oh. em. goodness
THIS STORY BLEW UP OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS AND IT'S ALL THANKS TO YOU! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! So many positive and lovely reviews from so many positive and lovely pebople! You really do stun and amaze me, and it just makes me so excited for y'all to see what's coming up in the future!
Sorry this took a little extra time! I have some more already partially done, so we'll see if I can get those out faster!
In the meantime... I have... done my best... and will be writing a SEPARATE STORY filled with one shots that... (sigh) SHIP THESE TWO. So for those who have asked and asked and asked and ASKED if I could write something that made them a couple... your prayers have been partially answered. And you will recieve a group of one shots for just that.
There might even be a full length story soon to be released by yours truly.
So that should be fun.
Lots of good stuff to look forward to!
For now let's focus on this and get going with our newest installment! Apologies! It's a bit of a mess, and will be tidied up over the next few days when I continuously go back and find ways to tweak it. Remember, I edited mostly between midterms at around hell'o'clock in the morning. If you find mistakes I most likely already know or will find them!
In the meantime please do have fun reading this messy creation!
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties."
Nick hadn't always worn a tie. But he'd always wanted to.
A child that lived fantasies of grandeur, he grew up knowing that he was going to make it big.
At two (30 Years Before) he was already trying to sneak out of his crib, scaling it with the abilities of older Foxes, just to pad about and give warbled orders to his stuffed animals (all faithful employees except for Mr. Hippo who leaked confidential information to Gerard Giraffe and had to be transferred to a lower department with a cut in his paw) while his father and mother slept.
At three (29 Years before) he was already drawing himself in the front of a boardroom- his tiny red body done up to the nines. Rooting his way through his father's closet, looking for suit jackets that smelled like perfume that was unfamiliar but pretty enough, drowning in too large shirts and pants that were more like tunnels, he became an animal of opportunity and wealth.
But most of all, he loved his fathers ties.
Draping them around his neck he'd stomp his tiny clawed feet about the house and give orders to all who crossed his path.
He felt powerful. Successful. Meaningful.
Nicholas Wilde, from an early age, knew that as long as one wore a tie, one could be whatever they wished.
28 years before
Right before four, two days before his birthday, the suits and ties in his father's closet were suddenly missing. He couldn't remember much at all. But his mother cried, and he was scared and she told him that they'd still be alright. He didn't really miss the guy. He hadn't known him. But he did miss the suits and the ties -especially the ties- and that powerful feeling that they'd provided. If the suits that had helped his mother and him live for so many years were gone, then he'd just have to find his own and help her. And really, how hard could it have been?
So he kept practicing. Grabbing markers and crayons, he'd fashioned himself a tie out of paper towels and old twine, coloring it in a lovely shade of violet and grey before taking his newfound act to the streets, selling tepid lemonade and burnt cookies outside the steps of their small joint apartment, bringing back enough quarters to shower upon the Prince of Egypt.
"Look, Mommy!" He'd scrambled up the side of her bed where she'd been reading a book, propped against her pillows, turning the old beef stew can over and letting the coins spill out. "These should help, right!"
She'd given him a hug, and together they'd collected together all the spare change, putting it back into its container. And then she'd pushed it into his hands. "You're a little business man. And a darn good one." She flicked his nose, and he sat back giggling. "I think you'll make a good career out of this yet!"
"Really?" She ruffled the space between his ears, and when he giggled, the can in his paws let out a sound like rain against a tin roof.
"Really. I think all the businessmen will be jealous. After all, you've been doing this since you were born." Another giggle earned him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. "No one can touch you!"
"I'll huttle all the best deals!" He said proudly.
His mother just chuckled. "It's called a hustle, sweetheart."
26 years before
When he turned six he begged his mother for a tie. "So I can do business deals!" She had been at their kitchen table, a mug of coffee at her elbow, a newspaper in front of her and a red pen in her paw. "Please! I promise I'll give you a quarter of the funds if you invest in my business!"
She'd smiled, but it had been a weary one. "We'll see… I'm sure we can manage a tie…"
His birthday had been a hectic one. It had involved moving. Packing away what they had and storing it all in boxes, taking them to a small two room apartment even further down in the city. The neighborhood wasn't great, but it did have an ice cream shop on the corner and kids played in the rickety playground a few blocks down. He'd done his best to stay happy. Positive. It seemed to help his mother, who had begun to look so tired.
His birthday had also come with gifts.
Two new toys. A set of colored pencils.
And his very own tie.
"I found it in a little second hand store," she told him, helping him loop the long thing around his neck. "I thought it was such a good color for you. I mean… you'll grow into it." It went down to the floor and was a lovely collection of red, blue and deep purple stripes. And Nick loved it.
"How do I look!" He stood proudly, taking a stance, and his mother laughed.
"Like a real business animal."
Looking in the mirror, twisting back and forth, he decided that yes, he did look like a real business mammal.
25 years and 364 days before
It would take a few hours, but both mother and son had always been the patient type. And so they sat beside one another on a rickety arm chair that took up most of their small living room, listening to birds chirp and dance about in small puddles of dirty water that had collected near the drains, their paws over one another holding the long fabric. She taught him six knots in total and by the end of the day he'd remember exactly two of them.
It would take some time before he knew all six. But when that time did come (and it would) he knew them all well enough to barely need the aid of a mirror, sitting on a rickety mattress, staring out into the smog and preparing for days ahead.
24 years before
They'd gone out for icecream. The day was hot enough to have him outside on their front steps, panting up a storm from under the brim of his Zootopia Lions Football hat. His mother had been in a good mood (though he rarely saw her otherwise) and had suggested, tucking her wallet into the pocket of her skirt, that they should take advantage of the heat and go out for a treat. The little place on the corner had been open, and they'd held hands, crossing the street and following random chalk drawings until they'd reached the front door. The little bell had rung and he'd released his mother's hand almost right away, skidding across the black and white tiling, standing on his tip toes to look into the glass casing, staring at all the choices through a fogged, dirty window.
His mother had laughed, chortling at his antics before ruffling between his ears and telling him to pick whatever he liked. Extra toppings and all. He'd had his mind set on a perfect looking double scoop of blueberry with rainbow sprinkles when suddenly there was a sign in front of his mother's nose and a declaration of refusal for service. Nick wasn't sure what that had meant, but he hadn't been worried. His mother had always dealt with everyone.
The Porcupine looked mean. But his mother wasn't. She'd always been the sweetest. The kindest. Someone who he'd bet all the money in his piggy bank could easily take out every superhero in his frayed comic books. And standing across from the mean looking mammal with her sweater tied about her neck like a cape, he waited eagerly for a simple delivery of justice.
It never came.
"What are you gonna do, Fox?" The porcupine over the counter had glared at his mother. Wilde looked up, clutching at his mother's skirt. "We don't sell to you."
"We're just here to buy something." She had a few dollars and a quarter or two already in her palm. Nick watched the coins shifting together with her shaking hand. He didn't know if it was out of anger or fear. Didn't know why it was happening at all.
The Porcupine behind the counter didn't care. Or maybe he didn't even notice. "For what? Selling again? I know all of you. What business are you peddling, huh?"
"No business!" She made a move to step back but didn't. "Can we please just-"
"Nuh uh. No way. Not gonna see my stuff resold on the street by some shifty low life!"
"Mommy?" Nick had moved even closer, looking up over the counter.
"Sir, please," she was begging then. Pleading. And superheroes had never pleaded. Never begged. Nick pressed his eyes into the backs of her knees until they'd watered. Felt her paw land against the back of his head. "Not in front of my son-"
"What? You teaching him the family business?"
"What? No! We don't-"
"Look, I don't want to have to say this again-"
From the other side, sitting on old red plastic chairs a few other animals all turned their heads to glare.
"Just do what the nice guy says, lady."
"Get out of here, Fox-"
"We don't need your kind skulking around here!"
Nick had waiting for his mother to fight. To shout back. She was the strongest person he knew after all, and so he waited for the moment when she'd rise up against them like the hero she had always been, fighting teachers and principals against phony charges and defending him from the monsters beneath the bed. But instead she just took her son by the hand and led him out. The bell jingled once more. And just like that, they were standing outside on the hot sidewalk without any ice cream and enough questions on his mind to fill the seas twice over.
He wouldn't get any of his answers.
So he put on his tie and waited for them to arrive. He'd always found that people who wore ties had answers. Or at least looked like they did. When nothing came, he gave up, sitting in the corner of his room wondering through the day over and over again, replaying actions and trying to find where he was faulty.
But that night, after a bath and a book, she'd hung his tie up on the knob of his closet door and sat on the edge of his bed. "You're so much more than what he told you, you know that?"
"Just promise me you won't forget that, okay? That you're more than that. You're so much more than that."
"He said that I was a Fox-"
"And you are. But there's nothing wrong with being a Fox." She kissed him on the head. Turned off the light. "Just make sure they know that."
23 years before
But perhaps it all started when he saw the small troop of children wandering from house to dingy house in his small ramshackle downtown neighborhood. They all wore uniforms, looking sharper than some of the businessmen that he sometimes saw on the streets. Dressed in tiny slacks and button ups, they seemed to charm every open face that peeked out the door. One of them turned around, and Nick saw the bandana about their neck, tied with the most classy of knots.
"Mom!" He tugged his mother's hand, slowing her pace down the walk. "Mom, look!"
"Nick, honey, we've got to-"
"No! No, look!" He gave her hand another tug, pointing towards the troop. "What are they doing!" He tilted his head, big ears flopping. One of the children saw him. Squinted. Raised a paw and cautiously waved. Nick could have jumped. "Mommy! Mommy did you see! They said hi!"
"I saw, sweetheart." She smiled down at him. "They seem nice."
"Can I go with them!"
"I think they're part of a club, Nick."
"Oh…" his ears drooped a moment. The kids across the street talked to someone walking the opposite direction before heading towards another door. They knocked. No one answered. The mammal who'd waved to Nick, a smallish beaver with a crooked tail, gestured to the group of five or six others and they followed him around the corner. Nick's ears drooped. "Do you think I could join, mom," he asked. Though from the way his voice sounded it seemed like he already knew the answer. Questions about school trips, sleep aways, after school activities, had all already been given, and this was no different.
His mother's paw brushed her pocket where her wallet was. "I'm not sure right now, hon."
"Okay." She sighed in relief, enormously glad for her son's understanding in those moments.
She gave his hand another little tug and they were soon walking down to the road once more.
"You're a Predator" said one, advancing quickly. "You know that, right?"
"Y-yeah…?" His mother had always told him so. Told him what he was right after telling him to be kind. To be proud. To be himself. He did his best to smile in the face of animosity, showing all his sharp teeth in what he hoped was a sign of friendship.
That was all he really wanted, after all.
"You're a Predator," another said, and his own smile was one that held nothing but disgust. "We're Prey."
"You eat things like us," a third pointed out. "How must that feel. Working with dinner?"
"My mom says to be friends with everyone!" Nick hopped a bit on his heels, twiddling his thumbs. "I don't eat anyone here! And we really only buy at the supermarket! And I'm the nicest every because my mom said so and I always try to help everyone!" His smile faltered when the Prey looked back and forth amongst themselves. "I promise I've never hurt anyone!" he said again. "I… I'd never! Never ever!"
Because he wouldn't. He never would.
Nick's mother surprised him with the uniform one day after school, sliding it across the kitchen table wrapped in old newspapers and chicken twine used to cook dinner from a few days prior. "You've been doing so well, lately!" she told him after he'd stopped jumping off the walls. "It'll be good for you to be around more kids!"
"I get to wear a uniform!" He crowed, holding it up. His mother had to slow him, helping him button up the shirt with quick fingers. "Ya think they'll be impressed with how good I look in this!"
"I think they'll all be jealous," she tweaked his nose. "The handsomest animal there."
"Really." She crossed her heart with a claw, smirking down at him before grabbing him into a fierce hug. "First meetings tomorrow night! What do you think? Should we call in for pizza before you head out?"
His reply was an enthusiastic one.
"You really think we'd trust a predator like you?"
"Bet you grew up in a cave, Predator. Where's your cave, huh?"
"You scare so many of us! How's it feel to be afraid for once!"
"Aw, look! He's crying!"
His mother had stood at the bottom of the stairs watching him go, waving until he had rounded the corner. She'd practiced directions with him at least a hundred times, going over them again and again with instructions of not talking to strangers and coming strait home afterwards. He'd made quick promises and had kissed her goodbye.
She'd fiddled with his scarf, told him he looked like a real scout, said goodbye.
"You're lucky this is all we're doing," one of them had hissed, throwing him against the stairs, landing a kick on the hollow wood next to his ribs. "You've hurt so many of us-"
"No! I wouldn't! I haven't!"
But they hadn't listened, tugging him by the back of his shirt up the stairs, giving him a shove towards the front doors. Their jeers were the last thing he'd hear before he was running out. His claws were small, but they were sharp, and when he'd wrestled against leather straps he could feel them digging tiny scratches into his skin. Not that that mattered.
