Judy peered at Nick as he stood in the dim lighting. Despite her lack of any night vision, she could tell Nick looked upset just how his form seemed hunched and tense. That, and he appeared to be wincing as he rubbed the back of his head.
Her eyes narrowed. What is going on? she wondered as she raised herself up onto her tip toes giving her several more inches of height.
She watched as her dad slowly plodded past Nick and gave him a fatherly pat on the arm before wrestling past the door to disappear inside.
A smile crept across her muzzle. Nick and her dad really seemed to hit it off at dinner. Even mom warmed up, she thought, although she wasn't sure how much thawing had been due to the wine.
Nick began walking down the veranda to talk with Norris. Judy still struggled to make out the details. She was more than a keen observer, however, and Nick certainly seemed upset about something by his posture and cant of his ears. She was getting ready to excuse herself to go see what was up when Norris pointed right at her, and Nick followed the line to look in their direction.
Gideon had the forethought to raise an arm and Nick zeroed in on them. Judy raised to wave a paw as well followed by Sharla.
"Here he comes," Gideon said as Nick said something to Norris and headed down the gazebo stairs.
Judy make a squeak as she teetered to the side as her normally solid balance seemed to desert her. Her arms shot out and windmilled, but she steadied as one of Sharla's hands gripped her one flailing arm.
"Whoa there, Judy!" Sharla giggled, "You 'aight, there?"
Judy blinked as the world slowly settled. "Uh," I she said uncertainly, "I think so… just lost my balance is all."
"That shine goin' right to yer brain, huh?" Sharla said with a mischievous tone.
"I dun told you, Sharla!" Gideon groused.
"I'm fine!" Judy said with as much authority as she could muster, and tugged her t-shirt down, but did plant her feet a bit farther apart… just in case.
Nick threaded his way through the crowd and put on what Judy knew was a patently false smile as he walked up.
"I see you found our two missing better halves," he said to the other fox.
Gideon harrumphed and nodded at the burrow, "Ya know where I found em? Sittin' up on top of the burrow!"
Sharla raspberried Gideon. "You didn't find nothin', Gid. If I hadn't called down t'ya, you would still be out there fumblin' around in the dark!"
Judy giggled at the image. She didn't know why it was so funny.
Nick gave her an appraising look then shook his head. "Hey, well, the music's about to start, but I have to borrow Judy for a minute," he said and looked right at her, "Can we go somewhere? I need talk to you in private."
She narrowed her eyes. "What did you do, Wilde?" she asked with suspicion in her voice.
Nick put his paws on his hips. "Why do I have to have 'done something?'" he asked. Despite his best efforts, Judy could tell he had done something.
"Because," Judy said, "I know you better than you think."
Nick looked heavenward briefly and muttered something under his breath Judy couldn't catch. He stepped closer and put a paw on Judy's shoulder then gave Gideon and Sharla a smarmy smile. "Excuse us just a minute, won't you?" he said as he turned Judy by the shoulder to start hustling her out into the dark.
"Nick!" she hissed, leaning back and resisting the 'guiding' at first, but reluctantly gave in after a few seconds, "What is this about? What did you do?" A number of increasingly outrageous fox-themed shenanigans began to populate her mind.
"Nothing!" Nick said a bit too quickly, "Why am I immediately the one in the wrong? Besides… I mean, I... look, it wasn't my fault!"
She finally planted her feet and squirmed around to face him. "What wasn't your fault?" she demanded.
Nick opened his muzzle but quickly closed it. A paw moved up to rub paw at the back of his neck at pull at the fur.
Oh, he's done something, Judy thought, eyes narrowing again. "Nick..." she said, voice carrying an edge.
Nick closed his eyes and took a big breath. "I... may have, um, accidentally kissed Katherine. Kind of… sort of."
"You what?!" she barked as outrage and betrayal welled up instantly. She had thought of many things, but this was not one of them.
"Hush! Shhh, shh!" Nick hissed as a paw snapped out to clamp her muzzle closed with thumb and forefinger while the other waved comically at her.
Her own arm whipped up, grabbed Nick by the wrist, applied pressure, and started to twist in a move she had practiced in the academy and had put into use on the streets a few times.
Nick's fingers sprung open, and he began to turn as she used the wrist lock on him to its full effect.
"Ow... ow ow ow!" Nick said in a whisper. He was apparently trying not to draw attention to them, but doing a poor job of it since plenty were already watching with erect ear interest; including Gideon and Sharla.
"C'mon," Nick pleaded as he started to kneel down as Judy's fingers dug into the pressure point, "Let me explain before you break something!"
Her jaw clenched, but she opened her paw and let Nick go. She had not really meant to hurt him, but her temper had just flared for some reason. She blamed it on her issues with jealousy… and perhaps a bit on that moonshine. "Start explaining, and it better be good, mister," she warned.
Nick cradled his wrist to his chest as he massaged it and stared at her. "Seriously, you are freakishly strong for being so small," he said attempting levity. It didn't work.
Judy's eyes widened, and her pupils contracted to points.
Seeing that Nick held up his paws and started quickly explaining in hushed tones. As the story unfolded, Judy's anger shifted away from Nick. Instead of glaring at him her gaze shifted off to the side and went distant. The building anger started settling on Katherine instead.
"I am going to... kill her!" Judy growled through her teeth, and started looking around as Nick finished.
Nick, seeing her expression, deliberately stood in her way as she started towards the burrow and pulled her up short as he put a paw on her shoulder.
"Now just hold on, Fluff," he said, "You've used up your one beat-the-stuffing-out-of-someone for the day."
"Someone needs to teach her a lesson!" Judy seethed, grinding her teeth. Suggestive looks and words were one thing, but actually propositioning Nick? In her own burrow?
"And you're going to... what?" Nick asked trying to sound reasonable, "Go beat her up? Go yell at her? What?"
She paused. The words and mayhem that her mind had started planning really registered. Nick had a point, as much as she was loathe to admit it. It was a good thing Katherine was not in sight, because if she was, Judy wasn't sure she would be able to restrain herself.
Nick visibly relaxed and pulled his paw back when she didn't immediately run off to track her sister down for a thrashing, regardless of how well deserved it felt right now.
"I…" Judy started as she tried to think of something without much luck, "I… but… well I can't just let her get away with that!"
"That may be," he said, wry amusement edging into his voice, "But helping you dig a shallow grave is not on my bucket list."
Her anger began to cool as she snorted out a laugh. "What?" she asked, "I wasn't planning on actually killing my sister, Nick."
Nick grinned. "I know, but it made you laugh," he said.
Judy smiled wanly as the anger started to drain, and sighed. "Your ability to do that is one of your few redeeming qualities," she said.
Nick scoffed. "I have many redeeming qualities, I'll have you know."
Judy giggled as she looked up at her fox. My handsome fox, she thought. She was still seething, but the anger seemed to be flowing out of her as fast as it had bloomed. The fact Nick told her right away and didn't try to hide it made her feel much better. That did beg a question, however. She narrowed her eyes and asked, "Well, did you like it?"
"Did I like-" Nick started then rolled his eyes, "I was a little busy wondering where all the pretty sparkling lights came from!"
She grinned up at Nick, her mood flipping in an instant. Without warning, she reached up to grab him by the front of his shirt and pulled him down into a kiss of her own.
"Nmmmm," Nick hummed as his ears splayed out and eyes went unfocused. A number of good natured laughs, hoots, and calls came from those watching.
"You go, Judy!" Sharla called.
She broke the kiss and giggled, but didn't let Nick go as she pressed her nose against his. "I love that I have that effect on you," she said huskily and rubbed her muzzle against his. She rose up onto her toes and whispered into his ear, "Let's go back to my room."
Nick blinked. "Um," He said, "I… uh, was going to play with the band," he said in a dazed and distracted voice.
Judy rolled her eyes and pushed Nick away. "Gah," she huffed, "Way to spoil the moment, Casanova."
Nick shook his head to clear his thoughts. He stood up and put his paws on his hips, peering down at her. "What is up with you?" he asked, "You've gone from wanting to kill me — my wrist still hurts, I'll have you know — to what I am sure were ideas visiting bloody mayhem on Katherine, and now want to..." He stopped and narrowed his eyes, nose wiggling. "Wait a minute..." he said and smacked his lips. He ducked down and rapidly snuffled around Judy's muzzle.
Judy laughed. "What are you doing?" she giggled and pushed Nick away, but he was already standing back up.
Nick turned an accusing glare at Gideon. "Gideon!" he called, "I told you not to give her any of that rot gut!"
Gideon's ears splayed. He actually seemed offended at the calling his moonshine 'rot gut.' "I-I-didn't-" he started, but Sharla spoke over him.
"It ain't his fault, Nick!" she said, "I gave it t'her!"
"I tried t'stop her," Gideon said, "But when I said you tol' me not t'give her any... well, I think that had the opposite effect of what you wanted."
Nick pulled a paw down over his eyes and muzzle then looked down at Judy. "Well, that explains a lot. I swear, I'm going to start using reverse psychology on you. That, and arrange an intervention for half this town," he said mostly to himself. He rubbed his wrist some more. "And you're a mean drunk, Judy Hopps."
"What? I'm not that drunk!" she protested then added, "And I'm not mean!"
"You are too. You beat up Bill - although he was asking for it-, wanted to murder Katherine," Nick said ticking off items on his fingers, "And put me, your erstwhile, doting, loving, and, I might add, extremely good looking boyfriend in a very painful wrist lock." He shook his head. "I can see it now, me walking into the bullpen... arm in a sling... muzzle swollen... having to make up a story about how I walked into a door or fell down the stairs when it was really you beating me for not having dinner ready."
Judy snort-giggled at the idea, but said, "Domestic abuse isn't a joke, Nick."
