Judy needlessly polished the brass badge adorning her vest as she examined her reflection in the mirror. Spotless and pressed, her uniform was the prime example of professionalism. She gave herself a lingering once over - not a hair out of place. Perfect. Ever since she was a kit, the uniform had been so much more than a simple game of dress-up. It was the embodiment of all of her dreams and desires; of why she hadn't settled. No matter how many times she dressed for work, she never tired of the sight.
The alarm on her cell phone chirped and Judy threw it in her pocket along with her keys as she rushed out the door. A bright red convertible and a not-so-bright red fox greeted her outside the apartment. Nick lounged against the door of the car nursing his customary cup of coffee, aviators high up on his snout to hide his tired eyes. He duly held out a similar cup that she snatched as she slid around to the other side of the car. Not bothering to open the door, Judy hopped over it and into the seat, careful not to spill.
"Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as usual I see," he observed with a sip of his coffee.
Nick was not the morning type.
"Better than slack-jawed and half awake," Judy smirked as she buckled in. "Do you ever get tired of wiping drool off your steering wheel in the morning?"
Nick's only response was a mumbled grunt before he followed suit and slumped into his seat. It usually took at least two cups of coffee before Nick's sass kicked in. Realizing that it was still far too early to get much conversation out of him, Judy just savored the scent of her tea - mint today. He'd made the mistake of bringing her coffee once… and only once. Ever since that incident, it had become customary for him to pick out some random flavor of tea from the shop where he bought his morning coffee. It was - usually - a pleasant surprise every morning.
The drive to Precinct One was made in companionable silence, broken only by the loud slurping of Nick and his coffee. Traffic was light this early in the morning as many of Zootopia's more nocturnal citizens were still sleeping in. By all rights, Nick should have been one of them and Judy often wondered why he chose to take such an early shift. Still, the coffee did its job and by the time they reached the station, he was looking noticeably more awake behind the wheel.
They'd barely passed through the doors of the station before Chief Bogo's voice thundered through the lobby. "Hopps. Wilde. My office, now!"
Judy almost dropped her tea as Nick's ears flattened against his head. Clawhauser spared them a pinched expression. "Ooouch. I haven't heard the Chief this angry since… well, since the last time he yelled at you two. What'd you do this time?"
Judy exchanged glances with Nick, who was clearly at a loss as she was. "Did you push your paperwork off on one of the newbies again?"
"I dunno know what you're talking about, Carrots," Nick scoffed. "My paperwork's impeccable, and I definitely remember hearing the boss toss out your name too."
Judy's ears drooped as he realized that Nick was right. Bogo did bellow out her name. What did they do? Judy's mind picked over the last several work days and she couldn't think of anything! Her record was perfect! Her near panic was broken when she felt Nick's paw push against her back as he urged her forward.
"C'mon, plenty of time to worry about it later," he said and Judy was incredulous at the way he could sound so casual about it. What if they got in trouble? What if they got suspended? What if they got fired?
"Aww, Honey Bunny. Here, have a donut," Clawhauser offered a sprinkled sweet at Judy as she passed. "Eat those bad feelings away."
Judy waved him off as they walked to their doom. Her appetite was the last thing on her mind at the moment. She tried and failed to keep up her usual professional attitude as they made their way up the stairs. Her anxiety increased with each step and was nearly boiling over by the time they arrived in front of Bogo's office. Stepping over the threshold, they found the Chief calmly reading a report.
"Shut the door," Bogo requested without glancing up. Nick door closed behind them with a solid finality that made Judy's nose twitch. "Take a seat you two."
Judy scrambled up into one of the seats in front of Bogo's desk and tried not to fidget under his gaze. His expression was one of bored disinterest; you could've probably gotten more information by counting his ceiling tiles. Nick flashed her a double thumbs-up from below the table edge which failed to comfort her any.
After some shuffling of papers, Bogo slipped off his reading glasses and finally turned his attention to them. "How long have the two of you worked here?"
Nick was the first to respond, "About seven months."
"One year, four months, Sir," Judy nervously spat out.
"And how would you characterize your record during this time?" Bogo continued.
Nick shrugged, "I dunno, I'd say we've been pretty good."
Judy desperately wanted to elbow him. "Exemplary, Sir."
"Exemplary, hmm?" If Bogo was impressed, he didn't show it. "On that, Officer Hopps, we agree." He spared Nick a glance and added, "Next time, show a little pride, Wilde."
"Oh, I just let her take the credit," Nick grinned. "She enjoys it more."
Bogo, as usual, ignored his quip. "In the seven months the two of you have been partners, you've proven to be one of the most effective teams at the ZPD. So effective, I've chosen to overlook your… quirks. That means you, Wilde."