Nothing had really mattered.
So he'd sat on the walkway outside of a dingy church sign and cried.
Wilde didn't tell his mother what happened. Tried to keep it a secret. Because in his world, where his mother was a superhero, he had to be a sidekick. The person who helped aid her in all of her ventures. The one who wore the tie and brought home money to make her happy.
He wouldn't tell her how many times he'd wake up crying, nightmares of muzzles pressing against his face. Something told him that she guessed. Didn't know what had occurred, but had at least guessed. And in that time where she was silent in her own ideas and he was quiet in his truths, he took the time to contemplate and reason with everything that had ever occurred.
It was disturbingly easy to do the math.
A single variable (ice cream stores and angry patrons) added to another horrific variable (muzzles and cruel children and words that stung) equaled a constant that couldn't be defeated.
He was a Fox. And as a Fox the world was going to see him in only one way. Shifty. Sneaky. Untrustworthy.
22 Years Before
Wilde, at ten years old, and far too young for any such things, came to the decision that if the world was going to see him in only one way then so be it.
20 Years Before
He just wished that a superhero had stayed longer to prove him wrong.
20 Years and 183 Days Before
The foster care system he'd found himself in had never been the best one, and he found himself bounced back and forth between one home to the next, never really finding a permanent resident but somewhat grateful for the shelter and food nonetheless. Regardless, he'd learned quickly that when people opened up their houses in neighborhoods like the one he'd found himself in time and time again, they cared little for the ones that occupied it. It was easy to get out; open windows and jimmy doors and sneak down fire escapes to scamper through the streets.
He was a businessman at heart, and no one could keep him from doing what he had always been best at.
He took his earnings from years of lemonade sales and a few pawn jobs (taking things from foster homes that he knew wouldn't be dearly missed) and went to the department store as soon as he had collected enough cash.
When he came out again, he'd left behind too small jeans and an old sports jersey in favor of a pair of loose fitting khakis and a dark blue button up. He hated the new shirt. The collar was stiff and it dug into the back of his neck. But it fit with the tie that he'd bought- a deep purple thing with yellow squiggles. It had character. And if Nicholas Wilde liked anything, it was character.
Besides, his other tie still didn't fit. And if he was going to play a part, he'd need a tie that fit.
20 Years and 110 Days Before
He'd try tens of different scams before he found one that really suited him.
Strolling into a familiar neighborhood, he'd stepped through a familiar door, heard a familiar bell and smiled at a familiar mammal who had no such agenda to do the same back. He'd thrown the cash down on the counter, slapping it with his paw a few times to show that rejection of such an offer would have been near impossible.
"A quart of your best blueberry, my good sir," he'd oozed. "And please, don't skimp on the sprinkles.
It cost him $12.37. By the end of the day, lugging a large crate of ice behind him, smile thick and vengeful, he'd pocket an easy $200.
"I could get used to this," he'd mutter, before grabbing back ahold of a fire escape, hiding his wares behind a dumpster, and shimmying up to safety.
By the time he turned 15 (17 Years Before) he'd had enough money to shell out and get his own one bedroom hole in the wall apartment, convincing a new connection to forge a fake ID before heading off into the world as a legitimate businessman of the under-the-table variety.
By the time he'd turned 17 (15 years before) he'd collected enough money to kick his feet up.
When he was 25 (8 years before) he'd have enough to hire an assistant. He'd lose that one to jail time. As well as the one after. And the one after that. It wouldn't be until he'd turned 30 (2 years before) that he'd find someone who actually suited him. A small Desert Fox named Finnick who worked once a week for a few months before transitioning into a more full time partner. He made only 20% of the cut, but had other jobs and stuck around (Nick assumed) for the company.
He just wished the smaller had been more willing to wear a uniform.
"Businessmen wear ties," Nick had halfheartedly mentioned one day, licking idly at a Pawsicle.
"So. Where's yours."
"Don't need one." Finnick's voice was deep and rumbling, and it shook against the popped collar of one of the many baseball jerseys that he wore on the daily. "Always hated them."
Nick had nodded, leaving it at that. Not wanting to voice his opinions about professionalism and trickery and appearance to someone who could very likely bite his face off from the rest of his body with one temperamental snap. But watching him leave in his spray painted red van, he had to at least fiddle with his own.
Life had never been particularly easy for Nick Wilde. But looking back on a past as rocky as the mountains, he had to at least kick back and enjoy the view. He had money. No one could touch him. Scheming for years had brought on a professionalism that was as clever as it was despised, and his list of enemies had become more a mark of pride than anything else.
Someone had once stopped him after realizing they been jipped, glaring at him from over wire rimmed spectacles, stating, "don't you have anything better to do? Any friends?"
"Fraid not, sir," he called back boredly, licking the pad of his thumb before going through a small pile of cash. "Have a nice day."
Friends weren't needed when you were Nicholas P. Wilde. He'd always been better off alone anyway. Businessmen didn't travel together. They weren't pack animals. They were solitary in their accomplishments.
Nick Wilde didn't need anyone else.
Nick Wilde didn't need anything.
Still, the comment had left him feeling a little bit… odd inside. He'd scoffed, doing his best to bat at the hole that rarely seemed to fill itself. He was who he was, and to go against it would do nothing.
But if he did find himself browsing the aisles of a department stores later that evening, comparing new ties up against his green Hawaiian shirt, waiting to feel a spark inside his chest to make other things feel a bit less… numb… then who was anyone else to judge.
He'd buy three new ones and wear only two of them. The other would be thrown into the back of his closet. Which was fine. Sometimes it wasn't about the ties you liked. It was about how many you had.
By the time Wilde was 31 (1 Year Before) he'd had enough to fill a small dumpster. He had his favorite of course (a little blue, red and purple number he'd found in the back of a thrift store that had given him enough memories to pay the inflated price) but other than that he was content enough to store away the ones he'd found at random- ones with odd shapes and colors and different patterns that all possessed a sort of quirk that he found intriguing and admirable in both mammals and dress-wear. A hoarder at worst, a collector at best. No less empty but very well dressed. And that, Wilde decided, compensated for quite a bit.
And on the morning of his 32nd birthday he'd grabbed his favorite tie, skillfully knotting it with a practiced ease, adjusted it in the mirror with a huge mug of coffee in his left paw. It had been a foggy and distressful day filled with traffic and construction and mammals with yellow hats filing up and down his street eyeing the bottles of overpriced water and iced treats he'd placed strategically out for them. And sitting there in a fold out lawn chair, sipping out of a slurpy he'd grabbed from a corner store, he'd been fine to think that if compensation was how he was going to scrape miserably by, then at least he'd scrape the bottom with weighted pockets filled with cash.
Nick Wilde's life wasn't anything to scream Extra! Extra! about. But it was a good enough life. And he was content with being content about it.
All one needed to do in life was have nice ties and survive.
So that's what Wilde intended to do.
186 Days and 20 Hours Before
And then Nick Wilde had met Judy Hopps.
Nick despised Judy.
Judy despised Nick's tie.
But how could she not. The Fox seemed to either be color blind (he wasn't) or just made incredibly bad fashion choices (he did) to think that a bright green hawaiian disaster of a shirt would go well with a red, blue and purple striped tie. And it wasn't even that. Standing there in khakis and a button up, Nick had the potential to dress nicely. Sure, his shirt carried prints made for a fifty year old tourist and his pants puffed out around thick fur and occasionally he smelled a little bit like the heady, cheap cologne that she knew must have come from out of a can or in a dollar store. But what really sold it all was the fact that he had to pair it with a tie. As if his look wasn't already ridiculous enough, he had to try and dress it all up.
It was like putting garnish on a trash heap.
But Judy had always been good at finding the positive things in life. And there were some positives. Nick's tie came in handy, for instance, when he decided to annoy her. And apparently he decided to annoy her a lot.
"Alright, come on Slick." She reached up, giving his tie a sharp tug, ignoring his low yelp of protest, followed by his growl. From the corner of her eye she could see him adjusting the top knot, glaring down at her.
"You're going to ruin my tie, Carrots," he spat out the nickname, and she hoped he didn't see the way her ears twitched in anger. He'd apparently decided that he was going to call her by the most degrading thing he could. But she wasn't going to let him know it bothered her. Not when there was a case and her reputation on the line.
He was a pawn. She was the queen.
"Funny. I don't remember caring." Turning a three quarter circle she flashed him her best, smug grin. "Maybe it'd be better if you actually wore one correctly."
"This is correctly."
"Uh huh. Sure."
He mumbled something about not seeing her wearing a tie, but followed obediently along.
186 Days and 15 Hours Before
A break in their trailing of Otters and Tigers and lost Jaguars had found them sitting on the cold, gum covered picnic table of a small fast food joint on the outside of the Jungle District. She'd complained at first, apparently still holding a grudge against his last little timely visit to a certain employed Sloth. But he'd just flicked the back of her head, watching her glare and duck away, still not used to the close contact of claws.
"Don't worry, Carrots," he'd goaded, taking out his phone and tapping in a few short words. "This is the quickest place in the district."
"You said that last time," she mumbled, swinging her feet under the table top, coming close to hitting his knees with her strong feet. Her face screwed up in thought- wondering how much he'd still be willing to help if she took a swing. "And last time it took hours."
"Well, this time it won't." Leaning on his elbow he leered at her. "C'mon, Darlin'. Don't you trust me by now?"
"There's a difference between trust and depend."
Their food arrived soon enough and they fell into an easy enough banter. He took a picture of her when she wasn't ready, saving the horrible thing with a cackle. She retaliated by stealing his fries when he wasn't looking. At one point she'd pulled out a few of their clues, dropping them on the table, settling them on top of old candy wrappers and a large sticky soda stain that smelled wretchedly sweet.
"Look. This is where we need to go. I have a friend at the Mayors office and once she gets back to us we can head over. Check the cameras."
"Cool." He set his teeth around his burger and she held back a gag- the smell of cooked meat something she wasn't sure she'd ever be used to. "And she'll talk to us?"
"If she keeps her promises, yeah." Judy shrugged. "She said if I needed anything. I think this qualifies."
"Aren't Sheep's known for flaking?"
"I think that's just Foxes with big mouths."
"Oh hah hah. Well what about- oh shoot!" She blinked at him, ears flicking upward to look cautiously at the animal before her. His lips were pulled back into a snarl, his hand balled up against his chest before picking up the end of his horrible tie, tugging it away from him. "Dropped grease on it. Dammit. This is my best one, too."
"Really?" She cocked her head. "That's your best one?"
"You know I still could technically leave you behind."
"Uh huh. Sure." He let out a pitifully distressed sound, and Judy, despite her meager but far more defined knowledge of fashion, rolled her eyes. "Oh calm down. It's an easy enough fix. Here." It took about half the shaker of salt that had been between them and a careful eye from the Bunny in front but sure enough she'd gotten him cleaned up and was letting him marvel at her work while she leaned on her hip smugly. "That's what we get for growing up in a little carrot choked Podunk."
"Good cleaning tricks?"
"No. The patience to deal with folks like you." She jerked her wrist, his tie flying up to hit him in the nose. He sneezed. Glared.
"I have a whole line of insults about the Burrows and their farmers, Rabbit," he huffed. "It sure seems like you're anxious to hear them all…"
"That's fine," she offered back sweetly. "We've got a whole slew of them for you too. Do you know that where I come from, we call your kind a Coffee Boiler?"
"You call me a-"
Her phone beeping interrupted him. She grabbed an extra napkin from the center of the table, wiping grease off her hands. "It's Belleweather! She said to come over. Come on!" She was already off the table before he'd had a chance to react.
"Wait…!" He tagged along, newly cleaned tie swinging back and hitting him in the chest. "What's a Coffee Boiler!"
"Look it up, Wilde."
"What did you call me, Rabbit!"
"Keep up!" She sang back. "Don't wanna live up to the name just yet!" She ducked when he took a gentle swipe at her ears.
Later on, walking into the building, waiting in the lobby for the lead to show up, she watched out of the corner of her eye as Nick furiously typed something into his phone, stared at the screen, glared. "I am not," he snarled.
"Coffee Boiler," she murmured back under her breath, holding back a snort when he whipped about to snarl at her. The Assistant Mayor tailing behind Lionheart saved her a verbal beating, and she followed along, grabbing his tie and giving a hearty tug. "Come on, let's go!"
"... I am not…" he sulked, shoving his hands into his pockets.
185 Days and 9 Hours Before
She was afraid of him, he realized.
At first that had been fine. And the, the further they'd traveled, the less fine it had become.
See, a voice cawed. We told you that Prey couldn't be anything to a Predator.
A Predator like you, another joined in. Stupid Fox.
She was afraid of him. Flinched from teeth and claw. Kept distant. Held the small tube of repellent at her side.
It hurt. A little at first. A lot once he realized that she had the power to hurt him. That he let her. That he wanted to let her.