"Who said I was joking?" Nick said with an arched eyebrow, and Judy stuck her tongue out at him.
Nick rolled his eyes. "Seriously, keep away from that stuff. I'm really starting to think you and alcohol are not a good combination. And you weigh what, five pounds?"
"Oh, har har."
"I'm serious!" Nick said with a glare.
Judy held her paws up in surrender. "Okay, okay!" she said and sighed, "But I feel fine, Nick really!"
Nick arched an eyebrow. "Spoken like a true drunk. That's why you're weaving back and forth, huh?"
She blinked. Weaving? She wasn't weaving. Was she? "No... no, I'm not!" she protested as the world tilted ever so slightly.
Nick slowly arched an eyebrow.
She put a fist over her mouth and cleared her throat as she focused. Hard. Or tried to. Everything did seem kind of... far away? Like it was last night actually, but somehow different. It was hard to describe, but she felt fine. She had felt fine last night for that matter. Sure, she felt pretty gross when she woke up, so she would just have to remember to drink a lot of water before bed and she would be fine. She was ok. Everything was ok.
Then the world shifted just a few inches to the left, and had to to admit she should probably take it easy. Everything was well in paw, though, but she relented to sooth Nick's apparent concern. He was just looking out for her, after all, and that was sweet of him, she thought.
She held her paws up again, "You win. Perhaps I've... had a bit too much tonight. But I really do feel fine."
Nick sighed. "Just keep to the non-alcoholic drinks, will you?"
"Okay, okay," she said again. She looked up feeling abashed. "Um, are... are we good?"
Nick's expression softened. "Yeah, Carrots. We're good."
Judy relaxed. Her ears came up as things previously mentioned finally registered. "Um, how's your head?" she asked.
Nick reached back to feel the nice lump wincing a little. "Why, I didn't think you cared. Thank you for asking," he said sarcastically. "Sore, but I'll live."
Judy smiled wickedly, ignoring the sarcastic jab. She scooted up to him and pressed herself against his front as a different kind of heat bloomed in her belly. "I'll kiss it better if you want, and a few other things."
"Huh," Nick said and lightly rubbed his paws down her arms, "Mean and horny when you've had a few.."
Judy snorted and rolled her eyes, pushing herself back, "You sure know how to make a doe feel wanted," she said throwing the sarcasm back at him.
It was Nick's turn to stick his tongue out at her, which made her giggle. Nick smiled softly in return and looked up over her head to the Burrow where everyone was still milling around as the setup continued.
"Oh," he said distractedly, "Pop-pop attacked me with his cane, too. Luckily he's older than dirt, and hits like a bunny... present company excluded."
"What?!" Judy exclaimed then groaned. She leaned her head back and letting her ears and arms droop, "I was trying to avoid him!"
"I can see why," Nick said dryly, "A real charmer, that guy. Had plenty to say about foxes."
Judy winced. "Er, sorry about him. You okay?"
Nick looked down briefly and winked. "I'm fine. Believe it or not, Katherine's little gang saved me from him. Or him from me." He hesitated for a moment, "I may have been... growling a bit."
"Well, that just sounds sexy," Judy said, trying not to giggle.
"You are so drunk," Nick said, shaking his head, "But yes. I've dealt with worse in my day."
Judy sighed. "He's always been that way for as long as I can remember. Something about a feud with the Greys when he was a kit or something."
Nick snorted and started to chuckle, shaking his head.
"What?" Judy asked.
Nick shrugged. "It's been a very strange day, Carrots."
Judy smirked. "Well, you're not wrong there."
Nick, still grinning, returned to looking up at the setup going on. "This is more than a little jam session they're planning, huh?"
Judy ignored that for a moment, eyeing Nick instead as her focus again shifted back to more contemplation of the Nick-without-clothes kind. She hummed and bit her bottom lip the way Nick said he liked.
Nick caught the look, shook his head as he chuckled. He stepped up beside her and put an arm around her shoulders to snug her against his side, and she pressed into him, letting an arm slip across his lower back while his dropped over her far shoulder.
She turned her head to follow Nick's gaze to activity at the front of the burrow. "They do seem to be pulling out all the stops tonight, " she said as she leaned into Nick, enjoying his warmth and closeness, "They don't put on this big a production often, it's usually just a pawful of them."
"I was wondering. I've been looking forward to playing with them. It's been forever since I really played with anyone."
"So, you're still planning on playing?" Judy said and grinned as she cuddled against Nick and they started walking back to Gideon and Sharla. "I'll put that offer of going back to my room on the table again?" she said hopefully. Even after this afternoon, that kiss had her libido knocking at her door, and she really wanted Nick to open it.
Nick snorted but nodded. "Indeed I am," he said, "Honestly, I'm still kind of worn out from earlier."
She grunted in frustration and waved a paw down her front, "If you don't want any of this, then fine."
"Now, let's not be hasty here," Nick said hurriedly, and snuggled her tight against him making her laugh, "But I really do want to play. Gotta impress you somehow."
Judy smiled. "You impress me plenty," she said and rubbed her head against his arm again. She really was feeling uncharacteristically pent up, even for a rabbit. She didn't know if it was the drink or something else, but she was having a hard time not dragging Nick off right here and now. She made a mental note to ask Sharla to get her some of Gideon's hooch later. Might come in handy for a few fun nights later, she thought.
"Okay, fine," she said, "But as soon as you're done..."
Nick grinned. "You don't have to tell me twice, Fluff," he said then stifled a yawn, "Just… mmm take it easy on me, okay? Not even sure sure for how long I'll play. You gotta admit it's been one long day. Heck, it's been a long week. I'm beat, figuratively and literally. How about I dazzle you with my musical prowess, and we can have impressed rabbit groupie sex afterwards?"
Judy giggled and snuggled herself tightly against Nick's side. "Deal," she said.
"Everythin' ok?" Gideon asked as they walked back up to him and Sharla.
Both Judy and Nick nodded.
"Yes," Judy said then gave a Sharla a knowing look. "Katherine," she said as if that explained everything.
Sharla's eyebrows went up. She pointed a finger at Nick, and Judy nodded.
"I guess that answers the question if she is she's still an intolerable slut, then," Sharla said.
"Yup," Judy said with an extra pop of air on the 'p'.
"K-k-katherine?" Gideon said, sounding suddenly wary as he looked around, "G-green eyes, dark fur on her face?"
Sharla turned in Gideon's arms and looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "She been tryin' t'put the moves on you or somethin'?"
Gideon's ears splayed out. "N-n-no," he said, not meeting the gaze.
"Gideon Grey," Sharla said in the voice wives used for lying husbands and children, "Don't you dare lie t'me!"
Gideon held up a paw. "I s-swear!" he said, "She just, uh, ya know, been givin' me the eye when she's at the s-stand n'all, and... um..."
"'And um' what?" Sharla pressed.
"Well," Gideon said, still not making eye contact, and ran a paw through his head fur, "She, uh, she's been in to the shop a few times when yer not there bein' all l-lewd n'suggestive n'such." He sighed heavily. "She came in'ta the shop a couple'a weeks ago with a red pawpsicle from Betty's ice cream shop next door."
He paused, a paw reaching up to tug at the collar of his white t-shirt. "I-I swear," he said, eyes going distant, "She wasn't so much eatin' it as she was makin' love to it. No offense Judy, but your sister kinda scares me."
"Thank you!" Nick said with lifted paw, "I'm not the only one!"
Judy let out a weary chuckle, and Sharla snorted in derision.
"She does tend to have that effect on mammals," Judy said.
Sharla looked none too happy. "She better cut that out or I'm gonna give her beatin'!"
"Seems to be a common theme tonight," Nick said, and got blank looks from Gideon and Sharla. They didn't know about his little adventure or Judy's reaction to it. He was about to explain when the sounds of amplifiers being turned on, instruments being tested and tuned reached out drawing their attention.
"Yer Pa said y'all d-do this every weekend?" Gideon said, sounding impressed as he watched the ongoing setup.
"This?" Judy said half lifting an arm, "Oh, no, not really. I mean, there's always some of them playing, but they only do this kind of thing a few times a year. I guess Nick coming was unusual enough."
As if mention of it was enough a voice called out, "Nick!" Norris was up on the railing again, holding onto a pillar and peering out towards them.
"That's my cue," Nick said and smiled, disengaging himself from Judy. He started to head back to the veranda, "Ladies, get ready to throw your panties! Gideon, keep yours on!"
Judy and Sharla giggled. Gideon declined to comment.
"He's full of hisself, ain't he?" Sharla said as Nick walked off.
Judy grinned. "Oh, he's full of something alright."
Nick took the short steps back up into the gazebo in single bound. He was feeling much better now with all that out of the way. His head still throbbed, but it was tolerable. The side of his head stung a bit too where that cane had glanced off him.
"Crazy rabbits," he said under his breath as he threaded his way back to the veranda. He went to get his guitar and pulled it out along with an audio cable. It was an acoustic guitar, but it had pickup built in.
"Ooh!" he said, "I forgot I had this in here!" His ears shot up as a small multi-effects pedal came attached to the cable. This is perfect, he thought. He hadn't expected to be playing with a group like this, but the small pedal opened up a lot more options. With it, he could make the acoustic sound like an electric, bass, or even a synthesizer. It didn't have a lot of options, and he had a more expensive and larger system at home, but this would do just fine.
"Had what in there?" Norris said from behind him.
Nick held up the small pedal over his shoulder. "This!" he said and stood up, "You got an amp I can jack into?"
Norris hummed and looked around before pointing to an amp nearby. "That one should do."
Nick nearly tripped over several other cables as he made his way over and plugged himself into an open port. He slung the guitar strap over his head and played a few basic chords to test the tuning.
"So," Norris said, "You get everything worked out with Judy?"