"I like to think I bring diversity to the workplace, Sir," Nick dusted imaginary lint off his uniform and Judy had to restrain from pulling at her ears in frustration. It looked like Nick's snark only needed one cup of coffee today.
Bogo continued as if Nick hadn't spoken. "Which is why I'm assigning you a special case." He pushed a thin folder across his desk. "I assume you're familiar with the Beaumonts?"
"Everyone's familiar with the Beaumonts," Nick said.
"They're the couple behind the 'Love is Blind' campaign," Judy nodded. After the Nighthowlers Case, the interspecies relationship movement had been getting increasing attention in the news, magazines, and commercials; they'd even held a demonstration in Sahara Square where they rallied supporters. Of course, their actions had met resistance and the whole thing had become somewhat of a controversial topic.
"They're also the most famous interspecies couple in Zootopia," Nick drawled. "And rich - did I mention rich?"
"I'm not sure I follow, Sir," Judy prompted. "What do the Beaumonts have to do with the case?"
"The Beaumonts are your case," Bogo elaborated. "We received a call from Regina Beaumont this morning reporting that her husband disappeared from their estate sometime yesterday. Due to the sensitive nature of their cause, this could easily turn political and the Mayor and I have decided to handle this case delicately. For the time being, your investigation will be kept completely quiet. That means no press and no police."
Judy still didn't follow. "Aren't we the police, Sir?"
"Not for this case, you're not," Bogo deadpanned. "You'll be working out of uniform and out of office for this one. Consider the department on a need to know basis. You check in with me on your progress, and no one else. If you have to bring in any help, you run it by me first. Questions?"
No uniforms? Was he kidding? Judy sadly ran her paws over her vest, unwilling to be parted with it. And after all she'd done to earn it…
"What about our support? If we aren't working in the office, we won't have access to the database," Nick pointed out.
"That's why you're getting this," Bogo pulled out a backpack from behind his desk and slid it across the desk next to the folder. "Inside, you'll find a laptop that has access to our secure ZPD server. I don't have to remind you not to let this fall into the wrong paws, do I?"
"No, Sir. It'll be safe with us," Judy promised.
"I shouldn't need to tell you how important this case is. The two of you are here because you're the best team I have-" Bogo preempted whatever snide comment Nick was about to say with a stern look, "-and if you ever repeat that, I'll have you on parking duty for a month."
"Aww shucks, Chief, and here I thought you didn't care," Nick fanned himself.
"Your work on the Nighthowlers Case was invaluable to this city and I'm counting on you to do it again. Understood?" Chief Bogo waited until they both nodded. "Good. Now you're both suspended."
"WHAT?" Both Nick and Judy exclaimed in unison.
"But you just - but what - WHY?" Judy sputtered, disbelieving.
Bogo drew his hoof across his throat for silence. "Keep it down. In case anyone asks, I need a cover story that'll last for however long this investigation takes."
Judy was nearly frantic at the thought of her ruined spotless record. "And you think anyone will believe that?"
Bogo's gaze flickered back and forth between them. "...Yes. And, in case you were wondering, it's a paid suspension."
"See, Carrots?" Nick nudged Judy's arm. "We're still getting paid, so no rush."
"Good, you're dismissed. Mrs. Beaumont is expecting the two of you before noon," Bogo gestured toward the door. With a pained sigh, Judy picked up the folder while Nick hefted the bag over his shoulder. It wasn't until they were at the door did Bogo call out, "And Wilde, play the part and have the decency to look ashamed for once in your life."
Nick schooled his features into a pained expression, "That hurts me, Sir, it really does."
Judy's enthusiasm had dropped considerably since the day began. In less than an hour, she'd been publicly disciplined, suspended from her job, and she had no idea how long it would take before she could return. Nick's lackadaisical attitude also wasn't doing her's any favors. He whistled tunelessly at her side as they drove back to her apartment so she could change into - ugh - regular clothes.
Judy's paw drummed on the door until a sudden thought occurred to her, "Hey, you think they'll tell everyone that this was just a fake suspension after this? Because that would really, really look bad on our records."
"I'm sure I've got worse things on my record than that," Nick shrugged.
"But I don't!" Judy garnered the attention of a neighboring car before she lowered her voice, embarrassed. "This is a suspension, Nick," she hissed.
"You say suspension, I say vacation," Nick said airily. "The kind of vacation where we still get to work. I'm sure you'll love that."
"Y'know, some of us actually enjoy doing our job, Nick," Judy sighed. "It's just… I worked so hard to have this uniform and my position. I don't want to just leave it."
