A/N: Hello everyone! This story has really been a great joy to write. However, I feel as though this first chapter doesn't get everybody off on the right foot. If you're reading this story for the first time, please consider giving the next chapter a read, even if this one doesn't totally catch your attention. These characters and this world are complicated and challenging to write and yet so very fun to write and rewarding too. I hope to keep seeing readers come in and share my own story with everyone. And no matter what, thanks for trying!


It's Never Too Late
Chapter 1

It was finally the end of the day. To an outsider, it would appear as though nothing was changing. The bustling station was as lively now as it had been an hour ago, and would be as lively still an hour from now. Citizens were filing in and out, officers were filing their final reports for the day while others were strolling in to get started. The Chief was heading around to various offices and cubicles to follow up on this or that. In all fairness, there was no real "end" to the work. However, for Judy Hopps, the day was over.

It was a quarter to five, and Judy was adding some final touches to the report on the screen in front of her. The day itself had been uneventful, bordering on lackluster. Nothing major had happened, nothing exciting, nothing unusual. Patrol had been the same as the day before, filled with light-hearted jokes and mindless banter between partners. The report today was just a summary of the non-events that had fallen in their path: a jaywalker here, a broken tail light there. In all honesty, the only truly notable things were things she wouldn't put on the report.

"Hopps, anything on that report I need to know before it comes to me?"

Chief Bogo had somehow, despite his size, managed to sneak up on Judy at her desk. She turned an ear his way as he spoke, continuing to type without looking at him.

"No sir, just the usual. Nothing exciting today," she said distractedly. She heard the Chief snort quickly in acknowledgement, and heard his footsteps fade down the walkway.

"Well, nothing that he needs to know about."

The voice of her partner betrayed the smirk on his face. Judy looked over at him for a moment, his smirking gaze meeting her blank one, and for a moment she got lost in the memory of a particularly half assed joke he had told earlier, a real lazy bit of humor that she had nonetheless found more amusing than she would like to admit.

"Officer Wilde, if spectacularly limp jokes were a crime, your every word would be worthy of this report," she said to him, now smirking herself. He frowned.

"Carrots, count yourself as blessed that I happen to grace you with my own unique brand of superior wit," he said, placing a hand on his chest, his expression serious. They stared at each other a moment longer before they both burst into laughter.

"Let me finish this report so we can get out of here," she said as she turned back to face her computer, now with a smile stuck on her face.

"It's alright," he said lightly. "Not everyone can be as efficient as I."

She smirked as she let out a breath, not quite a laugh but close. She resumed typing as she heard Nick roll his chair lazily to his printer, listening as he flicked through the pages to check his work, and then as he stapled it together and stood up.

"I'll be back in a sec," he said as she heard him walk away towards Clawhauser's desk. The cheetah receptionist was working diligently himself organizing reports into the proper destination bins. Each report had to be classified by its level of urgency or follow up required. Given the day she and Nick had today, their reports would both fall quickly into the same one: "Resolved."

Within a minute of his departure, she was done and printing her own reports. She checked them after they had printed, admiring her work and then she put it together and walked over to Clawhauser as well. When he came into view, she saw that Nick was still there, chatting with Clawhauser and she heard them both laugh after Nick said something. She couldn't fathom what the two were discussing, but a million possibilities began swirling around in her mind.

"Hey Judy!" Clawhauser said as she approached, his tone and face betraying his excitement to share what he and Nick had been discussing. "Nick claims he got you again today?"

Judy sighed, looking first at Clawhauser, then at Nick. Nick was staring back at her already, his signature smirk plastered on his face, his eyes half-lidded as they were wont to do when he was being particularly crafty. She placed her report in Clawhauser's waiting paws, and then sighed again.

By "got you again today," of course, Clawhauser meant that Nick had managed to trick her into singing in their cruiser and allowed him to record her. She was not amused this time.

"And the sun and the rain are falling together…"

Judy's singing came crackling out of that carrot pen, held aloft in Nick's left paw as he leaned his right side on the desk. His smirk had somehow gotten bigger, his eyes were now open wide, and he looked like he was about to explode with giddy laughter.

"Wilde, the only thing worse than my singing is your doofy grin right now."