"Hmm?" Nick played with the tuning pegs, getting the strings back to an E standard. He always loosened the strings when he put the guitar away, and he never minded re-tuning the instrument. "Oh, that. Yeah, it's all good, thanks." Nick nodded around to the sizable group sporting instruments in various states of readiness. "Quite the ensemble you have here."
Norris looked around and chuckled. "Yeah. Wasn't really planning on it, but once word spread, it kind of ballooned." He turned back to Nick. "Hey, you got anything you want to play specifically? You are kind of the guest of honor, after all."
Nick thought while he quickly went through the rest of the strings. Several songs came to mind, a few very recently heard ones, but he started with, "I don't suppose you guys play much jazz, do you?"
This was met with an expression of disgust from Norris along with several groans, a retching noise, and at least two raspberries from various others around them.
"Old mammal music!" Norris said then someone else down the porch helpfully amended: "Old mammal elevator music!"
Nick put his paws on his hips, letting his guitar hang from the strap. "You are all a bunch of uncivilized cretins!" with mock outrage only to be met with jeers and comments about his 'advanced' age. It was all in good fun, and he had really expected some kind of response like that. He fell in love with jazz as a kit, a trait he picked up from what his mother always played on the radio. Unfortunately, he was usually in the minority.
"Well," Nick said, "Do you have some kind of playlist I can look at? I can follow along with whatever you all play, but the reverse might be a bit difficult."
Norris reached into his pocket and pulled out a worn sheet of paper, crisscrossed with old, haggard crease lines. "We're not really a jam band, but we can play just about anything. This is just the list of stuff most of us have at least practiced."
Nick took the folded up sheet and opened it, eyes scanning down the list. It was a pretty impressive repertoire that ranged from hard rock to folk. He knew many of them, but not all. That was fine, though, he thought. He would pick up quickly, and honestly, with all the instruments the rabbits had on stage, he was probably going to get lost in the mix most of the time. He grinned as he saw one song in particular and stabbed a claw at a song down in the W's.
"Wicked Game. We have to play that one."
Norris grinned wide. He snapped his fingers and pointed at one of the other rabbits who was holding a tenor sax as nearly as big as he was. "Told you! You own by ten bucks Lenny!"
"Bah!" Lenny said, "Fine, you win."
Nick arched an eyebrow and looked back and forth.
Norris grinned up at him. "We had a bet on if Judy made you listen to that or not yet."
Nick chuckled. "She did indeed," he said, "But it's a favorite of mine too."
"Oh, ours too," Norris assured, "We just, uh, rock it up a bit."
"Oh?" Nick said, "I think I can get behind that. One condition, though; I get to sing."
"Oooh! Romantic!" Someone said from the other side of the gazebo, which got a round of chuckles and amused head shakes.
"Okay then!" Norris said then asked, "You want to lead off with that or...?"
Nick thought for a second but shook his head. "Nah, I need to get into the groove. Just mix it in somewhere. I'll pick it up."
Norris gave two thumbs up. "Right on!" The rabbit ran over and grabbed a mic that was laying on top of one of the amps and attached it to a stand. "Hey, Mona, hit the lights!" he called.
Somewhere, Mona did as told. A long string of multicolored LED lights that had been haphazardly hung over the rafters sprung to life and began to pulse dully.
Other members of the group, at least twenty-five or thirty by Nick's count, assembled either in the gazebo or down the veranda.
Norris tapped on the mic a few times to get everyone's attention, and the murmuring crowd quieted.
Nick saw Judy and Sharla winding their way closer too with a nervous-looking Gideon pulling up the rear.
"Okay, everyone!" Norris said, "We got some new things to play tonight, some old favorites, and a special guest star!" He lifted a paw, gesturing to Nick.
Nick groaned inwardly, but put on a smile smiled and raised his paw. The crowd of rabbits hooted, clapped, and waved. He was again amazed at how accepting most of Judy's family was of him.
"Anyway, I thought we would start..." Norris started to say, but was interrupted by at least a hundred phones chirping and ringing out in the crowd.
Norris stopped talking and quickly reached into a pocket, as did just about everybody body else. Confusion and alarm started to spread among their faces.
Nick blinked. A paw went automatically to pull his own phone out of his pocket, wondering if it was some kind of public alert system going off. His phone was silent, however, so if so it wasn't a general network broadcast of some sort.
Nick looked around, "What?" he asked, "What is it?"
A song began to play from many phones.
Nick closed his eyes as the tinny sound of the all too familiar intro to 'Mister Fox.' started to play from dozens of phones. "Gods dammit, Katherine," he growled under his breath. She had done it. Not only had she done it, but she had waited until it would have the most impact.
Judy was standing just on the other side of the section of railing he was at, and as he watched her jaw went slack and her eyes went wide. "Oh my Gods, Nick! You're Mister Fox!?"
Nick moved over to the mic and pulled it towards him.
"Thanks, Katherine," he growled with irritation, "Bless your black little heart."
"You're welcome, Nick!" Katherine called back from somewhere off to the left, "Sorry about your head!"
Giggles erupted from Katherine's cohort, and this was quickly followed by just about everybody else bursting into various forms of amusement. Nick bit down hard on his tongue to keep himself from saying anything else as his ears burned in embarrassment.
Norris pulled the mic back to himself. "Well!" he said over the noise with a huge grin on his muzzle as he looked at Nick, "I guess I know what song we're playing first!"
Even though 'Mister Fox' was not on the list of songs, the rabbits all seemed to know it well enough, much to Nick's chagrin. Once it started, though, Nick ran with it. He was never one to try and avoid the unavoidable once it became unavoidable. Instead he made the best of it. He even did the stupid little dance from the video, despite not having any recollection of doing the actual video. He had seen the video enough times though, so he snaked, and curled around a few of the female band members as the lyrics played out. The entire thing caused a continuous wave of laughter from the crowd. Most of them even sang along.
Judy was dumbfounded. She kept looking back and forth between the Nick, and the freeze frame from the music video. It was undoubtedly Nick. A much younger Nick, and scantily clad at that. He's so much skinnier, she thought absently thinking he almost looked anorexic. He had makeup on in the video as well. Dark shading around his eyes to make them stand out more along with a sprinkling of glitter that made him sparkle in the lights.
Sharla was beside herself with a mixture of disbelief and laughter, and Gideon only said one thing: "Well I'll be dipped in shit!"
Judy about lost it when Nick seemed to give in and started doing the dance as her siblings did a respectable rendition of the song with all the females supplying the lyrics. Nick even slinked around them like he did to the Carrot Pop band members in the video.
The song eventually ended, and Nick did a sweeping bow to much laughing, applause, and whistles. Judy was going to have to talk to him about this little omission later. It wasn't like she had fantasized about him when the song was out when she was a young teenager. Well... not much anyway; she had known the earworm of a song well enough, but had only seen the video a pawful of times. It was just a little mind blowing to realize she had already known Nick, in a way at least, for so long.
The song finally ended, and Judy stared at Nick as he picked his guitar back up. He saw her looking at him and just shrugged with grin.
Judy pointed a finger at him and mouthed "We're going to talk about this later!"
Nick sighed theatrically. "Fine," he mouthed back at her.
The next song started, and Judy watched with some of the same amazement she had this morning as Nick jumped right in after only listening to for a few seconds.
"He is good!" Sharla said into her ear over the music.
"Told you!" Judy said back.
Sharla hip bumped Judy as she started dancing. Most of the family was dancing at this point... if what they were doing could be called dancing. Judy shrugged and joined in. It was some catchy tune from a few years ago, and she had to admit her siblings were pretty good. Plus, she found that the music was actually making her want to dance, something she couldn't say often.
Sharla kept trying to get Gideon to join in, but he seemed very much more content to simply stand back and tap his foot. A couple songs later, there was a brief hushed whispering with Sharla before he excused himself to leave the two females to themselves, and went to stand behind the crowd to listen.
Judy leaned over without taking her eyes off Nick as they did a rousing cover of Gnu Orders song 'True Faith' and asked, "Is Gideon Okay?"
Sharla nodded. "Yeah!" she said leaning over with a cocked ear, "He was real nervous 'bout comin' out here at all. Said bein' surrounded by a bunch of the rabbits he used t'bully an' beat up made him nervous!"
Judy clucked her tongue but shrugged. "Well, I guess I can see that."
Sharla poked her and Judy looked, the silver brushed metal flash in her hand. "Lookie what I got!" she said with with a big grin and waggle of her eyebrows.
Judy eyed the flask for a moment, then glanced up at Nick, but he was too lost in his playing to notice. She knew she said she wouldn't have any more, but she started rationalizing a few more sips. She nibbled her bottom lip, and glanced up at Nick again quickly.
"I promised Nick I wouldn't drink anymore!" she said over the noise
Sharla shook the flask. "Come on!" she said, voice raised over the music as well, "Ya only live once!"
Judy fought a brief internal battle. Unfortunately the side telling her not to do it was not presenting its case very well. "Well, okay," she said, "Just one more sip!" she said and took the flask. She turned away from Nick and uncapped the flask. She braced herself for the shock of it and took hesitant swig, staying careful this time to keep it small. The burn returned as she swallowed, but she was prepared for it. That didn't stop her from gasping and drawing Nick's attention.
"No!" she heard Nick yell and she hunched her shoulders. She quickly recapped the flask and pressed up against Sharla to block Nick's view. "Take it, take it!" she urged and Sharla slipped the flask into one of her own pockets, laughing.
Judy blinked her watering eyes clear and turned around, giving Nick the most innocent expression she could muster.
Nick was glaring back down at her, still managing to keep up with the song that was playing. He shook his head, looking disappointed. "Your funeral, rabbit!" he called down to her.
Judy stuck her tongue out at him, then giggled as the alcohol made its way into her just as quick as the first time had.
Nick shook his head again in resignation and went back to focusing on what he was playing.
