Author's Note: Okay, so I really wanted to wait until my other stories were done, but I couldn't help myself. Official summary for the story below, but be warned: Anyone who reads my other stories knows they often start out quite fluffy and get progressively darker. This story will be no exception. It is rated M for Mature. I'll try to give more specific warnings at the beginning of the chapters, but just so you know, the first few chapters will be very mild compared to the later ones.

Summary: An overbearing boss, a new rabbit on the force, judgmental strangers, and, of course, a series of violent murders. Because you know, thought Nick, why make things easy?

Well, thought Judy. This was a pickle.

Okay, so not a literal pickle. But it was definitely a problem, because the very expensive, very large police car she'd been entrusted with six months ago was very suddenly not working, and despite her best staring, nothing about the complicated engine jumped out at her as broken.

Plus, it was pouring rain.

Her shift had ended fifteen minutes ago, but she'd made every effort to fix the car herself, with no luck. She'd worked on the old truck back home a million times, but that engine was held together with duct tape and dreams. This one looked like it belonged in a spaceship. Shivering against the cold rain, Judy groaned and clambered back into the car, where she took her radio and called to the station.

"Gonna be at least thirty minutes," said the gruff voice on the other end.

"Oh, uh," Judy dragged a hand down her face. "Okay, well. Thanks." The radio dropped to the empty passenger seat with a thump, and for a moment, Judy simply sat, cold and wet. Then she jumped back out, splashing in a puddle that nearly drowned her and moved to the engine again.

"I'm going to fix this!" she told herself, before awkwardly poking something in the engine. It hissed at her. "Orrrr, maybe not."

"Hey there, Carrots," said another voice to the side, and Judy whirled on her spot, only to put her hands on her hips when she spotted a smirking fox standing next to her, extending an umbrella over her head. "Tell me," Nick Wilde leaned against the car, which smoked ominously. "Do you even know how cars work?"

"How did you know where I was?" Judy tucked closer under the umbrella, looking up at her partner. "Bogo had you work with Morris today while his partner is out."

"Doesn't mean I can't use a radio," Nick pointed out, waving his own. "I was close by. My apartment is just right over there." He pointed a block over. "Come on, no point in waiting out here for those mechanic guys to get here."

Judy glanced uncertainly at the waiting car, but comfort at last won out, and she radioed in to let them know she was ending her shift. Together, Nick and Judy tucked close under the umbrella and splashed through the streets until they came to a tall apartment building downtown. Judy had seen the building before, but she'd never been inside, though she and Nick occasionally stopped by there to grab something.

"I'll just dry off and head back to my place," she told him, shivering violently as they entered the building. Nick fished around in his pockets for his keys and shrugged.

"No rush. Your place has probably already been struck by lightning and disintegrated. Which, I gotta say," he pushed open his apartment door, "would probably be doing the world a favor. Your neighbors are crazy."

"Oh, they're not that bad."

Nick closed the door behind her and raised a brow. "Even the new ones? The llamas with the weird hats? Yeah, pretty sure they killed a guy." Judy rolled her eyes. "I'm serious, Judy," he went on. "I heard one of them say he had a hunger only hands could satisfy. Seemed a little odd."

Giggling, Judy stepped away from the door and looked around. She'd always been secretly curious about Nick's apartment, but now that she saw it, it was pretty much how she'd imagined it. Larger than hers and more up to date, though nothing extravagant by any means, with only three pieces of visible furniture – a couch, a TV and a small coffee table - and absolutely nothing on the walls.

"I should get the name of your decorator," she teased. "Such art. Such finesse."

"I'm a simple guy," he informed her, "Also furniture is heavy." He disappeared after that, presumably to the bedroom and reappeared a moment later. "If you want to change, I laid out some clothes for you on the bed." He handed her a towel, which Judy immediately tucked around her body. The edges dragged to the floor.

"Are these clothes you left me clean?" she asked, smirking.

Nick flourished his hands grandly. "Top of the pile, madam. Nothing but the best for you." The two exchanged grins before Judy moved past him, ducking into the bedroom, where only a bedside table lamp illuminated the room. Thunder clapped outside and the rain poured harder than ever. Eugh, thought Judy. She did not want to go back out into that.

Turning back to the bed, which, again, was only one of maybe three furniture items in the room, Judy pulled off her sodden uniform and dried herself with the towel furiously, which unfortunately meant that now she looked like a giant grey cotton ball. Huffing with frustration, she turned to the clothes Nick had left her.