Please don't be afraid of me, he found himself silently pleading, keeping himself as friendly and amicable as a sarcastic loudmouth like him could be. Making sure to always keep his tie in sight because that seemed to be what gave him humanity. To her, at least. Stringing him along. Tugging him by a leash. She trusted the tie.
... He wanted her to trust him.
185 Days and 1 Hour Before
"You thought we'd trust an animal who wasn't muzzled?" A child jeered. "Like we're stupid enough to think you're anything more than a dirty Fox."
"It could have something to do with biology…"
For a startling moment, Nick couldn't tell the difference between someone who had haunted him and someone he'd trusted.
She tried to reason. But there was no reason left. Not when there were canisters sidled against hips that were enough proof. He growled. Snapped. Hurt where he thought he'd told himself never to hurt again. He was made of skin and bones. He always knew that being immortal was impossible and at best he'd walk away with a bruise or two.
Apparently she'd managed to be the one that pushed that to the side, reached out and broke him.
Judy Hopps had never done anything halfway. So when she hurt him she stabbed and twisted and mutilated.
I promise to be brave…
So he turned and left- the sound of children at his heels.
Even though you're a Fox?
184 Days and 18 Hours Before
When forgiveness was reached and relief poured out of her in smiles and tears, she'd almost bashfully approached him from under the sanctity of her bridge. She'd never been much of a hugger, but for some reason she was fine propping her head against the thin line of fabric splitting him in two.
He'd wrapped his arms around her, and all she'd seen for a moment was blue and red and purple. His cologne was something heady and cheap and strong- oak and vanilla and maybe even cloves, and it was strange to sink against the bad patterns and the strange smells and find something in it that even partially resembled comfort.
"Silly Bunny," he'd mumble later, batting at her ears. She'd retaliate by giving that patterned monstrosity a tug. But he seemed to mind less by then. Or maybe he'd just finally been humoring her. Either way the two of them were a strange pair. And while there was still a tentativeness between them (natural enemies didn't just get over their history in one night) he was willing to take oaths a million times with ties instead of sashes and scared violet eyes instead of a muzzle if only she'd understand that he'd stuck around in the hopes that she'd be back.
She'd been the first to believe in him. And part of him hoped she wasn't the last.
Even if she wasn't, even if there were others, she'd always be the one and only who had done more than just stand on the sidelines. So he pocketed the orange pen, got into the truck beside her, falling back into the banter he'd missed so much.
Children in his head would sneer that it couldn't have been real. Just wait. Just wait until she turned around and betrayed him again.
It would take him until a stray sunbeam hit through the dusty window that he'd notice his favorite tie was dotted with her tears.
184 Days and 16 Hours Before
She'd hurt herself. And without a second thought he'd ducked back, dragging her with him out of sight. She's in pain, and he doesn't miss her flinch when he comes close, bandages her leg with the handkerchief from his pocket. She's a downed Prey. He's a Predator. Their situation is so morbidly reminiscent of the place they find themselves in that it might have been comical had they not been under threat of a psychotic Sheep and her herd.
They needed a plan.
Seeing her flinch once more, his teeth coming close to her face- the pieces fall together before he's even had a chance to think about them.
"We can do this," he's hissing, collecting blueberries off the floor. "They won't even know!"
Off in the distance there's the sounds of hooves drifting across marble. A flashlight beam reflects off the side of a large Gothic window. "You can take the case to Bogo," she says out loud. Please don't do this to me, he heard. I'm scared. I'm sorry, but I'm scared.
"Trust me," he told her, placing the blue pellet into his pocket. Please let me. Please let me show you.
"Nick. I trust you… but-"
"No." he shook his head. Over her shoulder the acting mayor goaded something into the dark. "We can do this. You can do this. I won't hurt you."
"I won't." He packed the gun away into the case. The bandage was loosening, and he leaned down to give the ends an extra tug, his paw brushing her knee. "You're safe with me." Holding out his paw for her to take. "You gotta trust me, Carrots."
He doesn't know if it's real or its desperation, but he's willing to take what he can get when she nods, reaches up and takes his paw. He hoists her up, winding his arm around her. "You ready?" He asks.
Her paw dances out and gives his tie a tug, pulling it close to her much like a child would their security blanket, letting it drop again when there was the sound of the Mayor's voice in the back reasoning with logic that no longer holds any ground. "No," she says.
"Good." He collects the case closer- counts down from ten. "Me neither." And then they run.
There would be actual fear in her eyes for more time than he'd wanted. And he'd hoped that perhaps, somewhere in her mind, she knew that what he'd said was what he'd meant. He wouldn't. He never would.
And Judy was frightened. Because what level headed Prey facing their primary Predator backed into a corner wouldn't be?
And he could understand that. Could still hear the jibes and snarls of ranger scouts hissing in the back of his mind.
"Why don't you stick with your own kind."
"No Prey is ever gonna trust you. Just stick with what you know."
But that all vanished when his tie bumped her knee. That stupid, stupid tie that seemed to define the very essence of what Nick was. And even as he'd lunged for her neck, and fangs had poked and prodded at fur and skin, she'd been fine. Her paw wrapped around that very tie in a habit he was beginning to notice but didn't very much mind at all, and his own hand fell against hers, giving the smaller a squeeze. You're alright, Carrots. You're alright.
In the end, it all was.
"It's called a hustle, sweetheart."
186 Days and 14 Hours Before
He'd see her rubbing at her neck later that day, draped in the customary silver shock blanket that paramedics had insisted upon even when Judy had protested adamantly promising complete sanity. "Just do what the Bull says, Judes." Wilde snuck up behind her, plopping down on the edge of the museum steps where they'd situated her. "It'll make it all go faster."
"He says I'm not fine," she mumbled, almost sounding insulted at the mere thought. "He still thinks I can't handle myself."
"I think he knows you can by now." Someone passed him a coffee and he took it gratefully. The styrofoam warmed his paws and he tapped his claws against it, watching little braille indents form against the malleable surface. "And if he doesn't, he's an idiot."
"I'm a good cop," she told him, declared it like she knew -which he had no doubt of. "I took down a Rhino! By myself!" Her fist was in the air, shaking about, silver blanket slipping down her shoulder. He reached out and tugged it back into place.
"I'm sure, Carrots."
"And I've caught Weasels and outrun Bears and Wolves!"
He took a sip of his coffee, nose wrinkling at the dry metallic taste of a cheap brew. "I know."
"I mean cheese and crackers, I hustled you!" The last line was said with enough pride to make him chuckle, and he offered her an earnest smile.
"That you did, Carrots."
She batted her eyes proudly before settling once more into a huff. "Then why… why does he think I can't do anything…" She watched the scene in front of her almost forlornly. Belleweahther being dragged off in cuffs, a few officers who'd gotten late to the scene reading her her rights. Off in the distance a few sirens were blaring while the transition of blue to red to blue to red reflected off the white walls of the museum and turned them into a mardi gra parade.
Her leg was still hurt, and he could see specks of blood staining through the red fabric, a shocking darker stain bubbling through. "You need to have that looked at," he said.
"Not it's not. There's an ambulance-"
"We have to answer questions." The law's always come first for her. Before anything. Before even herself. And that irks him more than it did when the law was what had been planted on his shoulders. So he sniffs and leans onto security.
"Fine, but after questioning I'm taking you to a hospital."
"I don't like hospitals." It's an admission done subtly, but he can tell that she's serious, for the most part. He should have seen the way she'd averted her eyes from blood, looked away when he'd tied loops around the stuff. And though it isn't much, less than when he'd opened up certainly, it's something and he holds onto it.
"Suck it up. It's getting looked at. But I'll stay with you. Keep the doctors from turning you into Frankenstein."
"That was the Doctors name, not the monster."
"I'm not hearing a no, Poindexter." She doesn't retort, and he takes that as a victory.
Her paw flickered, no doubt wanting to touch her neck again but not wanting him to notice. He noticed anyway.
"Prey will never trust you."
"You actually thought we'd let a Predator so close?"
His arm slung out, falling around her and pulling her to the side. She stiffened. Froze. Looked up at him curiously. He didn't look at her, didn't give her an idea that anything was a big deal worth mentioning. Just kept her close. At one point his claws touched her neck, pretending to ignore the way her body jerked involuntarily.
He could feel her pulse singing a staccato ballad under sharpened talons. She hadn't yet moved, and despite a heartbeat, he still couldn't feel the rise and fall of air. She'd stopped breathing. Was staying still. Maybe because she was scared. Or maybe to prove a point. To him or herself he couldn't be sure. All he knew was that even if he wasn't the one scaring her, it was something instinctual that had embedded itself deep and fierce and would take time and patience to coax away.
Maybe she'd always be this way. Maybe it was reasonable to believe that Prey always had something to fear from their predators. Nick had always lived in the idea that one had to keep their emotions locked up tight. Never let anyone see that they got to you, and you'd be safe as the day you stopped caring altogether. And he thought that maybe he'd reached that point.
And then Judy Hopps had been true to her name and hopped into his life, subsequently ruining it.
She'll always be afraid of you, a cruel child lashed out from the back of his mind. Don't you get that? She'll always be scared of you. She'll never trust you.
He should have shrugged it off. Should have not cared. Should have banished it far into the darkness of side alleyways and the shadows of community centers.
This was the first time that he found he couldn't.
I want her to trust me, he said back.
When he leaned, just to better adjust how he was sitting, he made sure that his tie bumped her leg. And when claws did once more prick against skin, he made sure to pause a moment to get her used to the feeling before scratching lightly right below her jugular- a steady soothing motion that after some time (far quicker than before) resembled less of a threat and more of a lull that she relaxed into. At one point he felt the pressure of her holding onto the end of the fabric, folding it back and forth, and he let her without comment.
They sat on the steps until the blue and reds faded away down the road and Bogo had briefed them both and they were escorted to the Police station to be asked questions and spoken to until their heads spun.
"You did well." Wilde has a sneaky suspicion that he was speaking to just Judy, but he looks at both of them when he says it, leaning his gaze over his glasses. "Though I will say… A little under the table. Which isn't particularly celebrated. Still."
"I want to come back to the force," Judy says it quickly, looking meaningfully towards her former Chief, hands folded in her small lap. They share the same chair, and Wilde hasn't realized how small she is until this moment. It's a protective sort of thought, and he finds it odd that he doesn't dismiss it altogether. "I quit because I did something against my creed. And… I think I can stick to it now. What I'm meant to do, I mean, sir. Serving the people. All people."
Bogo gives her a look that isn't quite happy, or angry… or much of anything at all. "You could have stayed. You know that, don't you Hopps?"
"No, sir. With all do respect I don't think I could have."
"She did a good job, badge or not." When Wilde speaks up its with a smarmy grin that he realizes the Chief hates, and so he widens it. "I mean, she dragged my sorry ass out of the gutter."
"And you're the Fox that helped solve the case then?"
Nick shrugged. "A few contacts here or there. She's the one that put it all to good use."
Judy's having none of it. "He helped solve the case, Sir. We share the credit." A smile his way. "He's the only thing that got me this far."
"How poetic, Carrots."
She elbows him before turning back. "Could I though? Get my badge back? Come back to the force?"
Nick almost suspects the old Bull to put her through hell for asking. Make her retake tests. Prove her worth. But he's surprised, they both are, when none of that happens. And instead they get something as close to a smile as they ever will. "Of course." His voice wasn't kind, but his words were honest and open. "You're one of our best, Hopps. Not that that should get to your tiny head. But if you want it, your badge is waiting for you on the third floor. Just fill out the paperwork they give you. And… take a day or two off for the leg. But be back after."
"Yes, thank you," she breathed, nodding. Pausing. Looking at the Fox who shared her chair, leaning casually against the creaking back. "Sir?" She has his attention again, and she uses it to her advantage. "I also want a partner."
"We can offer you someone."
"I want someone I already trust, sir." She said. "Not that I don't trust anyone here. I do. But… I want to work with someone I know. Who'll have my back already."
She'd kept his application.
Bogo can't do much about it in the long run. He kept her alive, he kept her safe and he helped when situations were dire. Hopps makes a case. The Fox does his best to work through the stunned look that he's taken up. And he knows from experience that fighting Judy is like ramming your head into a brick wall. You might win, but you'll have a headache for ages to come.
So with a sigh he agrees.
Nick signed it then and there with a smile so large it would sting his face, passing it over towards Bogo, who gruffly stated that information about training and testing would be sent to him within a few business days.
After it was all said and done he took her to the hospital. She'd needed five stitches and strict instructions to take pain medication, which she dutifully swore she'd do. She held onto his tie the whole time, looking around the sterile place with a distrust he found endearing. And for once it felt good to know that he was holding someone together more than a few black sutures ever could.
He wondered if that was what being a Partner would feel like.
He decided, later lounging on his couch, his leg used as a prop to hold hers up, medication already causing her little body to fall into a drowsy stupor, that it must have been.
He wasn't complaining.
6 months before
It wasn't her fault. It had never been her fault.
But things happened. That was just the way the world, heck- her job, worked.