Judy and Sharla started to dance as the music rolled on. Nick was enjoying himself, too. He often closed his eyes as he got into the groove of a song. Judy was having a hard time picking him out of all the instruments, until she realized that every so often he would step on some little pedal on the floor that changed what the guitar sounded like.
After several tracks, they came to a song she knew well, although it took her a while to recognize the souped-up cover of 'Wicked Game.' Nick seemed a bit put off at first by the very modern take on a song that was normally slow and languid. Judy watched as Nick cocked his ears without playing initially as he listened. After a few moments, he started nodding his head. He looked down and stepped on that pedal a few times before starting to effortlessly play along.
Judy grinned big and dopey, biting her bottom lip as Nick moved over and started to provide the lead vocals as well. She made a little squeak and clutched her paws in front of her chest as she bounced up and down on her toes.
"Ain't that one of yer favorite songs?" Sharla asked in a raised voice.
Judy nodded, but didn't say anything. She didn't know what it was, but Nick's ability to play, and apparently to sing, was super sexy. She started drawing up more detailed plans for the very near future that included Nick, her, and her bed.
Nick raised his ears at the cover of 'Wicked Game.' Saying it was 'rocked up' was an understatement. Where the original had been a slow, soft rockabilly ballad, this was anything but. Fast, heavy on the synth and bass. He cocked an ear and closed his eyes, listening. Not what he would have chosen, but he could do it.
He opened his eyes reached a foot out to stamp a couple of times on the pedal before joining in. Now instead of sounding like an acoustic guitar, it sounded more like a synth bass, and he played accordingly.
He spared a glance at Norris who was literally hopping up and down behind no less than two turntables and a microphone along with a huge DJ pad and keyboard.
Norris spotted him and grinned.
Nick mouthed the word 'Vocals?' to him, and he nodded and gave a quick thumbs up.
Nick moved over to the mic and adjusted it. The intro had to go one more measure before the lyrics began. He launched into them on cue, spicing them up appropriately to the style of music, often looking right at Judy who was staring raptly back at him with increasingly glazed expression.
The song ended, and everyone broke into applause. Judy smiled adoringly up at Nick. He had a big grin on his open, panting muzzle, and she felt her legs go weak when their eyes met. She tried to will her promise of after playing 'fun' in that gaze. I am going to wreck that fox, she thought to herself.
A commotion, or more a lack of one, caught her attention. There was a hush falling off to the side and Judy turned as motion caught her eye.
Katherine walked down the veranda, followed by several of her cohort. Rabbits with instruments moved out of the group's way.
The anger from before boiled up inside Judy again, and it must have been obvious to Nick, she thought, when she saw his expression fall. His eyes went wide too and he turned around with his guitar held up like some sort of shield as he seemed to steel himself for whatever Katherine was now cooking up.
Katherine just walked by Nick. While she didn't pass without giving him a sly little grin, he didn't seem to be her target.
Judy about to start towards to stairs up into the Gazebo, but Sharla put a restraining hand on her arm distracting her.
"What is she up to?" Sharla asked in a whisper.
Judy ground her teeth. "Nothing good," she growled.
Nick watched Katherine as she passed by him. He felt like... well, what rabbits must feel like when a polar bear or lion walks by them, he thought. He realized that she reminded him of a predator, and guessed that was not too far off an estimation.
"What do you want, Katherine?" Norris asked wearily.
"You're always trying to get us to sing with you," she said, "Well, here we are!"
Norris stared at Katherine for a long moment, then looked over his sister's shoulder at Nick with a cocked eyebrow. Katherine followed the look. She, along with her group of followers, grinned at Nick.
"I'll behave myself," Katherine said as she turned back to Norris. "I promise. I just want to... make up for something. That's all," Nick could have sworn she almost sounded sincere. Almost.
Nick looked back to check on Judy. Sharla was holding onto Judy's arm and whispering in an ear while Judy herself was giving one of those lethal looks she was so good at.
"Nick?" Norris said.
Nick blinked, and turned back. Thanks, buddy, Nick thought, Either way, I get to be the bad guy. "Um," he said, not sure what to say. He was sure Katherine was just up to something.
Katherine held up a finger to Norris and turned to walk over to Nick.
"Look, Nick," she said in a hushed tone and winced a bit, "I am really sorry about your head. That's, um, not that kind of bang I had in mind. And sorry about Pop-pop, too."
The honest tone to her voice caught Nick off guard.
"Uh," Nick said hesitantly. He wasn't sure where this was going. "Thanks?" he said after a moment, "But you still did try and seduce me."
That grin reappeared on Katherine's muzzle. "Oh, I did. I can assure you I'm not sorry for that." She eyed him up down biting her bottom lip deliberately.
"See, that's the problem," Nick said as his anger suddenly flared, "You don't think."
Katherine blinked, taken aback. "I-" she started but Nick cut her off.
"I take that back," he said waving a paw, "Perhaps you do think. So which is it? Do you deliberately try to be a homewrecker to your own sister, or are you just that selfish? Or heck! Why not both!" As he began to feel eyes watching them, Nick realized he should stop this tirade, but he had been interrupted by a whack to the back of his head earlier, and the indignation and anger had just come flooding back.
Katherine took a step back still looking shocked at this sudden outburst, and opened her mouth to respond, but Nick didn't let her.
"You know, I don't know which is worse," he said as he took a step forward, "Either way, it doesn't make you any less of a horrible mammal and sister." He latched onto the core of what was fueling his anger. It wasn't that Katherine had make such a blatant pass at him with Judy less than a stone's throw away — it was the fact that Katherine surely knew he was Judy's first real relationship, if not love, but she still deliberately attempted to ruin it. It seemed an attack on Judy, and that he would not abide.
"You know what I really want to know?" Nick asked, "Is how mammals as nice as your parents raised such a malicious, self-centered little shit like you!" He stepped forward, not letting Katherine get a word in edgewise. Katherine was forced to start backing up as he barreled on. Nick started to realize he was probably going too far, and the silence that had dropped of the formerly raucous crowd of rabbits was unnerving. He could feel all eyes on him, but he couldn't stop himself.
"I'm willing to bet you're single not because you want to be, although I bet that's what you say, right?" Nick said. He was entering uncertain ground, but burning anger fueled his confidence, and he pressed on. "Oh, I'm sure you have a little stable of bucks as sycophants to call on for a good time, but nobody seriously pursuing you?"
Katherine's eyes flared as the shock started to wear off and her own anger started to assert itself, but Nick again cut her off just as she opened her muzzle.
"I mean who would, right?" Nick said and then sneered, "Who wants to marry the town bicycle?"
Nick winced at the gasps his comment elicited from the growing crowd.
"Ooh," Norris winced, "Dude, harsh."
Katherine's eyes suddenly blazed. "How dare you!," she snapped, "Just because-"
"Just because what exactly, Katherine?" Nick interrupted, "What can you possibly say that makes the fact that you tried to seduce your sister's boyfriend, in the bathroom of all places, less worse than it is?" He gestured to the silent, perked eared crowd. "Please, do tell!" he said with dripping sarcasm, "We're all clamoring to know!"
Katherines open muzzle snapped shut and her eyes began to shine. She visibly swallowed and tried to speak but nothing came out but a stifled sob. Her eyes blinked rapidly and she looked back and forth behind Nick at all her siblings staring back.
Nick tried not to sneer. The angry expression that had started building on Katherine's face began to crumble just as quickly and a single tear leaked from the corner of one eye. This did blunt his anger, and his ears flagged. Making mammals cry was not something he relished, even if this one deserved it to some extent. He just wanted to be the guy who gave her the dressing down she so clearly needed.
Katherine stood there for a few moments, her mouth working, but all that came out was another poorly suppressed sob. She gave Nick a last fiery glare, betrayed by the quiver in her lip, before turning to stalk down the Veranda with her posse hurring after her a few stunned seconds later. All the others moved out of the way, watching in silence until Katherine disappeared inside with an impressive slam of the big front door, almost straight into the faces of those following her.
Nick's shoulders slumped and he let out a long breath.
"Wow," someone said behind him, and it took him a second to realize it was Judy.
The silence dragged out for long seconds then, from out in the back somewhere, a single "Ha!" was uttered. This broke the silence and the crowd began quietly muttering.
"Well," Norris said slowly, "That kinda killed the mood."
Nick looked at him, not ready to turn around to face the crowd or Judy just yet. "Sorry," he sighed, "I didn't mean to... go off quite like that. I guess I let things get a bit out of paw."
Norris just grinned and shook his head. "Don't be. She's had it coming for a long time."
Nick rubbed his muzzle. "I can't be the first one to tell her off," he said tiredly.
"Oh," Norris said with a shrug and his grin widened, "You're not, but nothing quite like that. Some have tried, but dude, that was amazing."
"Next time you need to make a sister cry, just call me up I guess," Nick said dryly and finally turned around trying to think of something more snarky and froze. Judy was in the middle of taking another swig from Gideon's flask.
"What!?" he barked, "Judy, no! No! Bad rabbit!" He speared Sharla with a glare before looking over the crowd to Gideon. The other fox peered back at him with a perplexed expression.
Judy nearly dropped the flask and let out a coughing gasp as she bent over.
Sharla, giggling, neatly plucked the flask out of Judy's paw before she dropped it and took a long pull from it herself.
Gideon saw Sharla, the ewe standing considerably taller than most of the rabbits, tilting her head back and started to pat down his front where he had put the flask before as if the flask Sharla held was somehow not his. Putting two and two together as he started forward and back through the crowd.
Sharla was not paying attention. She was now wheezing herself and stamping a foot on the ground. She looked at Nick's glare and shrugged. "You want I shoulda'," she said, and pausing to cough before continuing, "Let her leap over the railin'... and beat the stuffin' outta Katherine? Cuz that's what she was gettin' ready t'do! a minute ago!"