"Oh, you wily little fox," she muttered, holding up the shirt.

Five minutes later, Judy re-entered the living area, which crossed into the open kitchen, where Nick stood at the island counter with some mail in his hand. Judy stopped in front of him and tried not to laugh.

"Nick, why do you even own this shirt?" she gestured to the too large t-shirt, the front of which bore the word FOXXXY in bold, neon print.

Nick looked up and smirked. "A better question is, why wouldn't I own that shirt?"

At Judy's eyeroll, he rounded the counter and picked up two movie cases. "Now, since you and I are both off work tomorrow and it's still pouring rain, I suggest we watch a movie."

"Oh, really?" Judy asked, folding her arms.

"Yep, look, I have two movies here," he held up the first. "Finding Nemo – something about a fish who loses his son, based on a true story, very sad – and my personal favorite, Robin Hood!" Judy peered at the Robin Hood cover.

"I've never seen that. It looks old."

Nick clutched the movie to his chest. "It is not old, it came out when I was a kid, thank you very much. Also, that is irrelevant, because this is a masterpiece and masterpieces are timeless." He pointed to the cover. "See that? A fox who steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Judy, this guy was my hero."

He tapped the case. "I'm serious. My idol. And look, a very inclusive cast! There's even a bunny!" Judy squinted at the cover. "Well, he's in there somewhere," Nick waved a hand dismissively. "But anyway, this movie is great."

Unable to resist his enthusiasm, Judy bit back a smile and nodded. "Fine," she agreed, more than a little happy to stay and not return to her tiny room. "I guess I can stay for a little while." Something occurred to her. "Oh! But we have to wait a few minutes. I need to call my parents." Nick dropped the movies to the side.

"Good, because I need to change clothes, too," he said, already pulling at the various layers of the police uniform while Judy moved off and fell onto his couch, her phone in hand. A moment later, the faces of her parents appeared on the screen, their evening much less stormy than the one in Zootopia.

"Hi guys!" Judy beamed. "Just checking in. How's everyone?"

"What're you wearing?" asked her father, peering closely to the phone, so that only his eyeball was visible. "And where are you at? Doesn't look like your place to me!"

"Oh, I'm just – visiting," Judy said off-handedly, shrugging her small shoulders. "Being social, like you guys told me!" Unfortunately, she chose that moment to look to her left. "Oh, god, Nick! Where are your pants?" she shrieked, covering up her face.

"Relax, I have on shorts."

"Boxers aren't shorts!"

Judy split her fingers to peer at her phone screen. "This is not what it looks like," she groaned to her parents, but Nick suddenly appeared in the screen right next to her.

"This is exactly what it looks like."

Judy shoved him out of the screen. "Don't worry, sweetie!" piped up her mom. "No judgment from us!"

"Well," said her dad. "Maybe a little judgment." His wife pinched him. "Ow! What? I'm just saying!"

"Leave her alone! Let her live her life!"

"What about grandbabies, huh?" countered her father. "Rabbit plus fox does not a rabbit make," he nodded confidently. "Remember that, Judy."

Oh my god.

"Yeah, I think I'm losing my signal, gotta go, love you! Bye!" Click. Judy slumped against the couch, and when Nick reappeared wearing a t-shirt and (real) shorts, she turned her glare in his direction, to which he responded with an innocent smile.

"Rabbit plus fox does not a rabbit make, Judy," he told her matter of factly, barely dodging a decorative pillow before he skipped around the couch and fell into the opposite corner, smirking. "Movie time?" He grabbed up the remote and turned on the video player. Reaching behind him, he tugged down a blanket from the back of the couch and handed it to Judy, who accepted it with only a little leftover glaring.

"Ooh, fluffy," she wrapped it securely around herself and reveled in the warmth.

Nick's lips quirked at the sight of her all curled up in the blanket, but for once, he said nothing. The movie began to play and, although it actually was very good, as Nick had promised, Judy felt her eyelids grow heavy within the first fifteen minutes.

"Mm'fraid I'm gonna fall asleep," she mumbled to Nick, who was stretched out next to her. He glanced down the length of the couch.

"You're welcome to stay here," he told her, looking back at the movie. "You're off work tomorrow. It'll be fine." He shrugged, the uncharacteristic motion betraying the casualness of his tone. "You know, if you want."

Judy cracked open an eye and looked at him, but he was very pointedly focused on the screen. Smiling a bit to herself, Judy edged closer and leaned her cocooned form against his upraised knees. In response, he lowered them a little, stretching out his legs enough to make it comfortable for her.

