Author's note —
You've probably heard of Radiohead. Great music. Give Daydreamer a listen. Definitely hits you in the feels, my favourite mood to write in.
Here's a new chapter. I loved the comments I got from a couple of people saying my writing was "adorable." That's one of my goals. Glad to see it being fulfilled. Frankly, I'm having a hard time not going full-on fluff.
Here's a good amount of it up front.
Throughout the night, Judy pictured a million different things in her dreams. In one of them, she was taking a long walk through the city. Nick wasn't anywhere near her—nowhere to be found—so she was walking alone on her seemingly pointless scenic route through Tundratown, Sahara Square, Savanna Central, and the Rainforest District. The rush-hour traffic, the hundreds of mammals passing her on the street without paying any attention to her, the absence of her partner; it was just her mind painting the image for her… And she felt lonely without him.
In another, she relived the first day of her life in Zootopia. She remembered how that day started in her hometown and ended in her new apartment. She hugged her parents tightly for a good thirty seconds. Neither Judy, nor her mom or dad wanted the moment to end. Tears of joy streamed from their eyes as the soon-to-be bunny cop rolled out of the station in Bunnyburrow, en route to the biggest opportunity of her life. The separation anxiety already started to set in when she was halfway to the city.
She remembered the first time she met Nick, her first day on the job. That wasn't exactly a situation to be proud of, since the first time they were introduced to each other was during one of his cons. She was merely a pawn in his less-than-enormous scheme, and she recalled how hurt she was to realize he was just using her. Even so, she probably wouldn't be one of the best officers in the ZPD if it weren't for him. Had she never trusted a fox for once, her life would be totally different. She wouldn't still be an officer. Ultimately, she might have just been a carrot farmer, exactly like her parents wanted.
She thought, Thank goodness I wasn't.
She awoke rather abruptly with her eyes still closed. The same warmth of Nick's fur was still surrounding her; he'd remained completely still through the whole night. She could feel herself squeezing something soft between her arms. She opened one eye slowly to get a better look at what it was: a bright-red tail. She smiled. A part of her mind hoped that he didn't wake up in the middle of the night and realize that they were in a slightly compromising position, but she soon realized that if he hadn't withdrawn it while she was asleep, he probably never found out… Unless he was secretly fine with it.
Both of her eyes were wide open now. She lifted her head, ears pinned back, and let her eyes wander around Nick's apartment. It looked almost identical to her own in terms of floor plan, but there wasn't a whole lot of furniture in the small den. It looked as though someone was moving out of the place. His previous residence was a basement filled with rusty pipes and all-brick walls, and there was rarely any light at all inside, save for a few dusty cage lamps. This apartment was definitely an upgrade, but not so much regarding aesthetics. He could have at least put a painting on the wall or a plant in the corner.
Maybe someday I'll teach him a thing or two about interior decorating.
She felt Nick's breathing start to quicken, and he began to stir as she kept holding onto his tail, not wanting to part with it. He opened his eyes slightly to see the bunny lying so closely to him, and he noticed that she was hugging his tail, failing to pretend that she was still asleep. He sighed through his snout and tried to speak, but his words came out as barely-articulated moans.
"Didn't I make you promise nothing weird would happen?" She grimaced slightly in response, seeing that her charade was easily broken.
"Yeah, and I kept my promise, didn't I? Would you classify this as 'weird'?"
"Mmhm, I'd say this is kinda weird."
"Aww, but this thing is so fluffy! I wish I could make an entire blanket out of your fur," she giggled, "I bet it'd be a lot nicer than Mr. Big's rug."
The slightly-irritated fox tried to pull his tail away with little effort, and Judy didn't find it challenging at all to keep a firm grip on it between her arms. He was going to have to persuade her to let go. He strained to turn his head and look at the alarm clock on the wooden side table. Six seventeen in the morning. They had a little time before they were due at work.
"Can I please have my tail back?"
"Can I please not give it back?"
"Why're you so attached to me all of the sudden, Carrots?"
"Am I not always this attached?" She was desperately trying to justify her actions.
"No, you never are. Now, I said 'please,' so can you let go?"
"You're going to have to fight me for it."
"I'd rather not, and we're going to be late if you keep this up. Drop the game, Carrots."
She glanced at the clock, "We have a little time to waste."
He'd had enough at that point, and he was genuinely annoyed with her. He abruptly jumped up off the bed, and the weight difference was enough to make the mattress shoot the bunny a few feet into the air, causing her to both yelp and lose her grip mid-flight. The fox just smiled, laughing hysterically on the inside at her reaction.
He could never stay annoyed with her for long.
She regained her composure a few seconds after landing back on the bed and frowned at him. "Hey, that wasn't fair!"
Still smiling, he pointed at himself, "Sly fox," and then pointed at her, "dumb bunny."
She groaned and fell back onto the covers as he smoothed out the fur of his tail. He didn't hesitate at all to decide who would get a shower first, because he felt that he deserved it after the awkwardness that Judy caused between them.
Of course, neither of them found it weird. Nick was just really good at hiding it.