"And feeding her more of that stuff was your best answer?" Nick responded then blinked, "Wait a minute, how many more of those has she had?"
"I-" Sharla said suddenly on the spot. She swallowed "Well, I mean… that's what, two? Three? Four I guess if'a we're countin' the one while a while back... She'll be fine!" Judy wheezed, bent over with her paws on her knees, as Sharly spoke. "That right, Jude?"
Judy, still gasping and bent over, nodded.
Sharla smiled at Nick. "See! She'll be fine."
Judy raised a paw with a thumb up, but remained bent over. "I'm fine!" she croaked.
"Famous last words," Nick groaned, "Right along with 'here, hold my beer,' 'Hey y'all, watch this!', and 'You're going to feel a slight discomfort.' You realize she already drank a bunch of wine at dinner?"
"Uhh," Sharla said, uncertainty creeping into her voice just as Gideon parted his way through the crowd and snatched the flask out of Sharla's hand.
"Gimme that!" the other fox snapped. He took one look at Judy, and scowled at Sharla. "Fer cryin out loud, Sharla!"
"Wait," Norris said in disbelief as he interrupted to peer around Nick, "Judy's drinking? Well, well, well. How the high and mighty have fallen."
"Ffff..." Judy hissed but seemed unable to get the word out, "Fffuu..."
Nick's eyebrows went up. Is she going to say what I think she's going to say? Nick wondered, but Judy gave up and just held up one paw again with an extended middle finger this time.
"Oh my," Norris chuckled, "I never thought I would see the day," he said then went to the mic. "Hey, everybody! Judy's trashed!"
"I am not!" Judy managed to croak out as she stood back up.
The crowd, most not able to see what was going on, erupted into laughter. Someone started chanting "One of us! One of us!"
Gideon shook his flask, "Good gods, you crazy ewe, it's all gone!"
Nick closed his eyes and rubbed them with thumb and forefinger. He dropped his arm abruptly and stared at Judy, who was now staring at him having apparently forgotten everything else from the looks of it.
"Fine," he said and shrugged expansively with paws upturned, "I tried. This is all on you, Fluff."
"I'm fine," Judy said and one ear slowly tilted and flopped over.
"Yeah, sure," Nick said and shook his head. "Okay... show's over. I don't think Drunky McCarrots here is long for the world."
"Stop callin' me that!" Judy complained, scowling.
"Completely ignoring her, Nick unslung his guitar and turned to look at Norris. "I think I'm done," he said over his shoulder and went to unplug the cord from the amp, "I need to get your sister to bed."
"Eww!" Norris said, "Dude!"
"What?" Nick said as he stored his guitar down in the soft case, and quickly looked back when he realized the unintentional innuendo. "C'mon, get your mind out of the gutter!"
He zipped the guitar case before hopping over the railing. He had to snap an arm out to steady Judy as his quick motion startled her and she threatened to fall over.
Nick turned her to face him paws on her shoulders. She stared back up at him with that little smile.
"Oh boy," he said, "Look at you."
"What?" Judy said, eyes again blinking out of sync.
"You are-" Nick started to say, but she cut him off.
"I'm not drunk," she insisted trying to sound serious, but only managing to sound like a drunk person refuting their drunkenness. She pulled a pretty good straight face for a moment then broke out into tittering giggles.
"She's fine," Sharla said then looked to Nick "She is fine, right?"
"I need to get her to bed," Nick said, but Judy immediately protested and scooted up to pass herself against his front.
"Nooo! I wanna listen s'more!" she said with her head back and chin pressing against his chest as she looked up at him, "We can dance… you were... really good. An' you told Kathy off good!"
Please let her not be combative, Nick thought, Be a good little drunk rabbit and do what the nice fox tells you! "I thought you wanted to take me back to your room, hmm?"
Judy's eyes lit up. "Oh! Yeah!" she said then hummed as she nuzzled his chest, "Back t'my room... with a fox… my fox..."
Nick was still riding a pretty decent buzz himself, although it was steadily going away given that his last drink was nearly an hour ago, whereas these last belts of moonshine were seeping into Judy's blood stream. He had watched her from the stage getting drunker by the minute after that second hit from the flask.
"Oh, that sounds fun, Fluff," he said, "Shall we?"
Judy smiled, and wrapped herself around one of his arms. "Oh yeah, Mister Fox!" she said, "Take me back t'yer den!"
"Oh, lordy," Gideon said, and Nick started to guide Judy towards the front door.
"You get you some, Jude!" Sharla said and held up a hand as a target for Judy to high five.
Judy high fived back as they passed. Or tried to at least, but missed Sharla's hand by a good two or three inches. This just made both females erupt into more laughter. Nick didn't let Judy pause, though, not wanting her to get distracted or lose momentum.
"Come on, Fluff," he said as he maneuvered through Judy's very amused family, "Keep'er movin'."
"Oh," Judy said, "I'm gonna be... all over you...Mister Fox." She seemed to find this extremely funny as she burst into more giggling. Behind them, he could hear Gideon start scolding Sharla again, and up on the veranda, Norris seemed to be talking to others, apparently getting the band ready to launch into another song now that the spectacle was over. Or at least Nick thought it was over, but it seemed Lady Irony and Mister Murphy had other ideas.
As he started to guide Judy up the stairs he noticed a hush wash through the crowd. The band stopped their prepping, and all looked outwards. Nick looked over his shoulder to see what everyone was staring at. Down the long driveway he could see the red and blue lights of a police cruiser moving.
"Well, that's just perfect," Nick groaned.
Judy blinked and looked up at Nick. "What?" She turned her head to look over her shoulder and follow Nick's gaze. Her head looked loose on her neck to Nick, wobbling as the alcohol dragged her down further with every minute. She clutched Nick's arm tighter as she saw what everyone was looking at. "We gotta cheese it! The cops are here!" she said, and burst into another fit of giggling.
He rolled his eyes. "Carrots, we are the cops. Come on, let's get you inside-" he started to say as she pulled away from him.
"No!" she said and seemed to try and rally herself, "I'm fine!" She tugged her shirt down and sniffled. She almost looked composed before the corner of her mouth twitched and she began to giggle again.
"You are not fine," Nick insisted, "And you're getting more... uh, not fine by the second!"
Judy calmed herself and cleared her throat. "I said I'm fine!" She said, and rubbed the back of her paw over her nose, sniffled loudly, and then smoothed down her t-shirt. She rolled her shoulders and adjusting her plaid outer shirt. "Come on," she said and went back down the steps and stopped. Or tried to stop. Her feet certainly stopped, but the rest of her leaned precariously forward before she caught herself.
"Judy," Nick said plaintively, "Just... sit down, please, and let me handle this."
Judy didn't reply and just resumed carefully walking out to meet the approaching police car.
Nick groaned and hurried to catch up. He wasn't about to fight her, or try and drag her inside. He hated dealing with belligerent drunks, and he wasn't entirely sure Judy would not develop beer muscles and force the issue. Dealing with drunks was probably one of the things about being a cop he leased looked forward since they were usually impossible to reason with. He knew from rather close personal experience, and it all too much of how he had acted on more than one occasion. Granted it had been long ago, but waking up in bed, wondering how you got there, then the slow horror of what you had done the night before slowly dawning- that is if you even remembered it - tended to leave a lasting impression.
"Judy," Nick pleaded as he followed her, "Talking to the locals may not be the best thing to do right now."
"I said I'm fine, Nick!" Judy snapped, but stopped suddenly and listed to one side.
Nick lunged forward and stopped Judy from toppling over. "Sure you are," he said.
"... 'kay," Judy said swallowed hard, "Just... hold m'up."
"Oh, for crying out loud," Nick said under his breath, "Fine."
The car, it turned out, was actually a more of a tricked out SUV that looked to be a cousin to the cruisers they used in the City.
As it pulled up, red and blue lights slowly strobed the front of the Burrow in a way that any fan of T.V. crime dramas would immediately recognize. The engine cut off, and the headlights went out, but the flashers remained on.
The door opened, and the biggest pig Nick had ever seen got out of the cruiser. She was dressed in a crisp looking dark uniform, large brimmed hat, and a shining black belt that held a pistol, handcuffs, and a radio.
The sow was large, but not in the typical way associated with the species. She was taller than Nick by few inches, muscled, had shoulders wider than him, and lines that actually tapered down to her a rather slim waist. She had brown head fur heavily streaked with gray pulled tightly back into a braided plat that reached halfway down her back.
She shut the cruiser door and slowly walked over to Nick and Judy.
By this time, a sizable crowd of Hopps had started to form a semicircle around them as well. Even Sharla and Gideon were standing off to the side, watching with wide eyed curiosity.
The pig nodded to the crowd. "Evenin' everyone," she said, voice surprisingly high for someone so large. She looked to Judy. "Judy," she said then turned to Nick, "Officer Wilde."
"I see my name precedes me," Nick said, giving his best neutral smile.
The pig gave a tight little smile back. "Somethin' like that," she said in a slow drawl, "I'm sheriff Tavsan. I reckon y'all know why I'm here. Is Stu around by chance?"
"Did you find Bill?" Judy blurted out. She had been rather quiet, and Nick had put an arm around her shoulders as she started to teeter again.
Sheriff Tavsan narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to one side. "Judy, you been drinking tonight?" she asked.
"Uh," Judy said and gave a little cough into a paw, "A little."
Sheriff Tavsan's eyebrows went up. "I thought you didn't drink?"
"I don't," Judy said, sounding petulant, "I mean didn't... uh..."
Nick squeezed her arm.
"What she means to say, Sheriff, is that it has been a very long, strange weekend, and, uh," Nick interjected and started to slowly turn his head and continued as his voice rose slightly, "Judy made the mistake of trying alcohol by… diving into the deep end, so to speak."