She tried to watch the rest of the movie – she really did – but the last few weeks had been exhausting and it all caught up to her warm, snuggly form in an instant. The movie faded away, and the last thing she remembered was the heroic fox Robin Hood, kissing the hand of the beautiful Maid Marian.

Mm, cozy.

A flip switched in Judy's brain. Her bed was not cozy. It was hard as a rock, and squeaky, and felt like it had been stuffed with barbwire. Plus, it was always cold in her apartment.

She opened her eyes. For a moment, the bright early morning light coming through the window confused her, as well as pretty much everything else about her surroundings. But then she remembered – Oh, right. Nick's apartment. The movie. Sleep.

And now, as she tried to shift into an upright position, she realized she was completely and thoroughly entangled in a blanket, her overly large t-shirt, and also Nick.

And his tail.

Squeaking quietly, Judy eased herself back against him, praying he wouldn't wake up. Somehow, in the course of the night, she'd gone from her end of the couch to sleeping against him, encircled in his arms, cheek against the crook of his shoulder and his arm loose against her torso. Even his long tail was wrapped around her, though it was hidden under the blanket he'd given her last night.

After a few moments of inward panic, Judy let herself slowly, slowly relax. This wasn't so bad. Okay, so it wasn't bad at all. In fact, as she let her head nuzzle into his front again, she realized she hadn't woken up feeling so content and comfortable in a very long time. A flush jumped up her neck under her fur.

Stop being so silly, she scolded herself.

Settling comfortably against Nick again, Judy thought about dozing off once more, but instead became distracted by the tufts of red, black and white fur that lay visible around the neck of his soft white shirt. What interesting colors, she thought. So different from a rabbit's.

Almost against her will, she reached up a hand and traced the colors, brushing against the fur thoughtfully.

"What're you doing, Carrots?"

Judy's hand froze at the sound of Nick's quiet, sleepy voice, and when she looked up at him, his lips quirked at a gentle smile. "I…" Judy reached for the blanket, slowly pulling it up over her embarrassed face. "… am burrowing." Her head disappeared beneath the blanket and Nick felt her bury it into his side, as if further concealment was necessary.

He chuckled, reaching down and tugging the blanket back off her head, so that her large lavender eyes lifted to his. "You're not very good at it," he told her tenderly. Judy let some of her uncertainty fade away when she realized Nick didn't seem at all bothered by waking up on the couch with her.

Pulling up her arms, she rested her chin on them and peered up at his face with a shy smile.

"Sorry for falling asleep on you," she told him.

"I think I'll live."

"Well," said Judy, grinning a bit. "I won't, unless I get some food. What do you have to eat?"

Nick scoffed. "Yeah, right. Like I have actual food in my house." At Judy's dubious look, he raised a brow. "Hey, I live alone. Why would I cook? Also, lazy." He pointed to himself. "But," he went on, one hand brushing Judy's long ear away from her face in a surprisingly tender motion, "There is a breakfast café a block over. We can walk there."

A pleased smile lit up Judy's features. "Okay," she agreed. "But – wait, no. I am not going out in public in this shirt!"

"Well, that's a shame, because every piece of clothing I find for you will only be more and more embarrassing," he told her smugly. "Guess you'll just have to deal."

Judy cut her purple eyes at him and then shifted, untangling herself from the couch rather gracelessly and tossing the blanket in his face before she hopped off the couch and left him behind. "You're terrible," she told him over her shoulder, though the motion didn't completely disguise her smile.

Snickering, Nick fell back against the couch and relaxed. "You know you love me," he muttered to the ceiling.

"Try it!"



"Judy," Nick turned his bemused expression in the direction of the rabbit across the small round table. "If you make me try one more carrot – cake or pie or whatever the hell that is – "

"Okay, first of all," Judy bit back a smile. "This is not just carrots. It's a banana-carrot-spinach quiche, and second of all," she happily spooned some into her mouth and swallowed. "It is delicious."

Nick sipped at his coffee. "What a weird thing to get for breakfast," he noted, though Judy's happy squeal with her food made him decide that he was glad the café offered it. Reclining in his chair, Nick took in the scene around them. As hellish as the weather had been last night, the morning had dawned beautiful and warm. Sunlight baked away the last droplets of moisture from the grass and a light breeze kept the air from feeling too damp and stagnant.

Enjoyable and pleasant, thought Nick with an uncharacteristic bit of optimism. Though that might have had something to do with his company, and how he'd woken up right next to her.