Despite what happened earlier that morning, the partners still managed to make it to the precinct on time… Or, rather, a few minutes late. Nick didn't care too much about it, but Judy started to think that she shouldn't have put up so much of a fight while they were supposed to be getting ready. He assured her that it was fine, and that it wouldn't be the end of the world to ruin a perfect record of eight o'clock entrances, but she still stressed over it. He knew how much she'd talked about beating herself up over it, if it ever happened.
She rambled on about possible reasons for being late, "Maybe we should have skipped coffee."
"No, Carrots, you know we can't skip that. I'd be dragging you in here if that were the case," he grinned, "and we both know the real reason we're late."
All he got in return was an irritated groan, "Don't remind me."
Clawhauser noticed their arrival and waved at them happily, as always. The bunny found herself smiling and waved back, as if his attitude was contagious. How did she go from being stressed over their lateness, to being her usual happy self, in just a few seconds?
"Hey, you two! How's my favourite pair of officers?"
"Late for work, that's how we're doing." Nick smiled slyly, knowing his remark would only tease his partner more. He loved to rub it in her face when she shamed herself over little things like being a few minutes late.
The cheetah smiled, playing along with his teasing a little, "Huh, I noticed. What held you up?"
"She's got a thing for me, that's all. No big deal." He could feel her punching his arm, which elicited a chuckle from him. Sometimes he questioned why she didn't punch him harder.
"I do not."
Neither of them noticed it, but Ben was letting out an elated sigh as he held his head in his slightly-outstretched paws, elbows resting on the desk. He mumbled to himself, "You two are so adorable."
"What was that, Benny?" Judy snapped him out of his own daydreaming.
"Oh, n-nothing…" He took a deep breath for a moment, "So, are you ready for this tiny case file Chief Bogo asked me to give you?"
"It can't be that bad. Pass it over."
He inhaled sharply through his teeth, showing the pain he felt for them having to take on such a difficult case, and slid the red folder across the marble of the desk. She jumped up to grab it right before it fell over the edge.
"Nice catch." The fox quipped. He earned a slight scowl from her, like she was taking it as an insult because it sounded sarcastic. "Oh, come on. I meant it."
She slowly opened the folder in anticipation of at least a hint of information. Her small bit of hope was nullified as soon as she saw the one piece of paper clipped to the card stock.
Main suspect: Jorrad Felidae
Possible connections: None
… Not even a photo?
It was like reading the same case file from her first day on the force. Except, the name of a criminal mastermind was inscribed on it in monospace letters instead of the name of a kidnapping victim. That, and she had a lot more time on her paws than just forty-eight hours. Memories of the malicious jaguar's countless infringements came pouring into her brain as she read the name. Hopefully the folder would be filled with possible info in due time.
Nick whistled in awe at how little they had to go on, "Got any other cases we can trade that in for?"
Clawhauser laughed at his comment, "Nope, sorry."
"Good, because we don't even need a new one," Judy wore a confident expression, "I already have some ideas."
Her partner looked a bit surprised. "Wow, I can't believe you're on top of this. Lead the way, Carrots."
She waved behind her as they both walked off toward the door. The bunny cop had a strut in her step, like she was almost overly-excited to be taking on this case. It was disconcerting to Nick that she was so optimistic about it, he thought she was simply full of false hope, or maybe she was trying to hide the fact that she really didn't have any ideas at all. Clawhauser trusted that she'd get them off to a good start.
He shouted across the lobby, "Good luck! I think you're gonna need it!"
"How about I drive for a change? You need a break."
"I always drive, and I have reasons for it, Wilde."
"Like what? You know I have a valid licence, right?"
She laughed half-heartedly, "Knowing you, it's probably forged."
"You wound me, Carrots!" He held a paw up to his chest. "Come on, give me a chance. Besides, you'll be able to better concentrate on what we're going to do about this monstrous case."
"Alright, fine. I'll take shotgun. Happy?"
He smiled, "Ecstatic."
When they got to the cruiser, they each boosted themselves up with the help of the running boards on either side to open the oversized doors, and jumped up into the cab of the zebra-painted truck. Nick found himself having to adjust the seat because it was already set to accommodate his partner's size, and he felt squished in the tiny amount of space she needed when she drove.
"Alright, where are we headed?" He finally questioned after moving the seat back.
She hesitated, knowing the question would bring back unwanted memories.
"Do you still talk to Finnick?"
His face scrunched up at the name. He hadn't seen his old 'business partner' in the last year and a half. That fennec fox would most likely punch him in the face on the spot if he ever saw Nick again, because anyone could imagine how heartbreaking it is to never hear from your only friend ever again.
"Right… Finnick." He looked down blankly, and Judy started to feel bad for asking.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. We don't have to go and see him if you don't want to."
He was about to say no, but he realised that that their only possible source of information at that point was who Judy was suggesting, so he decided to take a chance. How bad could it hurt, right?
He started to look up, returning to a neutral expression. "No, it's fine. I think I still remember where he usually parks his van."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, a hundred percent. The worst he could do is punch me in the face, but I sorta deserve it anyway."
"Let's hope that doesn't happen."
"Yeah…" They rolled out of the parking lot. "And off we go."