Sheriff Tavsan followed Nick's gaze to a very chagrined looking Gideon, and pinned the other fox with a glare.
"Gideon Grey, " she said sounding exasperated, "Are you making 'shine again?"
"Uh, um," Gideon stammered, ears cocking back, "J-j-j-just a little Ma'am... uh, sheriff!"
Tavsan took in a slow breath and sighed. "Oh, relax, Gid," she said and hooked her thumbs into her belt, "It ain't illegal. Unless yer sellin' it... and you're not sellin' it, are ya?"
"N-no Ma'am! Uh, sheriff," Gideon said without hesitation and visibly swallowed.
"Gideon," Tavsan said, "Ma'am or sheriff. Either will do. Pick one."
"Y-y-yes sheri- uh, Ma'a... uh sheriff," Gideon stammered.
Tavsan sighed again and looked upward. "I was supposed t'be home an hour ago," she said to no one in particular, then looked to Judy again. "Gideon, you should know better than t'give rabbits moonshine."
"I-I-" Gideon started again but Sharla spoke up.
"That was my fault, Sheriff," she said, finally looking a bit embarrassed.
Tavsan's eyes looked down to Sharla. "Sharla, ain't it?" she asked and continued when the sheep nodded. "You do know rabbits ain't good at holdin' strong liquor, right?"
"Well, I sure do now," Sharla said with a bit of snark.
Tavsan's formidable glare bore into Sharla. "Girl, are you sassin' me?" Before Sharla could answer Nick broke in.
"Uh, Sheriff, I don't see what this has to do with Bill?"
Tavsan slowly turned her head back to Nick, but didn't let her eyes off Sharla until she was facing him. He had to wonder if police chiefs and sheriffs all took the same 'How to intimidate people with your eyes' class.
Tavsan looked at Nick for a moment again down Judy. "To answer your question, Officer Wilde," she said as her eyes moved back up to Nick, "Bill Hopperson said Judy attacked him, and he's got a pretty smashed up muzzle t'back up that claim."
"I didn't!" Judy protested with loud, and somewhat slurring, indignance. "I... uh, well..." she blinked. "Wait, what was the question?"
Nick gave a brittle smile at the Sheriff. Out of the corner of his muzzle hissed at Judy, "Shut it, Fluff. Be a mime!"
Judy looked up at Nick for a moment with a drunkenly puzzled expression then burst into a fit of giggles when she got the joke. "Be a mime!" she laughed and bent over, paws on her knees, and Nick had to catch her and pull her upright as she began to fall forward.
Well, that didn't work, Nick thought sourly.
Tavsan sighed, took her hat off, and looked around as she ran a hand back over her head. She looked back looking suddenly weary. "Was she this drunk when it happened?"
Nick shook his head. "No ma'am," he said, "We had a couple of glasses of wine at dinner, but Mister Grey didn't show up until just after the, uh, incident."
Tasvan a very pig like grunt. "Okay. Then someone, please tell me what the hell happened?" she asked, "Stu said Hopperson came drivin' like a maniac with a car full of kits. This true? Speaking of which, where is Stu? I would like t'talk to him too. He told me about the drivin' and kits, but he didn't say anything about beatin' Hopperson up."
"Uh, he and Bonnie went to bed a while ago," Nick said as he held the still snickering Judy against his side, "You, uh, want someone to go get him?"
Tavsan waved a hand. "Nah, leave it," she said, "Alright, what happened?"
"He was a... drunk jerk is wha' happened," Judy slurred and Nick tried to shush her again.
"I got a video!" Someone from the crowd behind them said followed by two more voices who chimed in with 'Me too!'.
Nick's ears went up, and he looked over his shoulder as the one of the speakers was padding up. It was one of Judy's sisters, but one he had not been introduced to or met yet.
"I was taking a video for my Muzzlebook when he came racing up! I got the whole thing!" the doe said as she passed by Nick looking down at her phone and poking at the screen.
"That'll do," Tavsan said and took the proffered phone from the does outstretched paw.
Tavsan turned the phone as the video started playing. The tinny sound of the crowd emanated from the tiny speaker with a few closer voices laughing and talking.
Nick waited looking down at Judy who, after exhausting her giggles, had just leaned up against him and was hugging his arm tightly to her front. She was going downhill very fast.
The crowd of Hopps behind them was remarkably quiet while the video played out; a veritable forest of rabbit ears perked and listening attentively.
When it got to the point Judy had hit Bill, Judy, who had apparently been listening too, made a punching motion with an arm. "Punched him right inna his stupid face!" she said with a drunken grin.
Nick patted Judy. "You sure did, slugger!" he said with the voice one used for praising a child or in this case one very drunk rabbit. I really need to get her to bed, he thought, and soon.
Nick heard the 'whump' and gasping croak for air from Bill after Judy flipped him over and Tavsan's eyebrows went up. "Nice move, Judy." she said.
"I know, right?" Judy said with a big grin, then asked Nick in a much too loud whisper, "Wha' I do?"
Nick sighed and patted her again. "Don't worry about it."
"'kay," Judy said and went back to snuggling his arm.
The video ended and Tavsan handed the phone back to its owner with a sigh. "Will you send me a copy of that, please? Tavsan at bunnyburrow dot gov."
"Sure thing sheriff!" the doe said and padded back to the group while poking away at the phone.
Tavsan pushed her hat up and rubbed her forehead while looking down. After several seconds of apparent contemplation, she muttered, "That damn stupid idiot!" She looked up, hooking her thumbs into her belt again. "Alright, " she said, "Now that I know what happened. To answer Judy's' question, yes we did find Hopperson. I sent a car out to his place, but when he wasn't there, I sent 'em out looking. Then we got a call from the urgent care in town about thirty minutes ago. Apparently, Hopperson showed up there when the bleedin' wouldn't stop, and drunk off his ass."
She paused for a moment to give a look at Judy, who was either not listening or was falling asleep while clinging to Nick's arm.
Tavsan shook her head and continued. "I sent my boys over there. Seems the docs had a heck of time getting the bleeding under control due to the alcohol in his system. They did it under control, but Judy did quite a number on him too. Aside from the cartilage, he's also got hairline fracture along one side of his muzzle. Blood tests showed he was over twice the legal limit. Also found half an open half bottle'a booze in the car."
Tavsan started to pace back and forth, looking down in thought. "Well, I can't stop him from tryin' to press charges, but I can try an'... dissuade him. I can tell you right now the local DA will toss it right out after watchin' that video. This is private property, and there were some serious extenuating circumstances, though that won't stop him from tryin' for civil lawsuit if he's really determined. My guess is once he sobers up, he'll be right conciliatory." She paced for a bit more then shook her head and stopped pacing to face them again. "But I can't let the drunk drivin' with the kits in the car go tho," she said, "If it had just been him, I'd throw him in the drunk tank and warnin'... maybe, but not in this case."
Nick grimaced. This was kind of the outcome they were hoping to avoid. "You, uh, think they'll throw the book at him?"
Tavsan looked down and pondered again. "I dunno. Probably not. I know the Judge, he's not too much of a hardass, 'specially for a mule. Hopperson ain't got no record or history of bein' a troublemaker, so my guess is he'll get away with a suspended license for a month or two, mandatory drug and alcohol class, and probably some community service. The wild card is the kits. If the DA is havin' a bad day, he may decide to bump it up from first time DUI offense misdemeanor to a felony. I don' think he will, though. A lot's gonna depend on if Hopperson comes with his hat in his hand or not."
Nick shrugged. Not much to be done now, and Bill had brought it on himself.
Tavsan reached up and grabbed the corded mic clipped the front of her uniform. She leaned her head down and spoke. "Jarvis, come in."
"Copy that, sheriff," a deep male voice came back after a few seconds.
"They gonna release Hopperson or keep him overnight?" Tavsan asked.
"Lemme check," the voice said. There was a pause as everybody waited. Tavsan nodded at Judy while speaking to Nick, "I recommend you get her to bed here soon."
"I don' wanna go t'bed!" Judy protested and pressed her face into the fur of Nick's arm.
"You read my mind sheriff!" Nick said quickly then said down to Judy, "Yes you do."
"I do?" Judy asked and blinked up at Nick then a big smile spread across her muzzle, "Mmmm, yeah! Think I do, Mister Fox!"
"Oh boy," Nick said. He had been half hoping that if the booze were going to do anything, it would erase that particular memory.
Tavsan arched an eyebrow and Sharla snickered off to the side.
Judy giggled and started humming the tune as she nuzzling and nibbling at Nick's arm again
Nick gave a toothy, forced grin.
They were saved when the sheriff's radio chirped and the voice came back. "Keepin' him over night. They're still kinda worried about that bleedin'."
"Alright," Tavsan said, "I want one of you t'stay there. Hopperson is now officially under arrest so read him his rights when you think he's sober enough. He is not to leave. If he tries, have them restrain him until they're ready to discharge. When they do discharge him take him to county and book him on DUI, reckless driving, and child endangerment to start with."
"Copy that," Jarvis said and the radio went silent.
Nick winced. He suspected the charges would mostly get tossed or pleaded down, but perhaps it would give Bill a good scare too. At any rate, his infatuation with Judy was very likely at an end.
Tavsan looked around for a moment. "Alright, I think we're done here. Someone have Stu call me in the mornin', please." she said. She nodded and grabbed the brim of her hat. "Y'all have a good night, " she said then added, "And Officer Wilde, get that rabbit to bed."
"Yes ma'am," Nick said gave a two fingered salute.
They all watched the sheriff climb back into the cruiser. The flashers went off, and the big SUV turned around and drove back down the drive, gravel crunching under its tires.
Nick let out a big sigh, his shoulders slumping.
