Hiding within the shadows of the colossal skyscrapers of downtown Zootopia was a small, patchworked area simply named the Fourth Ward. The aged neighborhood held a charm unique even to Zootopia. Crowded, narrow streets dotted with back-alleys gave shape to the neighborhood. Row after row of small, uniform apartments bordered the streets, allowing the citizens of the Fourth to easily access the hundreds of small business that called the area home.
The Fourth was one of the view areas in the city where predators and prey of all species had lived together in harmony for decades. During the panic that erupted during the Night Howler Incident; the Fourth, Sixth, and Third Wards were some of few areas of the city untouched by the chaos. The citizens of the Fourth simply went on with their lives as Savannah Central and almost every other area of the city succumbed to panic induced crime, until the situation was finally brought under control by the ZPD. In the months following, the ward had become synonymous with big city charm. Immigrants by the hundreds had flooded the area. Rent had slowly increased, and some of the small business found themselves unable to compete with the newly arrived chic department stores.
Crime had never been an issue within the ward. Sure, you had your petty crimes here and there, but nothing more than that. The few actual members of the criminal underworld that lived within the Fourth kept out of sight. This unique situation meant that the three ZPD precincts that patrolled the area had an ample amount of free time on most, if not all shifts. And this had led to some interesting timewasters being created.
"What about her? Friend or date?" Nick pointed a claw towards a well dressed blonde lynx sitting across from the pair's police cruiser, enjoying a steaming cup of coffee. A small black pack was tucked underneath her chair. Judy had parked the cruiser near a newly opened cafe, and the pair were indulging in tradition as old as the ZPD,
Since the first week of patrol, the duo had established a tradition for lunch. Instead of going into some fru-fru cafe and being overcharged for a cup of extremely marketed coffee, Nick had suggested mammal watching as an alternative. Judy loved the idea, and the activity had soon turned into the highlight of most days. There was something extremely relaxing about picking out a single, lone mammal and trying to figure out who exactly that person was.
"Date," Judy exclaimed. She shoved a fork full of carrot salad into her mouth. Swallowing, she turned towards Nick. "She's dressed way too nice for meeting a friend, and she's even done some makeup. Too easy." Almost as if on cue, her date arrived. Another lynx, a clearly nervous brown coated male, situated himself on the other side of the blonde. Chatter filled their table, and the unmistakable signs of young love soon engulfed the cafe.
"Hmph," Nick grumbled as he crunched a Cricket chip within his muzzle. "That was too easy. Either you're getting too good at this Carrots, or I've lost my touch."
"The student has become the master." Judy's laugh filled the cruiser, and Nick blushed underneath his ruby fur. A slow, but unmistakable tingle crept up his spine like a snake coiling around his heart. Ever since the incident earlier today, the feeling had refused to leave Nick. It just sat inside of him, mocking him at every possible chance. His usually focused mind was a storm of random thoughts, each connecting and splintering off into other thoughts. A dull throb began to beat inside his head, matching rhythm with his pounding heart.
"Hello?" Judy's voice reached pulled at him, snapping him back into reality. "Earth to Nick. You okay man?" Nick shook his head from side to side, before taking a sip of water.
"I'm fine. Why do you ask?
"Because you've been staring out the window for the last minute and a half," Judy stated bluntly.
"Isn't it obvious?" Nick's usual smirk reappeared. "I'm admiring the fantastic brick facade over there." Judy snickered in laughter as the fox pretended to serenade the dull wall.
"I mean, just look at that facing brick." Nick held a clenched fist near his head, his eyes closing in admiration. "Umph, that is quality masonry right there. I'd definitely inspect those foundations for structural weaknesses." Judy, who had been desperately trying to hold in a laugh, exploded into laughter. Thankfully, her salad was no longer sitting on her lap, otherwise carrots and lettuce would have painted the inside of the cruiser.
Judy had somewhat recovered from her fit. As she wiped a tear, she struggled to keep a straight face. "You're a pig!"
"First off, that's insanely speciesist." Judy rolled her eyes, taking another sip from her small water bottle. "Secondly, I am clearly a fox," Nick stated smugly as he pointed a claw back towards himself. "No pig can rock these shades." He flicked the corner of the aviators, emphasizing the point. Judy reverted back into her laughing state. As the bunny tried and failed to recover, Nick turned towards the couple enjoying their date. Smiling from ear to ear, the two's body language conveyed the extreme comfort the two clearly felt.
The female lynx had excused herself, leaving the brown coated male alone at the table. Even with foxes well known bad eyesight, Nick could see the subtle nervous movements dotting his body. The twitching tail, rapidly blinking eyes and flushed skin. Pure, unfiltered organic young love.