As Nick slowed to a stop at a traffic light, he slipped off aviators and gave her his full attention. "Look at it this way, Judy: we're still on a case. We're not leaving the job; we're just going undercover! Yeah, it'll be like a noir movie. You love those."
Huh. He was… absolutely right! "This is like undercover work, isn't it?" Judy gushed. "Oh! I need to get one of those flip thingies for my badge, and a trenchcoat, and - oh - you can get a fedora. I mean, you've already got the bad tie."
"Woah there, Carrots," Nick wiggled his finger from the steering wheel. "I think the whole point is not to look the part. Also, fedoras look terrible on me; you don't want to see what they do to my fur. And what do you mean my ties are bad?"
Judy tapped her finger thoughtfully against her chin, "Hmm, I didn't know foxes were colorblind."
"Good to know your funk is over," he chuckled as he drove through the light.
There was a short silence between them before Judy murmured, "Thanks, Nick."
"So emotional," Nick sighed mock-dramatically, and the car swerved slightly as Judy's fist connected with his upper arm. He gave a yelp of surprise before the ride slipped back into a companionable silence once more.
By the time they arrived at Judy's place, her neighbors were very much awake from the sound of it. She had left Nick at the car and was now debating on what to wear as she scanned her tiny wardrobe. Judy pulled out a white tank top, a purple checkered button-down, and a pair of jeans. She hurriedly changed before carefully hanging up her uniform. It hurt to part with it, but Nick was right. She still had the badge after all. She threaded it through a belt loop and excitedly practiced moving her shirt aside to flash it at the mirror a few times. Nick honked from below and she was reminded that they still had to swing by his place so he could change. After locking up, she skipped down the stairs two at a time on her way back to the street.
"Okay, let's go to your place before traffic gets any - what?"
Nick leaned casually against his car, his aviators now clipped at the neck of a tan and brown bowling shirt. Even his pants were swapped out to his familiar khakis - though, sadly, his tie remained unchanged.
"Do you keep spare clothes in your car all the time?" Judy was floored. "And how did you change with the top still down?"
"Trade secret. I'd tell ya, buuut foxes only," Nick winked. "Now c'mon, let's beat the lunch hour."
Nick pulled to a stop in front of the wrought iron gates guarding the entrance to the Beaumont estate. Leaning over the door, he buzzed the intercom. After a short pause, a voice garbled through the speaker.
"State your name and business," a deep voice demanded.
"ZPD, we're expected," Nick replied, and after a moment of silence, the iron gates gave way.
Judy had never visited a mansion before. Sure, she'd seen them on television and in magazines, but nothing could have prepared her for the sheer size of it. Three stories tall and with more windows than she cared to count, it could have served as a high-end hotel. The tires bumped over the cobblestone driveway as it circled around a fountain that dominated the perfectly landscaped grounds. As they neared the mansion, the wings on either side seemed to reach out around them, shadowing the driveway.
"It sure is big," Judy observed, and Nick let out something of a strangled cough as he stifled a laugh. "Pfft. Get your mind out of the gutter."
"Hey, I said nothing," he smiled innocently. "Not my fault that a bunny's favorite subject is multiplication."
"Well, it's not my fault the only horizontal hustle you ever did involved popsicles," Judy countered as she unbuckled her seatbelt.
"Feeling feisty today, are we?" Nick turned off the ignition with a grin.
"No, but I'm feeling super underdressed right now," Judy grimaced. When she had looked at her wardrobe, she hadn't spared a thought of how out of place she'd look surrounded by the overwhelming poshness of the estate around her. She could practically feel silent judgement pouring out from the mansion in front of them.
"You're right, this place is kinda classy," Nick fingered his tie and gave the end a sniff. "Eh, it's not like they sent us here for a fashion show."
Judy didn't understand how that was supposed to make her feel better as she hopped out of the car. Nick followed suit and the two of them walked up the marble steps leading to an ornate double door. It opened before them just as Judy was about to ring the doorbell. The doorway was filled by the bulging form of a tuxedoed hippo.
The butler peered down the end of his snout at them, "Good day. If you'd please follow me, I'll take you to the lady of the house."
Their claws clicked lightly on the marble floor as Judy tried not to openly gape at her surroundings. If she had been impressed with the building's exterior, it didn't hold a candle to what was inside. The intricate woodwork and plastered walls reminded her of walking through a fancy museum. With all the paintings on display, it'd be easy to mistake the place for one.
Nick let out a low whistle as he took in a chandelier that was probably worth more than her family's farm. "Nice place you got here."
"Indeed, the Beaumont estate has been in the family for three generations now," the butler preened.