The group behind started to break up and move back to the veranda, although Nick thought the sheriff's visit may have put an end to festivities for the night.
Gideon and Sharla walked up, both rather reconciliatory.
"You okay, Judy?" Sharla asked tentatively.
"Mmmm?" Judy hummed and turned her head, which was still leaning against Nick's arm, and blinked blearily. "I'm f-fine."
"I'm sorry, Nick," Sharla said sounding genuine now, all the laughter was gone, "I didn't know it would hit her this hard."
"N-naw," Gideon said next, "I-I shouldn't have brung in in t'first place!"
Nick raised a paw. "It's okay, these things happen," he said, "But I do think I'll see about getting her into bed. I'm about beat myself."
Gideon nodded. "Yeah, I-I reckon so. I think it's 'bout time for us t'get going too," he said and Sharla nodded.
"Okay, well," Nick said, "Regardless of Drunky McCarrot's here and all the excitement it's been a pleasure," he said, "And don't forget those pies tomorrow!"
"Good and done!" Gideon said and nodded.
"Ssstop callin' me that!" Judy protested.
"Pies?" Sharla asked and with that Nick turned Judy away, leaving Gideon to explain the idea with the pies.
Nick managed to coax Judy into walking back to the door, and with the help of others, through it. Judy had started to become a bit more lucid after he got her moving, but he was fairly certain she would just fall down if she didn't have him to steady her.
"Mmm," Judy hummed and leaned into Nick, "Hey, hey Mmmmister fffox!" she sang, "Gonna... take you back t'my den an' show ya my garden again!" She broke out into giggles, and Nick rolled his eyes.
Nick was not feeling amorous at all, just dead tired. Now that all the excitement was done, his own eyelids were starting to grow increasingly heavy. He began to think about how he would fend Judy off if she continued her advances, but half suspected that once her head hit the pillows she would be out in moments.
They were halfway down the hall to Judy's room when she suddenly stopped. She blinked, eyes unfocused, and made a little 'urp' sound.
"Nick," she said, her voice strained, "I... I think I'm gonna be sick."
Judy dry heaved into the toilet for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"It won't stop!" she cried as she slumped back, and rested her forehead against the lip of the porcelain. The cool contact just felt so good.
She had thrown up everything from dinner long ago, but still, her stomach heaved every minute or two. After each she felt better, but then the next wave would hit, and she would do it all over again. It didn't help that the entire world appeared to be rapidly spinning.
Nick was leaning in against the door frame of the open stall she was in and watched, but there wasn't much he could do. After scooping her up and dashing with her to the bathroom just in time to get her into a stall, he had helped as best he could by holding her ears for her so they would not get into the mess. This had proved awkward due to the narrowness of the stalls, and he had eventually tucked the very limp ears into the back of her t-shirt collar. He had also removed the choker just in case, but there was nothing left to do now other than being there until this passed.
"That is because," Nick said, "You are experiencing borderline alcohol poisoning."
"You're not helping!" she stomach roiled again, "Oh no..." She lurched forward as another wave of dry heaving hit.
"If it makes you feel any better," Nick said, "I have been in your position many times."
Judy coughed and spit into the toilet. "Oh, gods, make it stop!" she whined and rested her head again, panting.
"Would if I could, Fluff," Nick said and reached down to rub her back, "Would if I could. Unfortunately, your only option is to suffer through it."
This just made Judy cry because she already knew that. As spinny as the world was, the classes on drugs and alcohol were all featuring prominently in her thoughts between bouts of retching. She had never ever felt this bad before. She'd had the flu once, and that had been horrible, but this was a whole other type and order of being 'sick.'
Nick reached down and rubbed her back in small circles, which momentarily took her mind off the pain in her stomach. Nick fretted behind her, trying his best to comfort her in the narrow confines of the stall.
There had been a few that had come into the bathroom chuckling after Nick whisked her in here, but Judy was in no position to pay attention as her body rebelled against the alcohol. She did remember Mags cackling madly, though.
She felt her stomach start to churn yet again. "Oh, gods... oh gods," she panted, "Please... please... no... I promise I'll never drink again!"
"There are those famous last words again," Nick said as he gingerly rubbed along her back.
"I'm gonna kill you, Wilde!" She said just before retching again.
"Have to be able to stand first, Fluff," Nick said, and sighed sounding tired.
Judy slumped back, panting, waiting for the next round. When it didn't come, she opened her bleary, bloodshot eyes, and swallowed the sour taste of bile and blueberries. The world wasn't spinning quite so much anymore. Or... was it? Oh gods, is it finally over? she wondered and dared to sit down and lean against the side wall.
Nick squatted down and looked at her for long second. "How you feeling?" he asked quietly..
Judy slowly turned her head to look at him. The world still tilted, but slowly began to settle. "Horrible," she said and closed her eyes, panting. The wall was cool and felt good against her back, and she was so tired. "I can't believe I wanted to get you into bed twenty minutes ago. I... I jus' wanna go t'sleep," she said as a sudden wave of fatigue settled over her.
"Let's give it a few," Nick said, but she didn't respond. She winced as her stomach twitched, and she braced herself, but things calmed without anything further. After a few more minutes of spinning, but no heaving, she said in a weak voice, "Take me t'bed, Nick."
"Okay," Nick said and started to help her up.
Everything tilted crazily and spun again. She froze and closed her eyes tight as her muscles locked. She was sure she was going to heave, but again the expected involuntary clenching didn't quite materialize.
"You okay?" Nick asked quietly.
She nodded. "I... think so," she said wearily.
"You want to get cleaned up first? You really need to drink some water too," Nick said.
Judy nodded as she leaned heavily on Nick who guided her over to the sinks. She shifted away from him and leaned on the counter instead, trembling. She felt incredibly weak, her legs threatening to let her collapse, but she managed to remain upright. She fumbled with the faucet, turning the cold water on, and leaned over to liberally splash and rub her face.
The cold water felt amazing and gave her a bit of energy, but it also drove home how thirsty she was so she ducked her head down drank right from the tap.
"Take it easy," Nick warned, "Don't over do it."
Judy didn't listen, but finally had had enough and stood back up. She felt a twinge in her belly, and for a second thought she was going to hurl up the water she had just drank, but it thankfully stayed down.
She finally saw herself in the mirror, and realized she looked as awful as she felt. Eyes red and sunken, ears as limp as overcooked noodles, fur wet and matted down, and water dripping from her chin. She looked like some of the drunks she had picked up on patrol before. Never again, she promised herself.
"Here," Nick said and gently put his paws on her shoulders and turned her around, and kneeled down in front of her. He pulled his ever present handkerchief from a pocket, and gently started to dry her face and muzzle. "How you doing?"
"Why do mammals do this, Nick?" she asked and hated how whiny she sounded. Her chest still heaved as she panted, and her throat felt raw and constricted. Gods, even breathing is hard, she thought.
Nick chuckled as he carefully dried around her eyes with a corner of the handkerchief . "No one starts out thinking 'Hey, I know how I want to end the night! Puking my guts out and passing out on the bathroom floor!' Besides, you were feeling great just an hour ago, remember?"
Judy didn't respond. It was hard to think straight, and she just looked at Nick, who seemed pretty tired and worn out as well. She held still, swaying slightly as Nick ran the handkerchief back over her forehead. "M'sorry," she said quietly as he finished.
Nick smiled gently. "It's okay," he said, "Just… try to remember this and pace yourself next time, hmm? Pretty sure just about all alcohol tears through you bunnies."
"Never drink," Judy started to say but was interrupted by a hiccup, "...again!"
"Those famous last words again, Carrots," Nick said, "You want me to carry you to bed?"
She nodded, her eyes wanting to drift close. "Yes please," she said barely above a whisper.
By the time Nick got to the door of Judy's room, she was already asleep. He managed to shift her a bit and get the door open without waking her, although he doubted much would wake her at this point.
He gently set her down on the bed, and began working her out of her clothing. Once finished, he covered her in the sheet and plush comforter. She made one little noise, but aside from that, she was out cold.
Nick smiled and shook his head. He let out a breath and rubbed his face with both paws. "What a day," he muttered to himself. He blinked a few times; he was not long for the world, but first, he needed to get Judy some more water. He needed to down some water himself, too. Long gone were the days where he could drink with impunity and not suffer the after effects other than a slight fuzziness the next day. That ability seemed to die out around... well around Judy's age, now that he thought about it. He chuckled and headed back out the door.
He wasn't sure where he should go. The bathroom only had those little paper cups in a dispenser stuck to one side of the mirror. He could go outside and get some of the juice there, assuming it was still out there. Things had seemed to start breaking up after Tavsan left, and he had heard plenty of others passing by while he stood watch over Judy. Several had popped in as well, only to stop when they saw him, realize what was going on and then leave with comments about going to one of the other bathrooms.
There had to be another kitchen outside of the one in Stu and Bonnie's area, but he really didn't feel like exploring.
Wait, he thought, Stu and Bonnie's area... Could he just pop in there? They had to be asleep.
He slipped out of Judy's room and sauntered down the hall. He had the urge to sneak, to stick close to the walls. He was a fox in a rabbit burrow, after all, and after that encounter with Katherine and Pop-pop, his instincts wanted him to keep to the shadows. He didn't sneak, however. Sneaking just drew attention to you. It was better to act as you just belonged there and knew where you were going.
He didn't meet anyone luckily, and the lights had been dimmed since they had gotten inside. Noise echoing from the main area told him the TV was still on in the main area, however if at a reduced volume, and the sound of a program or another echoed down the long, wide hallway.
He opened the main door to Bonnie and Stu's area and stepped into the small anteroom, then slipped as quietly as he could into the kitchen.
The kitchen was mostly dark, with the pale reflected moonlight coming in through the window and a few bright points of green or red power indicators.
