back then.
Nick's ears flattened against his head as the fear inside his gut intensified. After a moment, he dropped the end of his spoon back in the pie pan and started pushing the cooked blueberries around the half of the pan he'd already eaten the pie from. In a soft voice, he asked, "Did you do anything to Judy?"
Gideon looked up sharply and asked, "How do ya know about Judy?"
Nick's heart about stopped as a chill ran down his spine and along his tail, ending with his tail-tip twitching with anxiety. Trying to keep his voice even, Nick asked slowly, "Gideon, what did you do to Judy?"
Gideon fidgeted with his claws and kept looking around the room as he avoided Nick's sharp gaze. As Nick's fur started to bristle as the thought of getting hostile suddenly crossed his mind, Gideon finally looked at Nick and asked, "How . . . how do ya know Judy?"
Nick flicked his ear and leaned back in his chair while forcing his fur to lay back down. Folding his arms, he answered, "I met her in Zootopia 4 months ago. I hustled 20 bucks from her, and then she blackmailed me into helping her find all those missing mammals. At first, I resented her, but after one wild otter chase, I came to see her as a friend—a really good friend. She even asked me to be her partner on the force and gave me an application to the ZPA. It was the first time anyone, especially prey, had shown me that level of trust. I even filled out the application with every intention of becoming the first fox officer of the ZPD and working as her partner on the force." Nick paused and a frown touched his muzzle as he continued, "But what she said at the press conference hurt a lot. I confronted her on it, and we had a bit of a fight. I stormed out on her and haven't seen her since."
Gideon was shocked to hear Judy had asked Nick, a red fox, to be her partner on the force, and the fact that Nick had agreed was even more shocking. As Nick had pointed out, foxes weren't generally trusted—especially by law enforcement. But if he had been able to make it through the academy to become the first fox officer, it would really give foxes a more positive image, might even turn around society's stereotype about foxes . . . or at least start the change. "She really ask you to be her partner?" Gid pressed. Although Judy had forgiven him when he saw her a month ago, he still found it shocking that a rabbit would want to be close friends with a fox, let alone partners on the police force. When working such a dangerous job, you had to have explicit trust in your partner.
Nick nodded. "That's right. I came here to find her and talk about what happened. I can't get her out of my head, and I can't move on until we resolve this." Leaning forward, Nick tapped the claw of his pointer finger on the tabletop, saying, "Now what did you do to Judy, Gideon. I need to know. Our friendship depends on it."
With his white tail-tip twitching in agitation, Gideon looked around the room for several seconds while trying to come up with a way out of this mess. He'd been feeling guilty for years for what he'd done to Judy Hopps, and he thought he'd put it to rest when he was finally able to apologize to her. But now, all that guilt came back 100-fold as he realized his actions from all those years ago had messed up her friendship with the fox sitting across from him. But admitting out loud to what he did, especially to the fox across from him, felt like swallowing a hornet's nest as his stomach twisted into painful knots.
After a moment of fidgeting, Gideon suddenly stood up and said, "I need to check on my pies. I, I forgot to set the timer." Heading towards the kitchen, he froze at Nick's next words.
"Gideon, you and I both know there are no pies in the oven." Pausing a moment, Nick continued as an edge entered his voice, "Now what did you do to Judy." At Gideon's continued silence, Nick's fur bristled again as he growled out, "Gideon."
A cold shiver ran down Gid's back as he heard the deadly undertone in Nick's growl. Although he'd been in plenty of fights growing up, it had been years since his last brawl. But Nick . . . Nick was a city fox who carried himself with an air of danger and confidence about him. And although the city fox was leaner than him, Gid had little doubt Nick packed a mean punch. And going by his growl (a growl that sounded awfully territorial), Gideon knew the fox behind him would be throwing out a lot more than just punches.
With his ears laying flat and his tail slumping to the floor, Gideon whispered, "She was about nine and I, I was eleven, I, I think." With a shake of his head, he continued, "She caught me stealing her friend's tickets from one of the festivals they throw every year." Taking a deep breath, he said, "I pushed her down and she kicked me in the muzzle, so I, I . . . I clawed her in the face." This last was said in a hushed whisper, and with this confession, Gideon fled into the kitchen.
Nick sat in stunned silence after Gideon's whispered confession for only a second before he exploded, "You mauled Judy in the face—when she was only nine!" The snarl in his voice was loud and promised pain . . . a lot of pain.