"Old money, eh?"
"Ancient," the butler duly replied. He lead them through an arching doorway and the marble flooring beneath them gave way to the hardwood of an equally lavish sitting room. "If you could have a seat, I'll go fetch Lady Beaumont."
Judy tentatively seated herself on a rounded plush couch that circled an impossibly pristine fireplace and tried not to fidget. Nick settled himself at her side and the two of them silently took in the grandeur around them. He lightly ran a single finger over the end table and critically eyed the lack of dust.
"Are you feeling pretty dirty right now?" He frowned at his finger. "'Cause I know I am."
"Just don't touch anything," she whispered and pointedly kept her paws in her lap.
Thankfully, any potential disasters were averted by the arrival of Regina Beaumont herself. She was a regal looking jaguar, the black and grey of her fur contrasted sharply with the white dress she wore. The dress perfectly matched the style she was known for: simple yet elegant. She gracefully crossed her legs as she seated herself across from them with a tired sigh.
"Thank you for coming," she said in greeting. "I don't suppose the two of you could show me some identification?"
Judy tried not to look too eager as she flashed Mrs. Beaumont her badge. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted with quiet glee that Nick didn't look nearly as smooth as he attempted fish his badge out of a pocket. After Regina had glanced over the two of them, she visibly deflated and slumped back into her seat.
"I'm sorry. I don't want to come off as rude, but with the two of you out of uniform, and considering the circumstances, it seemed prudent to check," Mrs. Beaumont sighed. "The last day has been incredibly stressful."
"We understand, Mrs. Beaumont. I'm Judy Hopps and this is my partner, Nick Wilde. We're the officers assigned to your case," Judy tried to be comforting as she pulled out her carrot-pen and a notepad from her back pocket. Flipping to a clean page, she looked up expectantly. "Normally, citizens are encouraged to wait twenty-four hours before filing a missing mammals report. What gives you the impression that he's missing?"
"My husband wouldn't step out for this long without telling me," she insisted. "And please, call me Regina."
"I don't mean to offend, but we hear that all the time," Nick said. "How can you be so sure?"
"Twelve years of marriage, Officer Wilde; I know my husband," Regina explained. "That, and I knew something was wrong when I found his study in disarray this morning. Arthur was meticulous in all things. He'd never leave such a mess and I think he may have been taken by force."
Judy wrote the details in her notepad as Nick continued, "Have you disturbed the room?"
"A bit," Regina admitted. "I almost started tidying up until I saw the claw marks. Once I realized what I was looking at, I immediately called it in to the authorities. If you'd like to follow me, I can show you his study."
"Yes, please," Judy nodded. She allowed Regina to lead them out of the sitting room and up the sweeping hardwood stairs. Careful to watch her step on the stairs, Judy continued taking notes. "Where were you at the time of his disappearance?"
"I was attending a fundraiser thrown by my family," Regina said. "Gazelle was a guest speaker at the event. We were there well into the evening and I didn't come home until close to midnight."
In her excitement, the words were out of Judy's mouth before she could stop them, "Oh - is she as nice everyone says she is?"
Regina spared her a small smile at the top of the stairs, "Even nicer. She's been a supporter of the Love is Blind movement for years and has helped our cause immeasurably."
"That's so cool," Judy gushed.
Nick elbowed Judy lightly. "I think what my partner meant to say is was there anyone in the mansion at the time of his disappearance? Your butler maybe?"
"No, we run a small staff and they all have the weekends off," Regina explained. "However, I think our landscaper was here sometime yesterday. I remember seeing his van when I left for the fundraiser."
"So, who takes care of things on the weekends when your staff is gone?"
"Nick," Judy hissed, wishing the fox would show at least a teaspoon's worth of tact. The curious stare Regina gave the two of them made Judy feel like she was sizing them up. Great, now she probably thinks we're not taking the case seriously.
Instead, Regina seemed unfazed, "Somehow, we manage to survive by ourselves for at least two days out of the week."
"Just making sure you didn't eat him or anything," he smirked.
"My husband may be a stag, but I'm afraid he doesn't taste that good, Officer Wilde," Regina laughed delicately and Judy had to make a serious effort not to gape at her.
"M'am, I am so sorry for my partner's comments-" Judy began before Regina waved an airy paw.
"It's quite alright," she said. "My husband and I have heard such comments whispered for years. It's rather refreshing to hear it said in jest for a change."
"See, Carrots? We're all friendly here," Nick nudged Judy's shoulder as Regina stopped at the door to the study. "Nick is fine, by the way," he winked up at her.