A small, but noticeable feeling of jealousy overcame the fox. There was something so inviting about seeing a relationship like that one developing in front of his very eyes. Forcing himself away from the young couple, he turned towards Judy. The bunny had recovered from her laughing fit, and was checking something on her phone. Minutes passed with only the small crunches of food echoing around the silent cab.
"Carrots. I'm bored."
"I feel ya there Nick." Feigning surprise, she turned towards Nick in mock horror. "And we got three more weeks of this!"
"Please don't remind me." Nick continued to stare out lazily into the street, before quietly sighing. His racing heart rate had slowed to a gentle, rhythmic pulse. A euphoric sense of calm had washed over him. For the first time in weeks, the fox felt completely calm. "Can I be honest with you for a second Hopps?"
"Yeah. " She put away her phone and turned toward Nick. He was quietly staring out the window still. "What's up?"
"I kinda miss conning at times like this." Judy raised an eyebrow in surprise. Nick rarely talked about how he felt, and even when he did, it was always a set-up for a joke. But the quiet, gentle tone of his voice told her everything she needed to know.
"What do you miss?" She could see the hesitation on his face. Reaching over, she gently grasped his left arm. Nick would usually squirm out of her grip, but not today. Today was different. Ever since she had locked eyes with him this morning, some ancient part of her brain told her that today was going to be unique.
"It's hard to explain... Just..." He sighed, his mind working overtime. "I just kinda miss it. After doing something for as long as I did, you start to miss parts of it. The constant challenge and pressure to make every day a bigger and better haul than the one before. The excitement of counting money at the end of a long day, and seeing how all of your hard work paid off." Nick grew quiet, his mind lost in thought. Judy gripped his arm tighter, drawing him out of his thoughts. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that trying to adjust to a cop life has been harder than I thought." He smiled weakly at her, only for it to vanish seconds later.
Judy felt a bit of pity rise in her gut. Despite the foxes cocky, sly attitude, it was clear to her that Nick had some skeletons in his closet. For one, he never brought up his childhood under any circumstances. Whenever the bunny would try, Nick would rapidly change the topic. She knew that the muzzle incident was just one example of a scared, rough youth. From she had been able to piece together from the few times Nick talked about his past, Nick's only option for survival was conning.
She knew Nick had grown up as the only fox for miles, and despite his youthful appearance; Nick was almost 35. In his own words, the fox had seen some shit. But what exactly that shit was eluded her completely. She had always been an extrovert, wanting to know why and how mammals acted the way they did. Maybe this was the reason why she and Nick had always gotten along so well. Polar opposites attract as they say.
"Yeah... I know what you mean. My first week in Zootopia wasn't easy." She pointed towards herself. "Me, a small town bunny being whisked away into the grandest city on the planet with zero idea of what life was going to throw at me. You remember the first time we met?"
A smile slowly spread across Nick's face. "How could I forget? I think I told you 'You can only be what you are,' or something along those lines."
"That's right! And then I walked right into all that cement." The two exchanged a happy laugh as the memory of their first encounter rushed back to them. "Those workers were pissed." The pair laughed together, before the same silence from before fell over again.
"But, in the end, everything worked out fine," Judy said reassuringly. "You'll be fine Nick."
"Yeah, I know I will." He paused for a second. "I just needed to get that off my chest, thanks Carrots." His stoic expression had been replaced with a happy, legitimate grin. A sense of utter happiness filled the small bunny.
Judy let go of his arm, before lightly patting him on the shoulder. "No problem. You foxes, so emotional." Nick raised an eyebrow as a chuckle escaped his lips.
"Me? Emotional? Never." Judy rolled her eyes as she turned the key, the cruiser roaring to life. As the bunny pulled the cruiser into traffic, a peculiar thought entered her mind.
Why exactly did they work together so well?
By society's standard, a relationship like this should have never happened. Not only were they predator and prey, but he was a fox, and she was a bunny. But even taking that away, they still the complete opposite of one another in almost every aspect.
Judy, the country born bunny from a large and loving family. Nick, the born and raised Zootopian fox who society had been trying to crush since the day he was born. Even their personalities were opposite. A scarred introvert and an emotional extrovert. By all logic, the friendship they had developed should have never happened. But that impossibility, that constant disapproval from society was why they fit so perfectly together.
After all, opposites attract for a reason.
Authors note- Thanks for reaching this part! First off, thank you so much for the support this story is getting! Secondly, I am in need of an editor. If anyone feels qualified, please PM me and I will respond to you. Have a good week!