Nick couldn't hold it in any longer, and both he and Clawhauser erupted into raucous laughter. Half the animals in the lobby turned to look at them. Judy smiled despite herself.

"Oh no, watch out Ben! She's enjoying it! Better run!" Nick taunted, lowering his paw to hand Judy the pen. She snatched it from him before she smiled in earnest.

"Dumb fox," she said quietly. He smirked back at her.

"Anything else you need from us today, Ben?" Nick said, turning to the cheetah. He shook his head no, and then turned to resume filing the reports piled in front of him.

With that, Nick and Judy walked back to their shared office space and gathered up their things and prepared to depart.

"Wait for me a minute, I brought a change of clothes," Nick said as he walked toward the locker room. Judy pulled out her phone and refreshed her Furbook feed and had only managed to scroll through about five stories before Nick returned.

"Let's go," he said, and they walked quietly together to the time clock, and after punching out for the day they walked to the parking lot together.

The sun was still high in the sky, but beginning its journey to the horizon. The warmth of the summer day was pleasant for the both of them. They both stood outside the doors for a moment, taking in the scene in front of them. Kids were playing in the park in front of the station, laughing and having little worry except who would win whatever game they were playing. The freeway overpass to their left was as loud as ever this time of day, and from the looks of things, traffic was as tight as ever.

"Ready?" Judy broke their reverie, looking up at Nick's peaceful expression. He looked at her, popped on his sunglasses, and nodded. Together they walked to Judy's car, a small pick up truck not unlike the one her parents had, and got in.

The drive was uneventful. They were both excited to be done with such a boring day at work, and their conversation quickly turned to planning for the evening.

"I heard that 'The Pawshank Redemption' is up on Dodo Plus, have you ever seen that one?" Nick asked, watching Judy as she focused ahead of them.

"Are you kidding?" she asked incredulously. "Are you seriously asking if I, Judy Hopps, have ever seen a classic piece of film?" She put her right paw on her chest as she spoke, imitating his faux-hurt from earlier. He laughed.

"I had to ask, sometimes you country folk forget that things besides dirt and plants and dirt exist," he teased. "Ow!" He hadn't seen her paw leave her chest and smack backhanded into his chest.

"That's what you get," she said, half smirking to herself. She put her hand back on the wheel and they came to a red light.

Nick hesitated before speaking again, "Do you wanna watch it though? I mean, I haven't seen it in years and like you said, it's a classic."

She thought for a moment, looking up to the left as though considering if she had more pressing matters to attend to, before she looked at him from the corner of her eye and said, "I suppose I don't have anything better to do than watch an old movie with you." He smirked. "But I get to pick the food this time!" she blurted with mock indignation.

"Is there something wrong with the food I pick?" He asked, again feigning offense.

"When all you ever pick is the worst possible chinese take out? Yes! There is something wrong with the food you pick!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide and her ears sticking straight up. The light turned green.

"Carrots, keep your voice down. Chinese food is everywhere! It will hear you!"

"I don't think chinese food can possibly hurt me worse than it already has, Wilde," she said lazily. They both smiled, and fell into a comfortable silence.

After several blocks, the sun had finally started to set, and the city was bathed in an orange glow. Nick sighed contently, and closed his eyes before speaking.

"What do you want to eat, then? And don't say pizza," he added, and though his eyes were closed, he could hear her mouth close and suspected she was frowning. He peeked through is left eye and confirmed his suspicions. He couldn't help but chuckle.

"What's so funny, Nick?" she asked, sounding genuinely annoyed that he had called her choice of food.

"Nothing, nothing," he said, waving his paw at her. "You're just predictable is all."

She gasped, "Excuse me? I am not predictable! I just know what I like, that's all," she said defensively. He laughed a little, and turned to look at her. Her scowl deepened and her ears fell down behind her head.

He nudged her shoulder and said, "I don't mind pizza. I haven't had a good Veggielanche in a while." She perked her ears back up and smiled.

"Good," she said as she pulled into her apartment's parking area.

Six months prior, she had finally realized the full potential of her police salary and moved from her old studio into a nicer, one bedroom apartment a bit further from the city center. It had an assigned parking spot and the rent was not much higher than her old place. She had found a used pick-up online and decided that it would do her well to have a car in the city. It hadn't hurt that shortly after Nick joined the force, she had gotten a nice raise and bonus from the new mayor to allow her to feel the financial security to move. The place wasn't luxurious by any standards, but it had its own bathroom and kitchenette and made her feel at home in the city.