Judy rolled her eyes as she stepped through the door. She was instantly greeted with the sight of a room in disarray that had once clearly been used as an office. Bookshelves, paintings, and framed pictures lined the walls. The ornate oak desk at the center of the room looked like it had seen better days. Papers, books, and other knick-knacks littered the floor as if they'd been swept off the desk. The plush chair and desk had claw marks gouged into the material. All in all, it looked like there was one heck of a struggle.
"That doesn't look good," Nick sucked his teeth as he surveyed the damage. "I'll go get the kit from the car. Be right back."
Judy nodded and carefully picked her way over to the desk. Regina lingered at the doorway, as if afraid of getting in the way. While she waited, Judy took out her cell phone and swiped away the picture of the two of them Nick had put on as a screensaver. Smiling as she recalled the ridiculousness of the situation that lead to the two of them being squeezed into the frame, she opened her camera app and began taking pictures of the scene.
"Out of curiosity, are you and Mr. Wilde supporters of the Love is Blind campaign?" Regina's question interrupted the clicking of Judy's camera.
Judy honestly had never given it much thought. Why would she? "Well, I guess so," she decided after a pause. "I mean, it's Zootopia: anyone can be anything after all... and I guess that means anyone can be with anyone too."
"You 'guess'?" A look of mild confusion crossed Regina's features. "I was under the impression that you and Mr. Wilde were… close."
What did she mean by - "Oh, no - nonono - no," Judy laughed. "Nothing like uhhh - nothing like that. We're just partners - I mean, police partners."
"Apologies," Regina looked embarrassed. "It's just that, from the way you two were acting - and you wear his scent so well... I'm so sorry. Wishful thinking I suppose."
Judy could feel the blood rushing up to the tips of her ears. She smelled like him? Well, they did spend most of their off time hanging out, and a lot of that time was at his apartment... "Don't worry about it," she cleared her throat and tried to focus her attention on the crime scene to get her mind off the subject.
"Pity, he seems charming," Regina commented and Judy had to hold back a laugh. Charming? Ha. You try putting up with his snark every day and see if he's so 'charming' then.
As Judy circled the desk for a different angle, she nearly stepped on a picture frame. Glancing down to step over it, she caught sight of the magazine cover framed within. The Time magazine cover was a picture of Regina and Arthur Beaumont standing together and dressed as if for a formal ball - and Arthur knew how to wear a tie. He framed her perfectly, arms lightly encircling Regina's waist as she looked adoringly up at him. The caption underneath read: "The Face of the Future: How Arthur and Regina Beaumont are changing views and standing up to society's double standards."
Caught up in the cover of the magazine, Judy realized just how picturesque the two of them looked together. "So tell me about your husband; how did you two make it work?"
Regina laughed lightly as she crossed the room to pick up the picture. "Pure spite," she said running her paw lovingly over the cracked frame. "Everyone told us our relationship was doomed to fail from the start. The public, our friends, even our families. 'You know what happens when the lion lays with the lamb,' they'd say, 'It never ends well.' But the more they tried to push us apart, the more we fought back. Eventually they ran out of breath, and then they began to listen. In the end, they were the ones that failed…"
Judy couldn't imagine having to endure the judgement the two of them must have faced every day. Relationships among closely related mammals were hardly unheard of, but between predator and prey it was practically taboo. The Nighthowler Case had done more to challenge society's views on predators than a millennia of peaceful co-existence could. Though the Beaumont's Love is Blind campaign had been going on for almost a decade, recent events had suddenly left it front and center in the public's mind. Which meant that the Beaumonts were front and center in everyone's mind as well.
"Have you or your husband ever received any threats over all this?" Judy gestured at the magazine.
"Constantly," Regina sighed. "The outer wall of our estate gets vandalized at least once a month and we receive hate mail by the pound. Arthur and I enjoy reading them when we need a good laugh." She paused for a moment before giving Judy a heavy look. "I'm afraid, you're going to have your work cut out for you, Officer."
Judy couldn't agree more.
A/N: Hello everyone, Orieon and LittlePorcelainDoll here. If you found this story via our profiles or mentioned in our Borderlands fanfiction, The Man Who Would Be Jack, thanks for fandom stalking us. We appreciate it. If not, then welcome newcomers!
Anyway, Unusual Tastes is a collaborative work the two of us cooked up in an afternoon after copious amounts of nerdgasming over how good Disney's Zootopia is. If you're here expecting nothing more than a ship-fic, you'll probably going to be disappointed. While the ship in this story will certainly set sail, this story is primarily meant to be a neo-noir type fiction since we love the genre and hope you will too.
If you have any comments, corrections, or suggestions, let us know and we'll try to get back to you. Thanks for reading!