"Why aren't you eating?"

He glanced up at Judy's question and waved his coffee. "This is my breakfast," he informed her. At her suspicious look, he secretly reevaluated what he'd said. "What? What's the look for?"

Judy sipped at her orange juice. "Nick, we've been partners for six months and you almost never eat in front of me."

"That's not true," he pointed out. "What about when I stole Clawhauser's candy last week? I ate all of that right in front of you. Almost choked and died. Remember?"

That knowing look he'd once feared passed over Judy's face. She leaned forward and said earnestly, "It's okay for you to eat meat in front of me, you know. There were meat eaters where I lived."

Nick sipped his drink again, watching her carefully over the top of it. No amount of denial would appease her, he knew. "You're not going to make me uncomfortable," she went on firmly. "Eat." She shoo'ed at him, and at last, Nick set down his drink.

"You sure?"

"I promise," she said, reaching across under the table and squeezing his hand. Nick glanced down and curled his fingers around hers in response. "But thank you," she murmured. They shared an appreciative look for a moment before Judy pulled back. "Now go! Eat!"

Chuckling, Nick stood up and set down his coffee. "Thank god, because I am starving."

He got himself a bug biscuit, gulped it down – not because of Judy, but because he really was that hungry – and refilled his coffee before they prepared to leave. "Just one bite!" Judy held up the last bit of her quiche, fork extended to him. Rolling his eyes, Nick finally let her feed it into his mouth.

"Wow," he said with his eyes wide. "This is delicious!"

"Really?" squeaked Judy.

"No," he deadpanned. "I'll leave this stuff to the bunnies." He managed to swallow, but did so with a wildly exaggerated grimace, which made Judy sock him in the arm. They both laughed as they left the café and onto the sidewalks of downtown.

Judy noticed Nick looking at her carefully. "What?" she asked curiously. Nick paused on the sidewalk, and in that moment, he seemed to make up his mind about something.

"Come on," he said. "I'm taking you somewhere."

"What? Where?"

"Not telling."

They hurried to catch a bus and rode to the other side of town, where they got off on a street Judy had never been to before. After crossing a few more blocks, Nick turned and led her down the sidewalk until they came to a tall gate guarding a community of what appeared to be apartments.

Judy looked all around, distracted by the new environment, but Nick waltzed in without a second glance. At the gate, an old sheep lady sat behind an enclosed neck. "Nicholas!" she exclaimed happily as soon as she saw him.

"Hey there, Francine," he said, picking up a clipboard and scrawling his name on it. "Here, sign this," he said, handing it to Judy, who dutifully wrote her name on the next line.

"What is this place?" she asked, but Nick simply motioned for her to follow.

"Morning, Mr. Wilde," said the buffalo guard at the gate, and Nick tipped his head to him. "You're here awful early today."

"Got an early start," said Nick. "Think she's up, yet?"

"Saw her heading to the salon earlier this morning," the buffalo chuckled. "Probably in the gardens by now."

Nick thanked him and they kept walking, Judy hurrying behind him to keep up, because sometimes Nick's longer legs threatened to outdo her. "This place is so nice," she said, looking all around once they were within the walls. The apartments seemed pleasant and well-maintained from the outside, but the real visual interest was the massive garden area in the center of it all. A small but artfully landscaped pond sat in the far left corner, and further beyond that was an opening that seemed to lead to a golf course.

The bottom row of the apartment buildings, Judy now noticed, was also mostly stores and boutiques, giving the gated area the appearance of a little self-contained town right within Zootopia.

Nick looked all around, but he only stopped when someone called out his name.

"Nick!" The fox and rabbit pair both turned in the direction of the voice, only to see an elderly vixen in a wheelchair. "What're you doing here so early?"

"Why does everyone keep saying that?" asked Nick, opening his arms to her for a hug. "Am I not allowed to wake up before 9 AM?" The two embraced and Nick pulled back, smiling one of his few real smiles. He looked back at the timidly waiting rabbit.

"Judy, this is my mother, Ella Wilde."

Judy's eyes widened, her lips parting in surprise. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Wow, it's so nice to meet you! I'm – "

"Judy Hopps!" The elderly fox hurried forward in her wheelchair and grasped Judy's hand, beaming up at her with a face so like Nick's. "It's so delightful to finally meet you! Nick has told me so much about how brilliant you are!"

"She's lying," Nick said to the side. "She's just seen you on the news."

"And," his mother went on emphatically, "He also told me how pretty you are."