Nick had watched it all. It must have been seconds, moments before, when he'd called her up on the phone and jibed back and forth about something silly. Something stupid (and he was realizing that for all the years he'd been alone, having a friend was something he truly enjoyed). He'd reserved them a table at some fancy restaurant that his acquaintance (a con man with a skilled paw at fine dining) had told him he could eat at for free if he just gave him a call. Before he wouldn't have even thought to accept. But now he had a friend. A real, honest to god friend. And though it hadn't been long at all, and they still had a ways to go, it felt almost natural to call her up and tell her that if she had plans to cancel them.
"You'll see, Hopps. I'm gonna treat you right." He'd been comparing ties, pulling them out and placing them on the bed, trying to find the one that best went with a somewhat more bougie Hawaiian shirt in the back of his closet. Pink went with yellows and blues… right? "You won't even be able to look at another guy once we're through."
"Is that so?" From the side he'd heard her temporary partner, a Rhino whose name he couldn't remember, rattle something off into the radio. "Are we friends or dating?"
"Can you tell the difference? Come on, Hopps? We're practically together as it is." She'd snorted. "Just make sure to wear something nice. And not too cute. Akay? I'd hate to show up with a stuffed animal on my arm."
She sounded like she was going to retort something especially sharp for just a moment, and he had readily prepared himself for the glorious sting, when she'd stopped. "Hold on…" the phone had shuffled, going to her chest most likely. There was a muffled sound in the back. Shouting. "Nick, listen- I'll have to call you right…" The cell phone was hung up before she'd finished, dropped maybe. Or shut. Or maybe both.
Either way, he'd shrugged and kept looking at ties that would match.
It wasn't until a few moments later, moving into his kitchen to grab a drink, that he knew what had happened. He'd turned on the radio. Flipped through stations. Got to a newscast and was about to switch until one of the voices had said his partners name, clear as day. Officer Judy Hopps
He didn't remember much else. The words gunfire and Officer down and reports of a shooting all jumbled together into a toxic mess. Then there was blood. He'd dropped his glass, stumbled back on broken shards. His yelp of pain fell on his own deaf ears and he was scrambling across the apartment, chest heaving, heart pounding.
Every item in his medicine cabinet was left spilled onto the floor in a desperate search for bandages, and he'd wrapped the gauze haphazardly around the injury before running back to the room.
He'd had to throw his tie to the side to find his phone, but when he did he'd wasted no time. She was on speed dial. And it was soon ringing, his mouth forming silently around words that wouldn't find their way out -pick up, pick up, pick up, come on, come on, pick up, pick up-
Hi you've reached Officer Judy Hopps! I can't get to the ph-
He called again.
Hi you've reached Officer Judy Hop-
Hi you've reached Of-
And after too many calls, after too much time clutching at his shirt and staring down into a dead phone that didn't want to reach her he'd grabbed his keys from the front and had been ready to go out and find her himself when his phone had rang.
"JUDY!" He could hear feedback behind his call, his own voice transferring back over the sound of static and police cars and an ambulance. "Judy! God, Judy- tell me you're okay!"
"Judy, listen to me. I'm coming down. Make sure they bind everything. Tell them I don't give a damn if you're a Bunny-"
"You keep telling me you can take care of yourself but guess what. I don't care. Okay? I don't. You're getting treated. I'll drag you there myself. I'll tie you to the hood of my damn car. And I'll- god, Judy I hate you so much right now! Just stay there. Have them help you. And don't tell me I'm not officially on the force yet because I'll get down there anyway and-"
"McHorn got shot."
Silence. Long and unfiltered. In the background someone was shouting. Another siren began to wail. Off in the distance he could hear glass being crunched under someone's heel. "He got shot…" She spoke like it was her first time. Maybe even afraid it would be her last. And he realized, with an odd hatred, that he'd never not heard her sound alive. She was a creature of extremes. No matter what emotion, she played it to its fullest.
But at that moment-
"He got shot…" she said again, flat as the earth looked on the shore. "I… I'm staying for questioning. I'll go file papers after."
"Judes…" he wasn't sure if he was meant to be relieved or not. Because his Carrots wasn't hurt -and he wasn't sure when she'd become his but she was very much so- but she didn't sound right. "Let me come down," he offered. "Let me- I can be there in ten minutes."
"C'mon…" he tried to make it sound like he was smiling even if he wasn't. "Let me be there."
"I can just stand next to you or something. Keep your dumb Bunny head on your shoulders."
Another pause. "I'm okay." She said the words like punctuation.
"I don't believe you." The words slipped out by accident, but he didn't regret them.
Another siren screeched. And then it was all gone when she, without a quip or a goodbye, hung up.
He cleaned up the glass in the kitchen after that. And then he called to cancel the reservation claiming a family emergency. It took him three beers to be able to function at a somewhat normal level after that- plugging his phone in to charge, finding his papers, mopping his own blood away off the tiles. Waiting for Judy to call him back.
He'd put away his clothes still lying out before he went to bed. Picking up his tie, he saw red pawprints on it where blood from his paws had stained a lovely set of pad prints against the light pink. He didn't mind much. It was far from his favorite.
Judy didn't call him the next day. Or the one after. And it wasn't until the fourth long silent streak that he even dared to show his face at the station.
"She hasn't eaten in two days…" Clawhauser rang his paws together, elbows resting on a small sea of paperwork before him. "I tried, Nick! I did! I- she won't stop! She hasn't said a word since the last time she came in!"
"Yeah… I heard…" The Fox wrestled with his tie, finishing the knot and hoisting it up towards the base of his neck. "And McHorn-?"
"Oh, he's fine. Thankfully. A shot to the shoulder. Guy just carries weight, went down hard." He might have made a joke about that if the situation wasn't what it was. But it was. And so he didn't. "Poor Judy… she just… we haven't gotten a word out of the poor girl. And Bogo's tried to send her home three times now. Can't seem to do it."
"That's because he's using the wrong tactics."
"He's her boss."
"Yeah," Nick smiled sympathetically (you just don't get it, do you?), "You have to talk to her like she's a dumb bunny. And only I can." It's a vain statement. And really there's a lot riding on it. But he's confident, and most of his life has been made up of bets that he's won. Friendship is just the most imperative of gambles.
"Well, you can do your best. She's at her desk. Down the hall up the stairs. It's the one in the back." Nick thanks him, declines the offered donut, and strolls through, ignoring the gazes of the other officers who seem to know exactly why he's there.
She was there. Piles of paperwork on all sides of her. Empty coffee cups lined the empty spaces that were far and few, and her fingers were stained with the grinds. The bags under her eyes were heavy and her shoulders bore the same weight. Suit rumpled, form sagged, she was a sliver of her former self.
Life wasn't easy. And sometimes it was hard for Nick to understand how she had thought it could have been.
Dumb bunny, he let himself think affectionately, pushing aside the jeers and chants of children who sat round a campfire and told him that in an ideal world she would have been easy prey.
Her ears flickered when he approached, turning and swishing with less bravado than usual. She knew he was there. He didn't announce himself though. Grabbing the chair from an empty desk behind her, he moved it to her side, the wheels on the legs creaking and moaning. Nick hopped up, sat back and waited.
He was a talker, but he could stay silent if he needed to- and so that's what he did. Looking around the cubicle that didn't much suit her at all. Nothing truly personal lingered. No family photos. No bits or bobs. It might have been too new for her to have lain claim, and he imagined that in a few weeks the place would be awash with personal notes and drawings and whatever else her family had sent over. He wondered for a moment what she'd do if he gave her a picture of him and fondly hoped it would end up there as well. A generous sign of approval, really, that he wanted more than he realized.
The ceiling was covered in spots, and he counted each one. The floor was strewn with dust and the paper circles from hole punchers. And, upon further inspection, her side was stained with a thin layer of rust. Blood, maybe. A twitch of his nose told him that beneath the sourness of two days without wash or change, that yeah, it was blood. He couldn't tell whose.
The silence between them would last a total of forty five minutes and eleven seconds.
She'd be the one to break it.
He planned it that way.
"Aren't you gonna say anything?" she mumbled, tapping her pen against the table, wrist twitching with overuse. "Everyone else has."
"Not unless you want me to," he responded easily, smirking down at her from his chair.
"So why are you here?" It was an aggressive statement, but she sounded too tired to clip. "If you're not going to at least tell me to do something."
"What do you want me to tell you?"
"I don't know." A shrug. A glare at nothing in particular, violet eyes finding anything to look at but him. "Everyone else's already tried to make me leave. Or eat. Or… or sleep. Or go to a doctor or something."
"You hurt, Hopps?" She stiffened. "I'm not gonna drag you by your ears, so relax cottentail. Just asking."
She relented after a moment, but the stiffness didn't leave. "I got dropped. When… when McHorn-"
"Yeah. Someone hit me from behind." She moved. Hissed. "Maybe a broken rib. I'm not sure."
"I can't force you to do anything. You're a big bunny." He leaned back, the chair following to let him with a complaining screek.
"Then why are you here." She asks it a second time, but she speaks it like it's the tenth, full of venom and poison and something deliberately toxic. He's known her for so little in what span of time they've been together, and yet someone he's gotten good enough at telling apart the waste from the wonder. She's never been anything but an optimist, and her pockets of pessimism are fueled with nothing more than circumstance.
Judy Hopps is a tryer. And he's not going to let her stop seeing the world that way.
"I'm just here," he says, moving forward. His elbows fall to his knees and he's reaching out to touch her face, pull it towards his. She doesn't let go of her pen. But her glare falters, and it's in that glitch that he sees through to it all. She picked the wrong person to be friends with, really. He's always been good at knowing things. Always will be. And nothing will ever be hidden.
"Carrots…" She tries to look away. He holds her there. "It wasn't your fault, Carrots."
The first few tears fall to the floor, but the ones after mat his fur and fall against his wrist. He moves his thumb back and forth where it lies, and it's a juxtaposition to the sly smirk he's wearing. "It wasn't your fault."
"You weren't there." Judy's voice cracks, and the words have a meaning underneath that says please just blame me because I need someone to hate me besides myself. But she really has picked the wrong friend. Nick's not sure he could ever hate Judy Hopps. "He went… he went down, Nick. And I got caught. It was sloppy. I couldn't change anything."
"It's not your fault, Carrots."
"I could've stopped something."
"You know that's not true."
"If he'd had a bigger partner-"
"Then they'd have two mammals in the hospital right now."
"I'm a bad cop."
"We both know that's a lie." She's still crying, but she's stopped noticing. "What do you want, Hopps. I can't give you the moon" though he'd damn well give it a try if she asked "but I can at least get you something that's here."
She thinks and her pen tapps a frantic tune against the desk, fueled by her own hysteria that she's yet to let out. Nick is a creature of outward emotion. He always has been. Judy's been the one to keep it all inside until it bursts. And he's starting to see the real downfall of it. She's gonna kill herself one day.
No. He wouldn't let her. Stupid, dumb Bunny.
"What do you want."
The pen stops tapping. Her inhale is shaky, but she's breathing, and her fist comes up to wipe away at her tears. "I think…" she rasps, "I think I want to go home."
"Well, I can't do that. I'm not letting you stay on your own. Don't know what your dumb bunny brain will make you do." She deflates and he waves her off. "But tell you what, I'll give you second best." He hops of the chair and holds out his hand. "Come on Carrots. Let's go."
Clawhauser is obviously impressed that he got her to abandon paperwork. Or maybe he's just impressed that she's up and about at all. "Bye, Judy sweetheart," the portly Predator waves her out, smiling when she turns to offer a slight grin and a wave back. "Feel better, alright?"
"She'll be just fine!" Nick promised, hooking his arm in hers and escorting her jauntily out. The light him them and she had to pause, squinting in the sun. He pulled her along with him anyway, patting her hand from where it rested on the inside of his arm. "You're a trouble and a half, aren't you?" She didn't respond. But he could have sworn that she smiled.
He takes her to his apartment, and they sit outside on the cracked steps leading to the complex and watch the sun set. It's mundane. And it's boring. And maybe it's a little slow for his tastes. But his tastes are changing, and he leans back against the scuffed stone of a step behind him and winds his arm around her and doesn't say a word.
She reached over at some point, winding her fingers around the long piece of fabric at his neck. Maybe she realized she was doing it. Maybe she didn't. But whatever the reason, she found herself needing to do something,
He tugged her tight against his side. His long snout rested on her head and she leaned into him. The silence was a pure one, but it wasn't heavy and the dimming light from above the tops of the buildings, burning a vengeance into the outline of the city before them, was a cooling one. Nick offered her a beer, but she was already too far off and didn't seem to see him so he rested it behind them. She folded his tie over her wrist, looking at nothing in particular.
"You know that you couldn't have done anything, right?" He says it again because she needs to hear it. And he knows she's thinking it. And it hurts that she doesn't believe it.
She twisted his tie between her fingers. The sunsets receding rays shone on the polyester and made it gleam.