Gideon didn't answer as he bolted out the back door with his life flashing before his eyes. Escaping outside, the door banged loudly as he slammed it shut behind him while wondering where he could hide. Nick was a fellow fox, which meant he could track prey (Gideon suddenly knew what it felt like to be prey) almost as well as a wolf—which didn't leave him many options. Hoping to hide himself in a crowd, he fled to the main street and headed towards one of the popular stores.
As silence returned to the bakery, a part of Nick wanted to chase after Gideon, to bloody his face and rearrange his insides—while the bigger part now had guilt eating at him from the inside out. Remembering how he scared Judy and stormed off without waiting for an explanation, he realized he'd probably taken the same stance Gideon had when he'd mauled her all those years ago.
Of course, she would be scared of him when he forced her to relive her childhood nightmare. He thought being muzzled by a bunch of prey was bad, but Judy had been clawed in the face by a red fox when she was just a kit!
Pushing the pie away from him (he had lost his appetite and the pie now tasted like ash in his mouth), Nick rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head in his paws. He was so stupid! Of course, she'd be prejudiced against foxes! And the fact she still stood up for him, gave him the benefit of the doubt at their first meeting, and then still risked her life to save his from Manchas, relied on him when they snuck into Cliffside Asylum, and even asked him to be her partner on the force showed how much she truly trusted him.
And, being the dumb fox that he was, he went and destroyed their friendship because he hadn't gotten over his stupid muzzle incident that happened when he was a kit. Digging his claws into his fur, he raked them through his head fur and down the back of his neck. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," he muttered to himself.
After a minute of sitting and stewing, he stood up and made his way outside. Looking around the town, he saw rabbits, prairie dogs, sheep, and a few larger mammals going about their business. And although the rabbits and prairie dogs weren't very chummy with the predators, the other large prey mammals (deer, antelope, bovine, and a donkey) were friendly with them and even greeted the preds warmly. It was actually nice to see as it meant the town wasn't completely prejudiced against predators.
Glancing around at the storefronts, leafy trees, and flowering shrubs that lined the streets, Nick noticed a park with a rose garden down the street. Deciding he needed to sit and think, he made his way over to it. Upon entering the park, he saw a walking path lined with wood chips that threaded around the park. Looking around, he noticed several kits (rabbits, prairie dogs, sheep and a groundhog playing on the swing set and jungle gym that was set up, as well as some older kits (a couple of cougars, 3 deer, a badger, 2 cows, a wolf, and a teenage ram) playing basketball at a half-court on the opposite side of the field from the playground. An elderly boar couple was walking slowly around the park, while a dark brown rabbit doe was tending to one of the rose bushes in the garden.
At the back of the park, he noticed a dirt path that broke away from the main walking path and climbed a small hill that overlooked the town. Several benches were situated at the top where mammals could sit and watch the sunset . . . or just sit and think . . . which is the whole reason he was here.
Making his way to the path, he climbed the hill and sat. Looking out over the town, he tried to think what life was like for Judy growing up in a place like this. Remembering how he described Judy the first day he met her—a small town hick with big dreams—he realized how true, and yet monumentally wrong, he'd been. She showed him up and proved what a bunny could do. And if he had stuck by her, she might still be a real cop and not listlessly existing in her family's burrow. He had been such a jerk to her.
Nick spent the rest of the afternoon staring at the town and watching the cotton-ball clouds float by while he sat and thought. It wasn't until the sun was setting (and shining in his eyes) that he finally stood up and made his way back down to Gideon's bakery. The bakery was already closed, but Nick heard movement inside. Walking around to the back door, he rapped lightly on the cream-colored metal door. There was a slight pause, and then more movement inside, and then the door cracked open and Gideon looked out with a guilty, fearful expression.
WingedKatt here. I hope you enjoyed this chapter. In case you were wondering, yes, we will be seeing cassowaries in this story and in reference to Judy's comment about some of the bucks slapping the cassowaries on the rump while they're sleeping as a show of courage, Cassowaries are labeled as the world's deadliest bird. They are the 3rd largest bird in the world (after ostriches and emus) and will attack without notice. They have extremely powerful legs and longer dagger-like claws that they will use to kick and slash their victims to death if given the chance. They will also peck and headbutt their victims with their hard cranial crest. And they are relentless in their pursuit and can run up to 30-35 miles an hour. They are tenacious, too, and will stick around waiting for their victims to come out of hiding if they manage to escape up a tree or into a vehicle or building.
Chapter 3: After Sunset, will post Saturday, March 21st. That's in 2 weeks instead of 3. Yay! I'll be posting the next chapter of Z:AtB next week, so you can look forward to it, and then ch3 the following week.
As always, if you have any thoughts or comments, let me know. Have a great weekend.