He didn't bother with turning on the lights; his night vision showing the room clearly if in more of a monochrome. He padded quietly over and started opening cabinets, finding one with cups and glasses on his third try.
"Ah!" he whispered as he found the perfect cups. A stack of large, orange, cheap plastic cups that were nested together.
He pulled one cup out and filled it at the sink, downing it in one go. He was reaching to refill the cup to take back to Judy when the lights suddenly flicked on making him jump and nearly hit his head on the low ceiling.
"You're not very sneaky for a fox," Jackie said chuckling behind him.
Nick slumped and sighed, his heart pounding. He turned around to see Jackie standing in a dark doorway into the interior.
"I was afraid you were your mother," Nick said and continued to fill the cup. "Sorry for intruding, but I wasn't sure where else to go to get a nice big cup of water for your very drunk sister."
Jackie was silent for a moment. "Wait... Judy is drunk?," she asked as Nick turned back around and leaned against the counter.
"More like 'here, let me hold your ears while you hug the toilet' drunk," he said. Jackie was still dressed in the same clothes from earlier. Her eyes looked bloodshot and damp. "Also, more like passed out right now. I just put her to bed after the dry heaving stopped."
"Wow," Jackie said with a small grin, "I never thought I would see the day. You are a bad influence! Judy never used to drink!"
Nick rolled his eyes. "I tried to stop her, thank you very much!" he said defensively, "Blame Gideon, his homemade moonshine, and Sharla. She was apparently the one egging her on."
Jackie blinked. "Sharla?"
Nick nodded and looked down at the water he was holding and decided to take a sip. "Yeah, black wooled sheep? A friend of Judy's from a ways back that moved away?."
"Jumbuck," Jackie said.
"Bless you," Nick replied and Jackie snorted.
"Very funny, smartass. Jumbuck is her last name," Jackie said, "Did she move back to town or something?"
Nick nodded. "Mmmhmm," he hummed, "And get this: she's engaged to Gideon Grey."
Jackie's mouth dropped open.
"And that is exactly how Judy looked when she heard the news," Nick said with a tired smirk.
"Get out of town," Jackie said in disbelief, "Sharla is going to marry... Gideon?"
Nick shrugged. "Apparently. Seems like you country girl herbivores are just magnetized to us foxes! Who knew?" he said casually and wagged his eyebrows as he took another sip of the water.
Jackie gave a half hearted laugh and then took a large breath as she rubbed at her forehead with one paw. "What a shit day," she sighed. She blinked rapidly and seemed to be on the verge of tears before her expression smoothed.
Nick nodded silently, watching Jackie carefully. After a few moments of silence, he asked, "So, how are you and the kits doing?" Nick could see Jackie's jaw clench at the question, and she walked forward to lean against the kitchen island, resting her arms on it.
"Okay, I guess," she said. "Doing as okay as we can be."
Nick grunted noncommittally. "I guess you heard about what happened?" he asked, "Bonnie said you didn't actually see."
Jackie nodded. "Yeah," she said and she gave a genuine smile, "Mom told me before going to bed. Said Judy punched him?"
Nick hummed. "Uh, yeah, yeah she did. Hard." he said, looking down and not.
Jackie looked at Nick for a long moment. Silence settled between them. "How hard?"
Nick sighed. I just wanted to get a glass of water, he thought to himself. "Well, uh, the deputy sheriffs fou-"
"Wait!" Jackie interrupted, "Who called the sheriff?"
Nick blinked. "Um, didn't your mom tell you?"
Jackie shook her head. "No, she came in to see how we were doing, told me Judy punched Bill and sent him packing, that's all!"
"Oh," Nick said making a pronounced 'o' with his lips, "Um, okay, I guess I should fill you in then. Your dad called the Sheriff when we got worried after the fact about sending a very drunk Bill off in a car." Nick pushed off the counter and came to lean against the island across from Jackie. "They didn't find him at his house, and then the urgent care in town called in to inform them Bill showed up there with uncontrollable bleeding, and apparently even more drunk. Turns out he blew over twice the legal limit."
Jackie groaned and put a paw to her forehead as Nick was about to continue, and he paused as he saw a little shudder as she took a very slow, heavy, and deliberate breath.
Nick reached across the island and took Jackie's other paw that was still resting on the cool tile. "Hey, hey, hey," he said gently, "It's okay."
Jackie squeezed Nick's paw gratefully, and wipe at her eyes with the other. "I just... I just can't stop thinking about what could have happened... if he had crashed on the way here," she said her voice cracking. She squeezed Nick's paw again but disengaged it from his.
"Yeah, I know," Nick said, "That's what's got him in the most trouble."
Jackie sniffed loudly. "So what happened?"
"Well," Nick continued, "Tavsan sent the deputies to the urgent care, and apparently ol' Bill started saying he wanted to press charges. Said Judy attacked him, so Tavsan came out here to get the other side of the story."
"The sheriff was here?" Jackie asked.
"Oh, yes," Nick said and raised his eyebrows, "Quite the figure she cuts too. Reminds me of my boss. Anyway, yeah, she was out here, and luckily one of your sisters caught the whole thing on her camera." Nick paused for a moment. "Um, Bill's in a lot of trouble. They arrested him, and when the urgent care releases him they're going to book him for DUI, reckless driving, and child endangerment... to start with. Sheriff thinks he'll get off light because he's got a clean record, but having the kits in the car dialed the stupid up to eleven. At the very least he's going to lose his license for a while, some mandatory classes, probably some community service. It's all up in the air for now."
Jackie had started to stare through Nick as she thought, but after some contemplation, her expression hardened. "Good," she said coldly, "He made this bed, let him sleep in it."
Nick winced. Bill had certainly had it coming, but memories of his mother raising him alone flickered through his mind.
"You don't approve?" Jackie asked when seeing his expression.
"Eh," Nick said noncommittally and shrugged, "I didn't have a dad growing up, so my view may be a bit… biased? I dunno." He shrugged again and took another sip of the water. "Then again, I don't think your kits will be lacking for good male role models around here.
Jackie snorted out a laugh. "Plenty of bad ones too," she said.
Nick grinned, but it was forced. Thinking about his absent father always made him melancholy. He shook himself out of his reverie. "But maybe this will be a wakeup call for him. I can tell you his infatuation with Judy has to be over. She broke his nose and fractured his muzzle on one side."
Jackie's eyes went wide. "Seriously?"
Nick nodded. "According to what we heard on Tavsan's radio, yup," Nick said, "I predict a lot of soft foods in Bill's foreseeable future."
Jackie's eyes went unfocused again for a moment, and she grinned wickedly in amusement at the idea. Her expression fell again though as she refocused on Nick. She looked down at the tiles on the island top and sighed, "I'm just so angry right now."
"And rightfully so," Nick said, "In the short term, I think everybody just needs to take it easy."
Jackie sighed again. "Yeah," she said, "Yeah, I guess so."
Neither of them spoke for half a minute as they both became lost in thoughts.
"You should come visit Judy and me in the city sometime," Nick said with sudden inspiration.
Jackie's ears perked. "Seriously? Why?"
Nick shrugged. "Why not? Get away from here for a while. Let us show you a good time around town," he said then smiled, "I'm pretty sure you can find someone to watch the kits for a weekend."
Jackie snort-giggled and nodded. "I think we have that covered," she said, "Mmm, it is tempting. I've never really been there. I mean, I was there once years ago long enough to drop something off, but that's it."
"Well," Nick said and stood up, "Think about it, and let us know. Who knows, if Bill is gone for good, maybe we could find you a city boy fox like your sister has." That elicited an exaggerated eye roll from Jackie as they both quietly laughed together. Nick arched his back, yawned hugely, and moved towards the sink to top off the cup. "And with that," he said, "I've had just about enough excitement for one evening. I'm about to fall over. I don't think your mom would care to find a me curled up in her kitchen."
Jackie gave the first genuine grin he'd seen since earlier today when they arrived. "Okay," she said, "Me too, just been too wound up until now, you know?"
Nick nodded. "I get you. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then. Good night. Get some sleep." he said as he started for the door.
"Nick?" Jackie asked as he just started to open the door. He paused to look at her, ears perked. "Hmm?"
"Thank you," Jackie said, "For, you know, everything. Out there, and filling me in."
Nick smiled gently and raised the cup in a toast, "My pleasure, Jackie. Good night."
"Good night, Nick."
He smiled as he walked back down towards Judy's room. It had been one crazy day to be sure, and now he would cuddle and curl up around Judy for some well-deserved sleep.
His phone started to ring.
He stopped. "Who the heck," he muttered and shifted the cup of water to the other paw so he could reach into his pocket.
He quirked an eyebrow at the screen. It was Clawhauser. He thumbed the answer icon and put the phone to his ear.
"I'm guessing you have a good reason for calling this late, Ben? And no, I am not going to give you inside information on me and Judy's relationship."
"Hey, Nick," Clawhauser said, his normally cheery demeanor absent, "Is Judy with you?"
The fur along Nick's spine started going up. Serious Clawhauser was never a good thing. "She's asleep," he said as his tone became serious as well, "What's going on?"
"Um," Clawhauser said hesitantly, "Chief wants to talk to both of you. Um, this isn't public knowledge yet, so keep it quiet, but... Dawn Bellwether escaped from the penitentiary. They're starting to think she's going to come after you guys."
Nick pulled the phone away and looked at the screen in disbelief.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me."
Word from the Author:
I know, I know, I know! I'm taking for freaking ever. This chapter has actually been written for months now. Mostly my fault, but both Mord and I were dragging our feet on the editing. I planning on cranking out things faster, I don't like taking months between chapters and we're transitioning back to ZT where things are going to get more interesting I hope. Glad to see the last of BB... too many dammed rabbits! Thanks again to Editors for keeping me reigned in and catching stupid typos!