"Carrots?" Her hands against blue and red and purple stalled for just a moment before continuing their mindless ministrations. He put his paw over hers and she stopped again. He could feel the ones beneath his shaking. He didn't make her let go, though, and she was both silently confused and grateful. Her fist clutched tighter. "There's nothing you could have done," he said again. "You're the best person I know. And he doesn't blame you either. And you really are a dumb rabbit if you think he does." She goes back to his tie, winding it about her wrist with shaking hands.
Judy didn't speak for the rest of the night. And he didn't make her.
At some point he pinched her elbow gently to get her to move, helping her stand, guiding her inside. It had gotten cold, and she was more prone to it than he was. She padded along, eyes to the ground, fingers still wound in cheap fabric and bright, tacky stripes. His paw stayed on her shoulder. Together they walked up the stairs and with an arm still around her, her hands still in his tie, he rooted for his keys. It took some time with only one hand, but he did find them, sticking them into the lock and opening the door.
She didn't move. So he made her. Giving her a push towards the ratty, soft couch that sat against the back wall of his living room facing the television that they wouldn't turn on for some time. He didn't click on the radio, he didn't start any music, and he didn't turn on a light. They just sat together in the receding light and the cool silence.
They sat in the quiet of his apartment for the rest of the night. He got a little water into her, and she stared out the window while condensation from the glass matted the fur at her wrist. He kept her close, tucked into his side, and she refused to release her hold on the fabric at his neck, pressing her face against the bright green ferns at his chest. Through his shirt he could feel her nose wiggling, the quick breaths brushing and tickling. He just leaned his muzzle on her head and let her be.
It doesn't take Nick long to realize that he really could have just taken his tie off and left. She didn't seem like she was going anywhere anyway, and if she wanted the damn thing then she could have it. But he didn't, and willfully trapped himself in place, not really sure why but knowing exactly why all the same.
"You're more trouble than you're worth," he told the still mammal at his side. "That's not true. That's a lie. You're the right amount of trouble." Her ears were drooped and he gave them a tug. "I'd say you were no trouble. But you are. You're lots of trouble. You're just worth it all." She buried her face against him after that, and her puffs of breath heated his side.
It wasn't until the moon had already begun its trip through the sky and the stars began to fade into light pollution that she fell asleep. Her fingers gently plucking against the wrinkles and bends of his necktie, she'd finally drifted off with her head tucked under his and his tail circling the place that she sat. He didn't move her. Then again, he didn't want to. And before he fell asleep himself he groped for the spare blanket on the back of the couch, pulling it down to rest over her, not willing to detangle her soft digits off of the thing that she had somehow claimed as her own.
The next morning when he did wake up, she was gone from her place. He would blink into the sunshine, rubbing the sleep that had clumped into the corners of his eyes.
"If you give me your tie, I'll iron it." Her voice from the tiny kitchen around the corner had him shifting to look about, and he could see her just poking her head out around the side into his meager living room. He blinked at her.
"Your tie." She gestured at it. "It's really wrinkled."
He looked down, holding the thing up in the light. It was indeed horribly wrinkled, with lines skewed this way and that up and down the surface, looking more like the map of the subway than a dress wear accessory. "Huh…" he hummed, looking back at her with a sneer. "Wonder how that happened.
Her ears flickered back a moment in guilt, and she looked like she was about to apologize, but he waved her off. "It gets wrinkled all the time. Could've been anything, Carrots." he stood, stretching until his spine popped. "Must have been the humidity yesterday. I'll iron it later."
"Huh," she nodded. "Okay." She looked back into the kitchen. "You should come in here, by the way. I made blueberry pancakes. They're gonna burn."
She made damn good pancakes, he discovered. Which was something he was gonna be taking advantage of far too much in the future.
He didn't mention the night before.
Neither did she.
But they both didn't mind.
It hadn't exactly been the first time, and it wouldn't be the last. And Nick would find that he had to actually invest in a better iron when he discovered his soon to be partners strange habit. The odd thing was that he never really tried to stop her. And really, he realized, after one such occasion where she'd fiddled with his tie again after he'd gotten close enough for it to hang near her, it wasn't much about the tie at all. He'd asked her to hold one on a random afternoon and she hadn't so much as twisted the thing.
He realized, with no shortage of preening, that it was more or less about what the tie was attached to.
He'd never tell her that he knew. And it was one of the few things he wouldn't tease her for.
He'd also never tell her how much he adored her for it.
90 Days Before
It was a Saturday afternoon when he'd wandered over to her apartment to help fix a leaking pipe. She'd explained to him the day before while they both sat at her desk that she could do it fine herself. She'd done more on her farm in the past then he could attest for, and was a seasoned mechanic and plumber. "I just have to pop down to the Burrow Depot and grab some things," she'd said to her laptop screen, sitting in the wheely chair at her desk. He'd brought her a coffee as a surprise, and she'd happily accepted. "It'll be fine!"
"But you have to pay for those things." His muzzle wrinkled in a faux snarl. "Why would you pay."
"Because then I'll get quality work and it'll all be fine!"
"No. No, no, nope!" He popped his 'p'. There was an empty desk behind her own, a set of two small spaces inside of one boxed cubicle. Whether there had been someone there or not before, it didn't matter. He'd claimed it as his own, and despite what everyone else had told him about office spaces and assigned seating he'd done his best to retaliate by filling the top drawer with cookies and dried crickets and sundry from his kitchen cabinet and decorating the fabric pin board with pictures of himself and Judy that she'd scoffed and rejected with heavy sighs but he'd seen her smile at once she thought his back was turned.
He turned round in the wheely, giving the back of her chair a kick. "You're not gonna pay. I'm gonna come over and show you how to fix things the city way."
She scowled, scootching away. He just moved closer, stitching his paws into the chair and pulling it back towards him. "Yeah… but I know how to fix things the real way."
"You wound me. But I still stand." Resting his snout on her shoulder he reached over and stole her coffee with one long armed swipe where it had rested in her hand. Nick gave it a long drain, smirking when she did her best to take it back and failed. He took another sip before handing it back almost empty. "I'll show you how, Carrots. And you'll thank me for the rest of time."
"Uh huh…" she moped down at her coffee, drinking the rest. "Sure."
"You will!" Twisting around, his chair complaining with a squeal, he leaned until the backs of their heads lightly thunked together. "You'll see, Judy. Just you wait."
He waited for her to finish, goading her the whole time with rubber band tricks until she forgot about work before teaching her to play cat's cradle and then reminding her that reports were due. Feet propped on his own desk, he passed her pens and answered questions with a chocolate cookie held between his teeth. And when she was done they left together, still talking about plumbing and rubber band tricks.
The next day he'd arrived at her place with supplies. Or rather a small bag with a ham sandwich, his wallet and the precious object with which he'd patch her apartment up with, holding it aloft with all the pride of a handyman and his toolbox.
"Duct tape?" She held the roll aloft, brow raised skeptically. "You're joking. You're gonna fix my pipes with duct tape."
"It's an age old trick, Carrots. Came up with it long before you were born. Pretty sure my ancestors used it before the both of us."
"Sure they did."
He ripped off a piece, lunging as if to slap it over her mouth, but she caught him in time, grabbing the sticky thing and balling it up in her paws with a glare. "Yeah…" she hissed up at him. "Real mature, Nick."
"Hush. Don't talk to your elders like that."
"Uh huh. Whatever you say old man."
He made sure to flick her in the back of the head for that one.
Everything seemed to be going alright. He'd loosened his tie and had been leaning against the wall, wrapping the silver stuff around the pipes with a tenacity that she rarely saw in him. The piping was old. Most likely when the building was first made. And it sat on the outside of the exposed brick next to her refrigerator leading into the cabinet beneath her small sink. The middle where two pipes had been fused was falling victim to old bolts and had begun to leak. Wilde had hoed and hummed over it (while she told him that it would just take some new bolts and a welding iron) and decided that duct tape was indeed the correct solution. Two hours in, the fur on his paws matted, she'd suggested they take a break. "I have a comb in my closet," she offered to him, looking through one of her many binders lined up on her small desk and choosing a few takeout places they could both eat at. "You can get all the gunk out."
"Will do." He wandered off towards the door in the small one room she occupied, opening it to the plethora of drawers, coat hangers and knick knacks.
She'd been thumbing through an Indian place they'd both liked a lot the last time he'd been over to go over case files when his shriek had nearly sent her tumbling off her chair.
"Wilde- what! Are you-"
"What is this!"
She twisted from her place on the chair. "Um… my tie?" It was indeed her tie. The tiny piece of fabric almost comically small next to Nick Wilde, held between his fingers like it was Jack and he was the Giant, fee-fi-fo-fumming his way about. "What's wrong with it?"
"It's a clip on!"
"So." She shrugged. Pushing the binder to the side, she went back to the floor where her equipment lay. She picked up the manual and fanned herself with it. "There wasn't a requirement for any kind. I just got what I needed for my formal police attire. Do you want Indian or Chinese? I could go for Thai though."
He didn't want anything. At least not until the offensive item was dealt with. He gave it a shake. "How can you even think about food right now, Judes. When it's clip on!"
"It's just a tie." She shrugged, leaning against the manual and looking over one shoulder. "So what?"
"I'm sorry. Maybe you didn't hear me." She certainly would hear him when the fabric was whipping out to beam her across the side of the head. She shot up, the manual tumbling to the floor in a sad and informative heap.
"This isn't a tie," he continued easily, waving it in her face. "This, my dearest carrot nibbling friend, is a clip on. Which does not designate a proper dress wear accessory."
"Yes it does!" She tried to make a grab for it, but he wrenched it out of the way before she could.
"Not it doesn't. Clip ons aren't for adults who do adult things. They're for dress up. Which would make sense on a stuffed animal like yourself." She took another swat at him. He ducked with a cackle. "Not that you aren't adorable, Carrots. But I think it's time for you to move on to more grown up things, don't you? Take the training wheels off and all that!"
"You're hilarious, Wilde," she deadpanned, moving away to scoop her read off the floor. "Just a real hoot."
"Aw come on, Carrots! Don't be like that!"
"Go away. I'm reading."
"Still reading, Wilde." She stuck the book closer to her face, glaring at a rather thrilling section about wall spackle and its use in old housing units. "You're distracting me. You and your stupid clip on tie."
"Actually it's your stupid clip on tie. And I agree. It's distracting. And I don't think I can help you fix anything until we figure out how to rid you of this horrible blow you've been dealt." He stared it down, was first to blink, scowled. And then his face lit up. "I know! I'll take it!" He nodded, deciding it to be a great idea. "I'm taking this," he announced. "Because it's awful and you're too good for it."
The manual was on the floor again, dropped by a frantic wide eyed bunny who sprang on her heels in an attempt to cut him off. "Wilde, no!"
"I'm gonna burn it. And you'll have to move that fuzzy little tail of yours down to the department stores and get a new one." He shook his own tail for emphasis, giving his back a little wiggle. "But hey! Maybe they'll take pitty on someone who still is growing into their big girl shorts!"
"Say bye bye to the tie tie, Darlin'!"
Her arm reaching out in desperation, grabbing his elbow, was enough. His little teasing light footed saunter had left him unballenced, and she'd been the final straw. He tripped over his own foot and she reached out again to grab him. But both were too late, and his back lightly brushed the pipe they'd been working on just moments before. They tumbled to the ground, him catching her before she could land on her ears, grabbing her to his chest. For a moment they lay there, stacked like lumber, both staring up at her badly spackled ceiling.
"Well…" his chest was rising and falling, the Rabbit on top traveling with every in and exhale. He gave a little stretch and found himself mostly unharmed, though his back did have a rather nice crick in it now that protested violently. "... That was… something…"
She nodded, the back of her head thunking against him. "Yup…" she panted. "Never letting you take something from me again. You should remember now that I can take down Rhino's."
"I'll take that into consideration." He flicked at her ear. "I'm still taking the tie."
"No you're not."
"Yeah I am." He rubbed the back of his head hissing. "You're lucky I have a hard head, Rabbit. Or this could have been a whole lot wor-"
The spray of water was on them before they'd had a chance to say anything.
Somehow, though, Judy still found a way. "I hate you…" she mumbled from on top of him, soaking wet and glaring at the ceiling. "I hate you, Nicholas P. Wilde."
It wouldn't be until he'd pushed her off, used her tie as a shield from the onslaught of water, tied a fresh roll of duct tape on around the pipe and had managed to splutter out a few curses, reaching down to shut off the main valve, that everything finally calmed. To a degree at least.
"You ruined my tie…" she grumbled, wringing out the poor, rusted and abused thing. "I can't believe that you ruined my only tie."
"Eh, it deserved it. Should have learned to tie itself."
"I hate you."
"No you don't, Carrots," he sang cheerily before grabbing a towel from next to him, whistling a tune while he dropped the fluffy thing over her head, giving it a good few rubs and ignoring every muffled protest from beneath. "I know for a fact that you don't!"
He didn't see her fist coming before it connected with his arm.
62 Days Before
Nick Wilde wasn't going on a date. But he did have someone to impress.