"A pathological liar," added Nick hastily, before Ella thumped his arm and he yelped, hopping back. Judy giggled, thoroughly enjoying Ella already.

"It's so nice to meet you, Mrs. Wilde," she said earnestly, before she glanced down at herself and flushed. "Oh, god, I am – I am so sorry, I didn't know I'd be meeting you today." She tossed a Look in Nick's direction, who merely rolled his eyes and smirked. "I promise I would have looked nicer!"

"You look beautiful, sweetheart," Ella told her with a smile, moving her wheelchair next to a stone garden bench so Judy could sit. "I'm just glad you're here. I was starting to think Nick would never bring you by!"

"I had no idea you lived in town," Judy admitted. "But I'm glad you do."

"Do your parents live here?" asked Ella, and Judy shook her head.

"No, they're about a two hour train ride away," she sighed. "I miss them sometimes. A lot, actually. I wish I could see them more often." She turned her head to look around the area again, smiling to herself when she saw some more elderly animals wave to Nick, who responded with a wave of his own.

"Looks like Nick is here pretty often, huh?"

Ella beamed. "Oh, yes. He comes at least three or four times a week, if not more. It makes some of the other old bitties around here jealous, because their kids don't come as often. But last week, Nick came by and barely even paid attention to me, just played chess with old Mr. Seymore," she nodded in the direction of a well-aged lion in the distance, seated in his own wheelchair.

"Well, that was awful sweet of him," said Judy, giggling over at Nick. He shrugged.

"Puh-lease. I was just trying to hustle him for money."

"You lost," his mother reminded him.

"I didn't say it worked."

Judy caught his eye and shook her head at him, her lips quirked in a genuine smile. He returned it, though he carefully looked away when Ella looked between them. "So which apartment do you live in?" asked Judy, and Ella pointed.

"That one over there – very nice, the favorite section of everyone here, because it's near the Putt Putt course. Which, if I'm being honest, should be renamed after me, because I am the reigning champion for the last two tournaments."

Judy gasped excitedly. "I've always wanted to play Putt Putt!"

"Oh, I'll show you!" said Ella, equally eager. "Nick! Find my favorite putter!"

"Right now?" he laughed incredulously. "We're really going to play Putt Putt right now?" Judy hopped to her feet and shot him a smug smile.

"You started this by bringing me here. Now we're going to destroy you!"

"Ooh," said Ella with a gleeful laugh. "I like this girl!"

They hurried off without him, and Nick grinned to himself, even as he shook his head and sighed. "What have I done," he wondered aloud, before hurrying off after them.

Nick and Judy ended up staying with Ella for a few hours, playing Putt Putt – which Ella won, through absolutely no assistance of Nick or Judy – and then touring some of the little shops, in one of which Ella bought Judy a little necklace with white and blue beads.

"So pretty," she said, and Judy beamed. She'd missed having a mom around to do stuff like this with. Plus, she got the additional bonus fun of watching Nick get scolded every few minutes for touching things, or being in the way, or something else that was equally amusing. By the end of it, Judy and Ella were quite fast friends.

"I'm so glad you two came today," Ella told them, offering Judy a hug. "Really, Judy. Don't be a stranger. Come and visit any time you like."

"I will," the bunny replied sincerely.

"What about me?" asked Nick, looking offended. "I'm your son. Am I invited?"

Ella waved at him dismissively. "Oh, I see you all the time." Then she laughed, tugging him down for a kiss and a hug, which he returned.

A dark-furred fox in nursing scrubs appeared next to Ella's wheelchair. "Time for your medicine, Mrs. Wilde," he said, offering her the pills, which she accepted with only a small twitch of dissatisfaction. The nurse took her water cup and pointed. "Also, Mr. Seymore told me to remind you about your lunch date," he said with a hint of amusement.

Ella scoffed. "Oh, that old lion can wait." She looked back to Judy and said with great certainty, "It's good to make the males wait, you know."

Judy giggled wildly at Nick's eyeroll. "I'll remember that," she said, before they said their last goodbyes and Nick and Judy left the way they'd come.

The gates closed behind them and they walked to the sidewalk, heading in the direction of the bus stop. They remained quiet until they reached the bench and stopped, with Nick leaning against the side and Judy next to him. At last, she spoke up.

"You let me meet your mother," she said, unable to hide her pleasure. "That means a lot to you."

"And how do you know that, hm?" he asked, giving her an amused but thoughtful glance. Judy made a little noncommittal noise.