As they walked in and Judy flicked on the entry light, Judy tossed her keys in a little bowl by the door. Nick had brought his uniform up with him, and he set it down on the kitchen counter in a neatly folded pile.

"Wanna get the movie ready? I'm gonna go change real fast," Judy said, motioning towards her room. Nick nodded and she turned to go.

Nick flopped down on the couch and spread himself out comfortably, taking up his usual spot and posture. He grabbed the remote to the TV and turned it on, and then flicked through Judy's GoFer channels until he got to Dodo Plus. Since the movie was a new addition, it was right on the front page, demanding to be watched.

A moment later, he could hear Judy's steps behind him and turned as he watched her sit down next to him on the other end of the couch. She was in a loose fitting t-shirt, and some pajama pants with what he could only describe as dumb little carrots smiling on them. He smirked as he looked at it, but she didn't notice.

"Let me call in our pizza order first," she said, reaching for her phone. She ordered one extra large Veggielanch pizza from Pizza Hutch, and after hanging up, looked at Nick and nodded that she was ready.

He started the movie, but hardly paid attention to it. He hadn't fully believed her when she said she'd seen it, and he spent about half the movie watching her reactions out of the corner of his eyes to make sure she reacted properly. Given the way she reacted, he concluded that she had in fact seen the movie before.

Their pizza arrived about half an hour in, forcing them to pause.

"I'll pay this time," she said, getting up and grabbing her wallet off of the table next to the couch. She hopped over to the door, opened it and grabbed the pizza that was almost as big as her. She set it on the floor and paid the driver, a bit more than he thought she should have. After closing the door, she picked up the pizza and brought it over to the couch, setting it between them.

Nick reached down and grabbed a slice, pleased with how warm it felt on his paws. He took a hearty bite and closed his eyes, humming in satisfaction.

Judy chuckled, saying, "You know, when I was a kid, I'm talking like, three or four, I really believed that most predators still ate meat regularly." Nick turned to look at her, his mouth stuffed full of pizza. She laughed again. She couldn't help but think that he looked so goofy with his cheeks puffed out and a string of hot cheese hanging from his lips as he looked at her in surprise. "You should swallow," she added.

He complied, and then spoke, "When did you realize that we didn't eat things we could have conversations with?" His tone was a little harsh, but he just wanted to see if he could make her squirm.

She grimaced a little, and said, "Long before I met my first fox." She smiled, and he rolled his eyes.

"Smooth," he said, looking back at the TV where their movie was still paused. He looked at his slice of pizza and took another bite.

Judy smirked mischievously and asked, her tone too sincere, "Have you ever eaten meat before?"

Nick choked on his food a bit and then swallowed, coughing a moment, before he looked at her with wide eyes. "What?! No! That's disgusting!"

She couldn't help but laugh, and when he realized she'd only asked it to get a reaction from him, he scowled at her, his ears pinning back against his head.

"Not funny…." he grumbled.

She shook her head, wiping her eyes with the back of her paw, "No you're right I'm sorry, it's not." She took a slice of pizza finally and took as big a bite as she could.

"At least, not since the first time I tried rabbit stew."

Now it was Judy's turn to choke on her food, and when she looked at Nick, he had a very serious expression on his face. For a second, a split second, she wondered if he had spoken the truth. He noticed and gasped.

"Carrots! I am shocked! You actually believe I would have ever eaten another mammal intentionally?" He then aggressively jammed another, larger bite of pizza into his mouth as he maintained eye contact with her. He started laughing in the middle of it and covered his mouth. She started laughing too.

"Dumb fox," she said, trying to force herself to stop laughing so she could eat.

They finished the pizza in silence, and after Nick got back from throwing the box in the trash, he sat down a little closer to her than before, but still apart, and picked up the remote. "Ready to resume?" He asked, looking at her. She nodded as she settled back into the couch and looked forward. He lingered looking at her a moment before he pressed play and looked forward.

As the movie progressed, a thought kept tugging at him. He ignored it, though, not worried that it would be too late to tell her another time.