"I've gotta make money somehow, Carrots," he told her evenly. "We can't all live off joy and rainbows like you do."
"I have a paycheck, you know!" She crossed her arms, but a smile flickered its way onto her face anyway. "You really think I live off joy?"
"Uh huh. Sure. Which one?" He held up a large hanging bar he'd plucked out of his closet, letting it swing slowly back and forth before her. She'd originally headed over to his place to watch some show he'd been dying to make her see. But one beer and two grilled cheeses later and discussions had turned into one's of profit. Turned out, Nick had failed to mention (willfully so) that his little hustling business wasn't quite as over as she'd first imagined.
"You want me to choose the tie you're going to sell faulty goods to someone in? No way! I'm not doing that!"
"They aren't faulty goods, Carrots. They're used goods. A little… overused. But they still work! I'm just helping out a friend, getting a share of the cut, you know?" She offered him a desperately faltering look, her mouth hanging, palms turned up. "I'm not doing my own business anymore. And the reason behind it is you. I hope you know that. And appreciate it."
"I'd appreciate it more if you weren't still conning people!"
"Why Carrots!" A hand to his chest, breaths coming out in short little offended gasps. "I'm wounded. And here I thought we were doing so well."
"We were- are! But you're going out there to do illegal things and-"
"Ah ah ah!" A paw waving in her face cut her off. "Not illegal! Still have permits, Fuzzy Wuzzy. Still untouchable by the rest of the feds and you!"
"You shouldn't be saying that around me! I'm still a cop!"
"You're not a cop now. You're someone helping me pick out a tie. So hop to it!"
She huffed. But after a moment, when it became clear that Nick was always going to be Nick, she gave in and motioned weakly to one of the less loudly designed horror shows that he had the gall to call mens wear. "That one."
"Ooh! Orange and blue, nice choice! Got this one awhile back." He plucked it off, whisking it about his collar. "This one looks great with me."
"No. It doesn't."
"You know, for someone who solved the biggest case in Zootopia, I think you somehow missed the most savage animal of them all."
"I'm wounded. You've wounded me."
He'd laugh, finish tying the monstrosity about his neck and ruffle the fur between his ears. "My only job is to annoy you."
"So I've noticed."
"Oh drat. And I thought I was being subtle." She'd swat at him and he'd bounce back cackling. "Now get off the bed and help me get ready! Finnick's gonna be here in a few minutes to help me. Hey! You've got huge eyes! Wanna play a baby."
"I'm not scamming with you, Nick!"
"Oh calm down. It wouldn't be against the law. I'd never make you betray your one love. It would be strictly no pay."
He'd barely duck out in time to avoid the tie rack being thrown at him, her laughter seeping through the door, collecting on the floor with the downed strings of fabric the testament to her true anger and how much of it she'd learned to leave behind.
30 Days Before
"Alright Carrots! Today's the day!" he told her, presenting her with a small box one rainy Thursday afternoon. They were sitting in her apartment at her small plastic kitchen table going over the final few test questions in his practice book that she'd been nice enough to let him borrow from off her shelf. There was a bowl of blueberries between them that she'd hoped to share at the beginning of their study session but had mostly disappeared the moment the Fox had locked eyes.
She looked up, reaching for a blueberry and popping it into her mouth. "Time for what?"
He offered her the box again, sliding it across the table before trying to grab a handful of blueberries. She slapped his hand away with her pencil, ignoring the way he glared at her before taking more, leaving few behind. "You'd better have more of those…" he tipped the bowl.
"Fridge." He was out of his seat before she could do anything to stop him, and for a few moments all she could see was his fuzzy tail and the back of his green shirt as he rooted around, bottles from the beer she was saving for later clanking together. "What's it time for?" she asked again, giving the box a poke. It was white and plain and small. But she knew well enough by then to know that plain was generally deceptive when it came to Nicholas Wilde.
"It's time…" he called back from out of the refrigerator. "For you to- haha!" He held up the container of blueberries marked Hopps Family Farm on its side in victory, shutting the door before prancing back to the table and dropping the entire thing in front of him.
"Can't you share!" She made a grab. He flicked at her with his claws.
"Nope." He pointed at the box. "Are you gonna open it, Carrots?"
"... what is it?"
"That's what opening it is for," he drawled. Popping a handful of berries into his maw he chomped down. "Generally presents are to be opened. You know… because they're presents."
"Is this how gifts are always going to be with you, Wilde?" She gave the thing a shake, hearing something soft clunking against the sides. "Wrapped in sarcasm?"
"Always. Now open it!"
She finally did, if not only to appease him but her own curiosity. An old saying about curiosity and cats popped into her mind but she brushed it away in favor of lifting the lid slowly. Not really sure what to expect, she was a little underwhelmed by what she saw.
"It's…" she tilted her head. "It's a… square…"
It was. Sitting on top of a small collection of white tissue paper with some department store logo stamped across it in sepia filigree, the thing on top sat innocently looking up at her. A piece of navy fabric with almost invisible darker stripes lingering against it. She gave the thing a poke. And while it didn't bite her, it did feel strange and smooth and cool to the touch. "Thanks!" She strained a grin, batting her eyes up. "Um… I'll… I'll totally use it-"
Nick snorted, pushing the blueberries to his elbow before grabbing the dark blue square out of its box, letting it unroll in the air. "No, Dumb Bunny. It's not a square. It's a tie."
And so it was. Once it was finally draping down the table, folding over itself like a scroll of the ancients, she could indeed see that it was a tie. Shorter than the one Nick himself was wearing she could only assume that he'd had to find ones fit for smaller mammals before he'd had to purchase it. She gave it another poke, cocking her head in confusion. "It's really nice," she said. And while her tone was still awkward and confused, at least that wasn't a lie. It was a nice tie. "But… why did you get me one?"
"Because no Partner of mine is going to be wearing a clip on." He shuddered at the word, ears plastered back, as if the very idea of the convenience repulsed him. "No way. No how."
"Nick, I don't actually have to know how to do this."
"If you're going to be my partner then you're gonna have to learn." He put on a dramatic voice that reminded her too much of an old crime boss, sticking one of his paws into her face before crowing, "I ain't sharin' a ride with you, doll, until you look suave, see?"
"Har har." She batted him away. "You know I only wear the tie for special occasions, right?"
"You wear it on duty sometimes."
"Yeah. Sometimes. But only for guard duty! And that's, like, once a month!"
"So then once a month you'll look put together and not like a fixed carnival game prize." Her ears shot up in offense, mouth opening and closing, looking for something to shoot back.
"You…! You…!" He offered her a smug look, leaning his elbow on the table, his chin resting in his palm. They stared one another down for a few more moments, Fox against Rabbit. Predator against Prey. She went to say something else and his eyebrows rose. Try me, Carrots. Just try me. In the end she gave up. She ended up just grabbing a blueberry and throwing it at his face, which would have been a lot more therapeutic if he hadn't skillfully snapped his teeth around the projectile. Which he had. Which was really, really aggravating.
"Fine," she muttered, snatching the long strand of fabric from him. "I'll put on your stupid tie."
"Splendid! That's the spirit!"
She suppressed a growl. He just smirked again. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing, though."
"And what, pray tell, am I doing?"
"You're procrastinating." She pointed out flatly.
"Oh you poor, simple minded Bunny. Of course I am! I thought you'd have figured that out by now!" He let out a guffaw when she pulled a face, rising from the table, pushing his seat behind him with a bump of his hip. "Now come on! We're gonna get you learning in no time."
She had an old mirror that her mother had shipped over from the Burrow next to her bed. It had belonged to her grandmother, or great grandmother, or something like that. A tall, thin thing surrounded by wooden carvings of carrots, she'd propped it against her wall and used it sparsely to shine her badge and check if her vest was pulled down all the way where it tended to bunch up in the back. It was a family heirloom, and had seen Bunny's, Bunny's, and more Bunny's since the moment its frame had been carved.
And today, apparently, not only would it see a Bunny, but it would also see a Fox.
She was fairly sure that her however great grandmother would have had an aneurysm before dying a second time over if she knew that.
It was an odd image, Judy had to concede. Such classic enemies standing side by side, the Predator sidled closer to the Prey in said Rabbits bedroom. Odder still that the closeness and the strangeness was something she was getting to affiliate with a safety.
Though at the moment, the Fox by her side was offering less of a safe space and more of a let's see how many ways we can make Judy annoyed today sort of deal.
Kneeling in front of her, their faces even heights (a rare event to be sure) he had looped her newly gifted accessory around the collar of her pink button up, popping the collar to make sure to was underneath all the way before smoothing it back out.
"So we're doing a pratt knot," he mused, looking down at the two strips of fabric in his hand, measuring the thing around her neck with a squint and a purse of his lips.
"There are different knots!" She looked down at his paws when he gave the shorter end another tug. "Are you kidding me!?"
"Of course there are." He seemed satisfied with the length and let the two drop against her shoulders. She looked down, touching the thing that now hung about her neck. He swatted her hand away, standing up and stepping back to cross his arms and leer at her from down his muzzle. "You wouldn't wear sweatpants to a wedding, would you?"
"No…" she muttered, before adding, with a little more sass than she needed, "but I also wouldn't walk around looking like a melting color wheel…" She ducked away when he went to deck her on the back of the head but was too slow, and glowered when he caught her ears, giving them a hearty tug. "Ow!"
"I'll have you know that I'm very well dressed." He tightened the knot of his own tie, giving it a little, proud wiggle. "You can't say that any of your other friends wear khakis and dress shirts every day can you?"
"Your dress shirt makes you look like a tourist," she offered sourly. "And the tie doesn't match."
"The tie matches everything. And the dress shirt is dignified. At least I have more common sense then to wear a floppy sun hat."
He chortled, flicking her nose, stepping away quickly before she could get a decent shot at his arm. "Tease me all you want, Carrots. I'll always be one step ahead."
"Just you wait…"
"Uh huh. Sure." He reached down to eye the tie lengths again, nodding to himself. "Alright, you ready?"
"Good." He hooked a claw into the knot at his neck and gave a quick tug. The entire thing untangled with the assistance of a few more easy pulls and soon enough he stood there holding his own tie out in front of her, letting it swing back and forth like a ticking pendulum, counting down the moments until he'd put her through business casual hell.
Judy had to take a second to stare at him.
At least wear a tie that fits, she had told him once. Or one that matches.
She hadn't realized how strange he'd look without it. Wilde without his tie was something she'd never get used to seeing. Not really, at least. And it sometimes surprised her how right he was when he said that he was a born business man. That he and his tie were the same thing. Because really… they were. Nicholas Wilde without his tie was the same as the beach without water or the sky without clouds. An occurrence, to be sure. But a rare and marveling one.
"Something wrong, Carrots?" he teased.
"You look so much better with your tie," she told him honestly. "I take back everything."
He looked shocked a moment. And then stunned. And then his face reset to default- smug and cocksure. "Ha! Finally! Got you to admit it!" He whipped it out, batting her in the shoulder with the blue and red and magenta stripes. "Face it Hopps. I'm devilishly handsome!"
"Are you looking to get slugged, Slick?"
"Say it," he sang. "You love me!"
"Cut it out."
"Aw don't worry, Carrots. I'm flattered. You have good taste."
She scoffed, snorted, lightly cuffed him on the arm. "Are you gonna show me how to do this or not."
"See. Now you're procrastinating too."
"Oh be quiet."
"I will drag your sorry tail back to that study table, Wilde, don't test me."
If Nick had to commend Judy on one thing, even before he had realized that the animal he'd become somewhat linked to through more cunning and inconvenient ways was to be his friend, was her tenacity. He guessed it must have been a trait of Rabbits from large families (and she'd explained to him one night over stale beer that no, not all Rabbit families exceeded the populations of an entire state on their own) and a need to exceed, come out on top and prove herself. While sometimes a flaw in his Dumb, self righteous Bunnies character, it acted as the best of bases when the proper reactors were set in their place
"Alright, so you're going to want to fold it over."
"Like… uh… this?" She tugged the longer side. He snorted.
"If you're trying to tie your shoes, you're doing great." She growled. He chuckled, leaning over. "Here." He flipped the tie around, letting the back face out on the shorter end. "Now cross that over the other. But keep it the same length."
"Where did you even learn how to do this?" She tried again, frustrated when the result was a little less than the beginnings of an 'x' that would do her little good.
"My mom taught me."
She looked at him as soon as the words were uttered, tilting her head. "Your mom."
"Yeah- here, cross this one over." He wasn't looking at her. And it took her a beat to see that it was intentional.
She did what he asked, a little more distracted. "I didn't know that." She fiddled with the tie the same way she would have his. He slapped her hands away.
"You're going to wrinkle it! It's brand new!"
"Where's your mom."
He didn't answer at first. She was sure he was too busy reciting creeds of never let them see through his head. Eyes cool, mouth drawn into a loose smirk, it would have seemed to anyone else to be the mark of a composed predator unphased by any silly Prey with little questions. But she wasn't just anyone, and she noticed the way that his ears tucked back, flinching to settle back across his skull. "Nick?"