"I can just tell," she said slyly, bouncing on her feet. A thought suddenly struck her. "Wait – That's where all your money goes, isn't it?" Nick looked over at her, surprised. "I mean," Judy went on, "You bragged about all the money you made before, when we first met, remember? And you don't spend it on yourself, so… " she glanced behind her at the stately community.

"You use it for her, don't you?" she asked, her voice softening at Nick's pensive appraisal of her, as if he, again, was trying to decide something. At last, his lips quirked at a subtle, somewhat sad smile.

"Well, that," he confirmed with a nod. "And I put a lot of in a savings account."

"For what?"

"Honestly? Bail."

Judy's cheeks lifted in a smile, and Nick sighed loudly, again returning to his usual unconcerned air. "But hey, hopefully I won't need that now. Maybe I should buy a car or something." They boarded the bus and rode back to the side of town where Nick's apartment was. When they stepped off the bus and paused outside of his apartment building, Judy touched his arm to still him.

"She seems really happy," she told him, and Nick ticked his head in her direction.

"I hope so," he said quietly. Judy thought they might go inside, but instead Nick pulled her away from the building's double-doors and to a grassy area nearby. Judy joined him under a tree, sitting shoulder to shoulder.

"Okay, so," Nick started, before pausing and looking over at her, only to see her face peering at him thoughtfully, with no expectations or judgments. He relaxed a little, but Judy could read the tension still in his shoulders as he spoke. "I told you we were really poor when I was growing up, right? My mom had to work three jobs just to make sure we ate, much less had what a little fox wanted growing up."

Nick reclined against the tree, one hand balanced on his upraised knee. "So of course, I started getting into trouble, and the older I got, the worse I was. And then when I was 18, I got arrested." He made a face. "I don't even – really remember what it was for, I was stealing something, I think. Anyway, my mom got really upset at me, and I – " he paused, a rare look of discomfort passing over his features as Judy watched, lavender eyes curious. "I acted like an idiot. And I blamed her. I told her, if we hadn't been so poor, I wouldn't have to steal."

Judy frowned, but her heart sank even lower at Nick's troubled expression. "You were young," she reassured him softly. "You made a mistake."

The fox chuckled weakly. "Yeah, not my first. Not my last." He cleared his throat a little. "Anyway, after that, I ran off and… " he frowned again. "I didn't see or talk to my mom for six or seven years. Not at all." He glanced over at her, still waiting for her to admonish him. She didn't, and he continued quietly.

"Then, one day when I was in my twenties, I got a phone call saying she'd had a stroke." He nodded for no reason in particular. "And I knew – I just knew, when I showed up, she'd already be gone, and I'd never get a chance to tell her I was sorry for being such a worthless son." A sigh. "And then when I heard she was alive, I didn't think she'd want to see me. But she did."

He glanced over her. "I didn't deserve her forgiveness, but I took it anyway. And after that, I swore to myself I would take care of her as best as I could. So, for a few years, I did that. It was hard, because I was still doing the same old schemes, but I was trying to hide them from her."

Judy watched him shrug as he continued. "It was just too easy to make money that way. It was what I had always done." He made a face again. "Anyway, after a few years, her health problems got worse and I realized I couldn't care for her myself anymore. So we found that place back there, got her in, and she's lived there ever since."

"What is it, exactly?" asked Judy curiously. "It looks like an apartment mixed in with a resort or something."

"It's a … very nice retirement community," he told her. "It's got shops and a salon and all kinds of stuff, plus medical staff twenty-four hours a day. That way, she's never alone. She's never without care." He huffed a little, looking down at his hands. "She's not even that old – in her sixties. But she had a rough life, and it took its toll on her. I wish she didn't have to live there at all, but at least… at least she doesn't have to worry about putting food on the table anymore. She can relax, play games, go to the salon and… apparently con old lions into taking her out for lunch." Judy sat in silence, thoughtfully turning over Nick's words in her head. After a moment, she smiled gently at him and reached over, taking his arm and looping it in hers.

"I really liked her," she said with an enthusiastic nod. "She puts you in your place, and I enjoy that." Nick rolled his eyes at her, but his smile returned, and his expression lost much of its wistful sadness.

"Figured you two would get along," he said, and Judy blushed at the affectionate warmth of his tone. Tightening her hold on his arm, she laid her head on his shoulder.

"Today was an excellent day," she informed him confidently.

He glanced down at her, then leaned his head against hers and chuckled. "Yeah," he agreed. "It was."