His eyes darted away, finding something else to look at. "Hm."
"Your mom… Where-"
"Not around anymore." He told her. "That's all."
It was clear that the subject was being dropped. For a Fox who was so quick to delve out affection he'd never been quick to open up his own feelings. It was the closest she'd gotten though, and she had to commend herself for even wrestling those few words out. Still her ears found themselves drooping, her fingers fiddling again. "Sorry…" she muttered. "Didn't mean to pry." Maybe he noticed. Maybe he didn't. But he at least let out an awkward sort of cough, rubbing the back of his head.
"It's alright, Carrots." His smile was fake, but the tone was sincere, and she leaned on that. And through the kind way his eyes sparkled she could only hope that one day he'd be more willing.
He would be.
"C'mon," she nudged him with her hip, intent on letting silences be filled up once more with things that were so quintessentially them. "If you're going to be teaching you might as well do it right."
For the rest of the hour spent in front of that mirror she knotted and plucked until her hands were sore from too many complicated patterns . At one point, when her frustration was ready for its breaking point, he'd delved some mercy and showed her with his own, and the two of them sat side by side while he patiently helped her twist and turn and tuck fabric.
Her masochism would pay off.
"I did it!" It was messy and skewed and off center. And it didn't look like much by far. But he wasn't going to shatter her dreams. Not when she pattered off to the mirror hanging up by her bed, fiddling with the newfound knot the same way she'd seen him do in the past. A terrible attempt really. Stumped by his own when he came up behind her, fixing his own tie with a vain sort of preening that only the cockiest seemed to possess. "Nick! Look!" She made a quick turn to beam up at him, showing him her own.
It had taken a little over an hour. She'd never been good at puzzles, the concept of sitting still for projects near boggling, but she'd been determined. And around the 47th time she'd followed along his almost effortless motions, she'd picked up a few little movements that had escaped her, following one end through another until she'd found herself standing in front of a business casual Bunny looking as happy as a she had once standing on a stage receiving her badge.
"How's it look?"
He leaned against a wall, propping one foot over the other. "Do you want an honest answer?"
"Come on!" She batted at him, holding her new tie up in the air. "Tell me!"
He rolled his eyes, but took it all the same, turning it this way and that in the dull light. "Good…" he hummed, letting it fall to bounce off of her chest. "... for a first try."
"What! This is perfect!"
"It's sloppy, Carrots. Scruffy at best. But I admire the effort. Really. Good first day of teaching."
"Oh no no no! You can't leave!" She pulled at the knot, dull claws a difficult thing to have when fumbling with dresswear. She let out a little growl. "We have to get this perfectly!"
"Carrots, we already tried-"
The Rabbit before him struck a pose, grabbing at the tie, finally undoing it. "Then we'll try it again!"
Some days, Nick knew it was a strange gift that he was so patient. Looking back, he'd have to have thanked his mother for that one. God knows he had been a handful. With a sigh, he undid his own tie. "Alright, Carrots," he huffed without any real animosity in the tone. "Let's go."
She was already dragging him back to the mirror, slipping the flopsy thing over her neck. He shook his head, reaching down and adjusting the length before letting her at it.
2 Weeks Before
She hands him the red handkerchief one day after they leave a small ice cream store not far from her apartment. Folding it into his hand and ducking her head shyly.
"I got it cleaned," she explains softly. "To say... you know..."
He unfolds it and finds no blood, no trace of markings besides the ones meant to be there. He smiles.
And he stops her, winding it around her neck like a sash, laughing when she huffs at the ridiculousness of the look. "You keep it," he says, stepping back to eye his creation with an easy sort of amusement. "It looks better on you."
"I look like a twelve year old."
"No," he promised, dragging her close before continuing their walk, side by side. "You look like good memories."
She doesn't respond to that. But against his waist he can feel the way her ears perk up at her grin.
1 Week Before
"Are you nervous?" she asks him, practicing tying her new tie in the mirror of his bathroom. She brings it everywhere and it always doing her best to take a few minutes a day and remember every step. On the bus. On the train. Sitting at her desk in the slower moments.
He's busy brushing his teeth. It's early, and she'd barged her way in wearing workout clothes and a smile, ready to take him out running. Preparation, she'd called it after whisking away his covers. He'd corrected her with a growl around the world torture.
"No," he said, running the bristles across his canines.
"Aren't you... I don't know... just a little bit scared?"
"No." He spit. Smiled. Through the suds his sharpened fangs gleamed. "Not really. Should I be?"
"I dunno. Maybe." She kicked her feet, and the heel of one landed lightly against his bathtub. It was a small room with white tile that had gone mostly yellow, a drippy shower cap taking over by calcium and rust and a sink near the door with a medicine cabinet that doubled as a mirror, almost too dirty to see through. The light above them made a faint whirring noise when it was turned on, and it fell in tune with the a/c she could still hear humming from his bedroom down the hall. "I was nervous. Really nervous."
"That's because you're a dumb bunny." He bent down and scooped water into his mouth, sloshing it around before spitting it down the drain. Another scoop found cold water on his face and he groped for a towel. "I'm a sly fox. I'm never scared."
"No. It's true." Throwing the towel towards her he smirked when it landed on top of her head, muffling her indignant squeak. "I'm far too clever to be scared of anything."
"You're a liar, that's what."
"Last week you told me-"
"I told you something? Nope. Doesn't sound like me at all. I don't talk. I'm not one for any of that lovey dovey crap."
"You're more affectionate than I am!"
"Psh. Spare me, Carrots." He leaned against his door, and he had to marvel at the whole situation a moment. He'd been woken up by another mammal who had entered his apartment. His bedroom. His private space. His sanctuary. And now she was sitting on his bathtub listing away fears while he stood in front of her in an old and rumpled white t-shirt and a pair of bright green and yellow polka dotted boxers.
He'd never been this vulnerable with anyone.
And he'd never expected that it would have been as mundane as this.
Just another morning. That's all this was becoming. Routine.
He was finding that he liked routine.
"I'm fine, Carrots," he promised her, flicking off the light and leaving her to scramble her way through the dark, pushing her out the door when she nearly bumped into him. "I'm gonna get dressed. Grab two bowls from the kitchen. I picked up your favorite cereal. Milk and blueberries are in the fridge. And put down that damn tie you're gonna stain it!"
Yeah. Routine was good.
5 Hours Before
"Have you ever heard the absence makes the heart grow fonder," he teased after she'd knocked for a good three minutes, coaxing him out of his warm bed to the door where he was currently propping himself against the jam.
"Yes," she answered. "But you barged over to my place last night to watch the game, so I could say the same for you."
He just chuckled, knowing she'd caught him out on his quip, bending his knees to lower himself until they were face to face. "You're a dumb Bunny," he told her curtly, watching her lips quirk in a smirk.
"But you're my dumb Bunny." He ruffled the fur between her ears before standing up. "Thanks for driving me, by the way!"
"No problem!" She wandered in, pushing past him through to his small apartment. "I brought bagels!" She held up a paper bag he hadn't seen before, letting it swing in the air. "The guy behind the counter nearly had a fit at me when I ordered cricket with bacon cream cheese."
"I owe you one," he sang over his shoulder, shutting the front door before wandering back to his room. "Leave it out on the counter, I'll eat it on the way.
"Was going to make you anyway," she called back. There was the sound of paper crumpling, and the next words she spoke were muffled by a mouthful -carrot and celery bagel no doubt. "We're running late!"
He grabbed his shirt and pants from where he'd folded them on top of his dresser the night before, letting pajamas drop the the bed. "No we're not, Carrots. You just get everywhere early."
"And I was hoping to be there early today!"
"We still will be. Relax."
He heard her foot give a few static thumps against the old tiles in his kitchen before it halted.
He was dressed in a few minutes, finding a decent tie from his rack (they'd tried to give him clip on and he'd refused with as little retching as possible) before leaving to join her in his small, rectangular box of a kitchen.
"Alright! Let's get goi-" A box was shoved under his nose and he almost lost his footing, tail going bushy under the stress of an unknown intruder. "What…" he backed up a step, swallowing to attempt and regain his cool. Though from the cocky grin on her face, she'd already seen and would no doubt be verbally replaying it forever. "What's that?" He tried again, giving the box a poke.
"A gift," she answered easily.
"Carrots, you are too sentimental at times, you know that?"
"Will you just open it?"
He would, under her ecstatic gaze. She jumped a few times, bumping the knuckles of her hands together in anticipation, watching him with her front teeth tucked about her lip.
It would end up being a tie. A plain one, from the looks of it. Simple and sleek and (by the feel) most likely real silk. Though his Carrots, he mused while his thumb and pointer brushed over ridiculously smooth fabric, never went halfway on anything.
"We're a team now," she pointed out happily, smiling at him from next to the deep blue tie, the two of them sizing the other up. "You and I."
Maybe he did have a flashback. A moment where he saw muzzles and children and handkerchiefs around necks and the call from Prey that they'd have to be idiots to let a Predator be a part of them. But that ended quickly enough when she was tugging at his shirt front, easing him down, plucking the other tie from him (a black and red one) and throwing it onto a counter next to a drying pot, then taking the new one from his as well.
It was looped around his neck, thrust under his collar.
"Crackers," she cursed under her breath, weighing out the two sides.
"No! I can do this." She swatted his hand away. "You're my partner now. Well… almost." Flashing him a smile, she did her best to wrap one side over the other. "I want to do this."
He chides a few more times, but ultimately lets her work. About ten minutes later (when he laughs hard enough to almost double over at how completely determined she looks) when she's nearly halfway and has only gotten her fingers caught twice he finally asks her her a question if only to fill the silence that's stanched the room. "What's gonna happen after this?"
She shrugs, and it's a small comfort that her worries aren't fathomable. "Nothing much," she says, tugging on the tie again with a growl, as if scaring it into submission might make the whole process go faster. "You'll do this. And then later in the week we'll have our own initiation. The chief explained it to me. To become partners. Sign some papers. Promise some things."
He's listening. But he's also not. Because children with sneers are peeking from the shadows and looking over stairways and making their ways back into permanence.
"Initiation…" The word is unexpectedly dry in the back of his throat.
She nods. "Yeah. Nothing big. Just the two of us. A few easy things that's all-"
Are you ready for initiation, Nick!
"Technically they're just going to ask us to make sure we're each other's emergency contacts. But… I mean… I'd like to think that there's more to it, you know?" She was looking at his tie, trying very hard not to meet his eyes. "I've heard that the rough part is all the promises though. Some people back out right away. I've seen it done before. It's really kind of heavy."
"What are we…" a swallow. "What are we promising…?"
I Nicholas Wilde…
"To protect one another mostly." Her next shrug was heavier, and he could see that when she looked at his tie next it was less with concentration and more out of something he couldn't quite place. "It's a dangerous job, Nick. And we have to be willing to sign things that might… I mean…" And then she does look at him. Her eyes glitter, and he's reminded warily of moments behind pillars in museums. The kitchen had gone quiet, and in the background, behind the sneers of children in uniforms holding flashlights and threats, he could hear the clock ticking away. "It's… it's not safe. The life of a cop, I mean. The fact that one of us… one of us might not come home at the end of the day." The voices in his head paused at that, their jeers dying down to all look at the small Prey standing before the Predator. "That's really what the contract is, you know? It's really kind of… heavy…"
You can't protect her, said one of the troop members. You're a Predator.
You're meant to hurt her. You've always been meant to hurt her.
She doesn't trust you…
Wilde had to curl his toes to keep from falling back. Memories of spray cans and bloody knees and muzzles all too much. "And… we'll sign it?" His throat bobs. "Together…?"
She'd told him that people had walked out. Why wouldn't it have been the same for her.
She doesn't trust you, one of the voices said again. And isn't that such a shame? To not be trusted? To never be trusted. But what else is to be expected of a Predator who needs to protect his meal ticket-
He feels the knot finally slip up, his self deprecation momentarily broken by her little cheer of happiness. "There we go!" She pat his chest. "And both of us? No. Just you. I already signed my last week."
And the group of children from a past filled with uniforms and muzzles and distrust all were forced back down into their seats and pressed into silence.
Judy was none the wiser of the odd conflicts her friend was going through, didn't quite understand the sappy smile he suddenly was showering down on her from his higher vantage point. Instead she just reached forward, smoothed down his shirt, hands lingering. Moving to quickly fiddle with his tie one last time. "I kind of miss the other one," she said, looking forlornly at the loud tie still sitting lonely next to the pot. "It had character."
"I told you it was a good tie. And you always told me it was ugly."
"You were right," she told him. And even if he couldn't see it, even if he'd never understand, she remembered times of hatred and strife and butting heads as she wiggled the pin into place. And in a few simple tugs of a knot she could easily bring back moments of light that she did her best to disregard as anything else. And with a once over at strings and tassels she could recall betrayal and forgiveness and times when a chest had acted as the perfect place for being drawn in. When there had been hurt and help and a single promise please trust that I won't hurt you and a replay of something not regretted. She plucked at his shoulders, picking at wrinkles. "You do look better in a tie."
"I never understand why you don't believe me."
"Because," she told him, "it takes a little while to get used to your style."
"But…" he prodded, twisting the knife.
She sighed through a smirk. "But… it's your style. And I wouldn't change i-eep!" She was stuck under his arm before she had a chance to finish, his knuckles running over the downy fur of her head. "Ow! Nick! St-ow! Stop it!"
"You like my style!" He crowed into her large ears, cackling when she managed to break away, "I can't believe you actually admitted it!"
"Oh shut up!"
"C'mere, Carrots! We're gonna celebrate! Celebratory noogie!"
"Ni- no! No get away! I swear to- Nick!" She managed to rush out before him, hearing the door slam before he was chasing after her down the hall and flights of stairs, running past mammals who had wisely placed themselves against the side of the hall, blinking at the morbid reminiscence of a Fox chasing a Rabbit, the two of them howling in laughter as they finally exited the building into the early morning sun.
4 Hours and 37 Minutes Before
It's held on a grassy lawn in the middle of Zootopia. Wilde hates it at first. Thinks it's too public. Holding his coffee in one hand, toying with his sunglasses in the other, he follows her with a fixed expression of nonchalance on his face, nodding to others who regarded him with strange looks. There are rows of lawn chairs lined up. A Gazelle hands him a program, tells him where he's to be seated (alphabetically and, much to his distaste, nowhere near Hopps) and he and Judy move through the throng of people until he's near to where he's meant to be.
She waves, turns on her hell, but stops when a claw taps her on the shoulder.
"What? No hug?" He opened his arms wide, bending down, offering her a look that could either be affectionate or smug as hell. You could never really tell with Nicholas Wilde.
"Don't you need to be over there, or something…" she muttered, making a point of not looking towards him.
"Not even a little kiss on the cheek." He offered a lecherous sneer through lidded eyes when all he got was a huff in return. "Fine! Leave me without! I'll just live my life… sad… alone… unwanted…"
"If you're lose your seat, you can't blame me."
He rolled his eyes, catching the sight of some particularly fluffy clouds. "They're marked. I'll be fine. But hey, I know when I'm not wanted."
"You ever consider acting as a career? You're dramatic enough for it."
"Why Officer Toot-Toot! You insult me!"
She let out a huff of a laugh, scratching behind her head. "You're never gonna let that go, are you?"
"What? The moment we met? Never. How can I forget the cute little meter maid with her dreams of granduer."
"You can be a real ass sometimes, you know that?"
"Aw, c'mon. You know you love me…"
She doesn't answer, but he can see the way her ears flicker, her smile following just enough to be noticed. "Go sit down, Wilde," she murmurs, turning on her heel. "I'll see you up there."
So he does turn. Gives her something between a glare and a sneer and a smarmy grin and turns on his heel, marching towards his seat. People stare, but he's expecting it. He just ignores them (lie) and stays confident and cool (lie) and doesn't at all need anyone next to him to at least make him feel more comfortable in a place he somehow still doesn't belong (lie, lie, lie).
But he's Nicholas Wilde. And he's gotten through worse. And he'll get through this too. He dons his glasses and fixes his expression and moves onward.
He's halfway down the long isle when he's stopped by the far off voice behind him.
"Wait!" Nick made a half turn towards it, face calm in its seemingly permanent resting boredom. But that quickly changed to shock when the grey streak barreled into him and he had to spread his legs just to keep balance. The breath knocked out of him, he has to take a moment to regain it before he's laughing, head thrown back in honesty joy that turns into chuckles and a fond smirk. He hoisted up his glasses, balancing them on his brow to look at her without the veil of a darkened lens.
"Finally folded, huh?" He gave the back of her head a little skritch with his claws before smoothing down her ears, his other hand winding around her back, careful not to drop his coffee down her spine, dragging her closer.
"Shuddup…" he could hear her say, mumbling into his chest. "This is your punishment for being an idiot. Take it with a vengeance."
"Oh. No. Please. Stop. I'll do anything."
"You're only making this harder on yourself."
Her fur was soft, but she had always been made up of sharp angles, and when she pulled him down to make the hug more equal on both ends, he let out a soft sound of complaint. "You're like a block of wood," Nick chided. "You know that? I think I'm bruising."
"Shut up." Judy gave him a poke in the ribs. "You're going to take this hug and you're going to enjoy it."
"Forceful, aren't we?"
"You're adversary only makes me hug you longer!" She sang.
Nick snorted, but did settle in against her, happy enough to comply. Many days he found himself pulling her close. She'd never been much of a hugger herself. But on the occasion that she was (and those occasions did, time to time, occur) she'd either fixed her arms round his middle or pulled him down with a gruff shyness. Eventually though he'd just learned to tell which was coming to help her along the way. They weren't the same height, and he had at least a good foot on her. But they were both good at compromise, and somehow it had been a natural sort of feeling to bend at the right angle to better allow for her to wind her arms about his neck.
She had her favorite spot, it would seem. The little nook between his neck and shoulder, and she'd bury herself away in it, her nose wiggling against shampoo and the pulse point where he sprayed his dollar store cologne. He felt her nose give a little twitch of anxiety, her whiskers pressing and poking, before she was pulling away. Her eyes were shining but her smile was full.
Then she'd pull away. "Knock 'em dead," she whispered.
He readjusted his glasses, took a sip of coffee, and gave her a salute.
Five Minutes Before
His tie was skewed. And while he stood in line, staring down at tufts of grass, he noticed it- years of experience wearing one easily giving him a good eye.
But he refrained. Because, watching from from her seat in the front, staring at him with ears pinned back, nose wiggling, he knew she'd seen it as well. She'd look both ways, giving other attendees a glance, before sneaking off her chair to tip toe over to him. He acted like he didn't see her until she was at his side, paws fiddling gently with the knot by a stiff collar.
"Worried much, Carrots?" he asked, though there was no salt in the tone.
She laughed, nervous and shaking. "No. Just… emotional."
"You bunnies always were."
"Yeah…" Another tug. The knot fell into place. Someone began announcements. "I've got to go now, Carrots." he smiled. "And so do you."
"Yeah." She said again.
One Minute and 37 seconds before
It was a surprise when his tie was pulled and he was brought once more to her level. Something brushed his cheek lightly and then her arms were back around his neck. "I'm proud of you, Nick." She said, soft as a sigh. "I'm so proud of you."
His tie was mussed from being used as a pulley. But he didn't fix it. He didn't want to. Didn't have to. His swelled chest did enough to hide it anyway. Besides, the moment she pinned the badge to his chest, handing off the wooden box to a Polar Bear standing behind, she'd already paused just a moment to fix it herself. And he let her. Realized he always would.
Her speech was incredible. The sun was bright. His coffee was strong. His tie was mussed.
There was a smile.
The badge weighed almost nothing, but her eyes weighed too much and he fell into them with a hope that he'd be able to have them looking back at him with the same pride they did at that moment every day of their lives together.
He really, truly, hoped.
A small child peeped out that he was a predator and she wouldn't.
But a bunny, newly settled as a fixture in his mind, glared at the group of prey and told them all, with complete certainly, that she forever and a day would.
Later that night, stumbling back after a few drinks at a local brewery (her treat) she'd sat on his bed, bouncing lightly, watching him hang his newest tie up with the others. "I tied that one," she chirped, happy as ever. "I, Officer Judy Hopp's, now know how to tie ties."
"Whoo boy!" He flashed a wide grin over his shoulder, rooting about for a shirt that didn't feel like it was strangling him slowly. He found one of the newly gifted ZPD ones -a soft grey cotton thing with the letters sprawled across the chest and Precinct 1 scrawled in a smaller font on the back- and gave it a nod, shaking it out. "You should add that to your resume! I can see the headlines now!" Brushing the paw holding the shirt dramatically across the air, his other hand working to loosen the knot at his neck, he crowed, "Officer Toot-Toot! Finally entering the adult world!"
"You joke, but I'm still gonna be proud!"
"Oh, I'm aware." He took off his own tie, unbuttoned his shirt. She lazily draped her paws over her eyes, listening to him fumbling with the stiff collar. A neighbor turned on their air conditioning and the rattle off it shook the wall before dying down. From outside there was a drunken argument. A bottle smashed somewhere down the street. "You're proud of just about everything."
"Of course I am! Who wouldn't be!"
"Many, many people."
"Well that's just awful."
"Not all of us have such a cheery way of looking at life, Carrots."
"Well, you should," she piped up.
"Uh huh. And you're proud of everything."
He watched her pause, her brow furrowing under the paws on her face. Saw her thinking back, watching her face fall for the barest of moments. He slipped his shirt off, throwing it to the side. "Well…" she tucked her legs closer to her body. "Not everything. Can't be proud of everything all the time, I guess."
"Too true." He stuck his head though the shirt, ears pressed back when his face popped out.
"I hope you know that that's not gonna change much. I'm still going to be happy about lots of things."
"I didn't have a doubt."
"I'll still be ridiculously proud about the tie."
"Oh trust me. I know."
"And I'm proud of you!"
She'd already said it before, and this time there was less emotion in her voice. Just a frank honesty that was a constant that somehow seemed to drag his dusty heart back into another flutter of beats. He cleared his throat, forcing back the butterflies that had started a migration against his ribs. "Yup…" he said, doing his best to hide the rasp. "I know…"
"You can open your eyes, Carrots." She did, smiling at him from her place on the bed. "Right. We gonna drink or not. I need a beer."
She beats him to the door before he even has a chance to race her, moving down the short hallways towards where she knows the kitchen is. He can hear the sound of clinking. The hiss of pressure as his fridge locks itself closed.
"Hey! You've got a few things in here. Looks like an IPA and... whatever this is? What's a labic? Is one better than the other. I'm not really sure." He moves towards the entrance way, looking into the small rectangular space. She looks back for a moment and smiles at him. "You're getting the better one," she promises, waving the two bottles before placing them onto the counter. "Oh! Hey! You wanna order food, too! My treat! Since it's your graduation and all. And maybe they have an old movie on- we've been dying to see that one about the haunted house and the-eep!"
She means to walk past him.
She never makes it.
His arms are around her before she has a chance to get out. She stiffens.
For once, there's no tie. No tie for her to lean her head against. No tie to bump against her in familiar recognition. No tie to hold and tug through the anxiety of capture. He's wearing his new t-shirt and a pair of black boxers and there's nothing between her and the body of a predator that holds her so tightly, blocking out the light.
But he still holds her.
Holds her until she begins to loosen in his arms, tentatively winding her own around him.
He's always been affectionate, and so cursing her to hell and back for making him actually discover that about himself he leans his head against hers and relaxes in the embrace.
"You know I trust you..." he says at one point,
"Yeah..." she says, leaning her head to the side to not get a mouthful of t-shirt.
"And you know I can't wait to start all this with you."
"And I'm really actually impressed that you can tie a tie even though its a skill for a six year old who's got shoes with laces."
"... I know."
He gives her a squeeze before stepping back.
For a moment it looks like she wants to say something. Instead; "I'll grab the beers." And she's off once more, delving them strait back into normalcy that he can easily find his place in.
She's still wearing her outfit, and at one point he dissapears into his room, comes back out with a shirt that smells like him and is big enough to encompass the whole of her body. "Relax a while, Hopps," he tells her jovially, stretching out on the couch and smiling at her. "After all, the best part about a tie is taking it off at the end of the day."
She does, ducking into the bathroom, coming back out drowning in a tacky button up.
The two spend the rest of the night tie-less.
And he finds that not having to impress anyone, sitting next to the one person he wants to impress most in the entire world, must be exactly what friendship feels like.
He decides, by the time she's asleep at his side, plucking the half empty beer bottle hanging uselessly from her paw before grabbing a quilt to cover her up, that it is.
And the children in his head, watching the Predator and Prey lose the formalities for something that lacks a title, stay silent and muzzled.
And Wilde, guided only by slivers of moonlight, retreats to his bedroom, glances one last time at his badge winking from on top of his dresser, before hanging up his newest tie on the rack next to patterns that scream of memories and mistakes and choices made and friendships found, and finally heads to bed.
That's it! There you go! A MESS of a chapter is done!
Now more messes can follow its path!
FOR THOSE WHO ARE ASKING- I AM NOT TAKING REQUESTS ANYMORE FOR THIS STORY. I will ask when I need them or am puttering out.
But if you DO have something you'd like to see, please feel free to pm me. I will NOT be taking stories that are specific or have full plots. Ideas only! Short, to the point things!
YOU ALL ARE THE BEST, THANK YOU SO MUCH AND I CAN'T WAIT FOR THOSE WHO SUBMITTED IDEAS TO SEE THEIRS COME TO LIFE! Can't wait to let you see what's in store, and as always keep reading and keep writing! I want to see you all crafting your own stories!
Have a great day lovelies! Mwah!