"Don't crash this thing."
"You have trust issues."
The rush-hour traffic was just dying down as they were about five minutes away from the secluded alleyway in which Finnick usually parked his rusty old van. Nick wouldn't be surprised if the fennec was still living in that thing, because ever since he left him to join the ZPD, he seemed to be doing even worse than when they were still working together. Finn seemed to be merely a sidekick to his taller counterpart back then.
The cruiser pulled over to the side of the street, which was devoid of any parking meters. This area of the city was known to live and breathe crime. Never a dull moment here, but never a good one, either.
"Alright, this is the place."
"Wow. He couldn't have picked a better place to stay."
"You want me to go first?"
"Of course I do. You don't want your favourite bunny to get hurt, do you?"
"Oh, what would I ever do if I lost you?" He sounded completely sarcastic.
"I can think of a few scenarios."
"Yeah, so can I," without thinking about it, he exposed himself a little, "so don't go anywhere, okay?"
"I'm always here for you." She tenderly placed a paw on his for a moment, but he quickly pulled away and played it off after realising his mistake. He was starting to break his own rule.
Don't let anyone see that they've gotten to you, Nick. He repeated to himself in his head.
…Not even her.
Even so, he promised that one day in the future, he'd finally be able to be vulnerable around her. Not today, though.
"Anyway," he sighed, "I guess I'll go and see if he's home."
She watched him leave the cruiser and make his way down the long alleyway, toward Finnick's lonesome van. Even in daylight, the whole place looked a little daunting. Trash was littered everywhere, because somehow the mammals that left it there couldn't see the copious amounts of dumpsters lining the brick walls. It looked like a dump. Probably the way Finnick liked it most. The further Nick walked, the darker it became, save for the light at the far end given off by the fennec's van. A look of unease made its way to Judy's face.
He finally stood in front of the van's side door, contemplating whether or not he should knock. Now, he was really thinking about how much it would hurt. There was no doubt in his mind that Finnick was going to hit him out of pure anger for leaving him such a long time ago. He nervously looked at Judy, who was still sitting in the cruiser, poised to strike if things went bad. He knew she had his back. That's what friends— partners were for.
He gave her a thumbs-up, the nervous look still plastered on his face. He took a deep breath, then another, and took two hesitant steps up to the door. He knocked quietly. At the same time, he wondered why there wasn't any deafeningly-loud music coming from the inside to drown out the sound of the knock. The sound of soft knuckles hitting metal echoed slightly through the alley.
It felt like an hour had passed.
Then, suddenly, the door swung open, and the retaining lock clicked it into place to prevent it from accidentally sliding shut. Startled, Nick slowly turned his gaze down to the ground, where a disgruntled-looking Finnick stood. He wielded a wooden baseball bat in one of his tiny paws.
This is going to be worse than I thought.
"What. The hell. Are you doing here." The fennec hissed through clenched teeth.
Nick started to feel himself tense up, "Hey, Finn! How's life? You still managing?"
That's when he snapped. He didn't get the answer he was looking for, and he wasn't going to deal with Nick's act. He quickly swung the bat straight into the red fox's chest, which was still padded sufficiently by the bulletproof vest he was wearing, but he winced and fell to the ground in pain nonetheless. He stifled a cry for help, knowing that it was technically what he deserved. Frankly, it was still a bit harsh.
"Why are you here!? After the years you left me to rot." The smaller fox's deep voice was in a much more angered tone now, and he bellowed the words down at him.
Judy watched in horror from a distance as Nick lay there on the ground, clutching his lower abdomen, eyes glued shut. She could have sworn that she saw a tear fall from one of them. This was probably the most vulnerable form of Nick she'd ever seen, and admittedly, she didn't like seeing it.
"I… Just wanted to c-catch up with an old friend…" He could barely speak, because it was still difficult for him to get air out of his lungs. The blow had managed to wind him pretty badly.
A faint voice came from far away, "Nick, are you okay?!"
"Great… Fine…" He struggled to call back to her. He slowly put a thumb up in the air.
Finnick growled and added, "Stay outta this."
He continued, facing Nick, "Why hadn't you done that earlier, then?"
"I was… An idiot… I put my new life before my best friend."
"Sorry, I couldn't hear you, say that first part again."
"I-I'm an idiot."
"Yes you are."
Finnick had already eased up a little, and the pain in Nick's chest had subsided slightly. He offered a paw down to him and helped him up, patting him on the back reassuringly. Nick kept holding an arm around his abdomen.
"And we both know that's not why you're here." He pointed at the cruiser with his gaze. Judy was already out and running toward her injured partner.
"Nick! Are you okay? Anything broken?" She still sounded a little worried. "I was going to come and tase him if he hit you again."
Finnick scoffed. "Typical." He threw the bat to the ground.
"I'm fine, Carrots." He allowed her to place one of his arms over her shoulder to support him, "Thanks."
She shifted her gaze over to Finnick, who was eyeing her unusually. "Don't you think that was a bit harsh?"
He scoffed, "Of course not. He deserved that."
"Yeah, he's right. Seriously, don't worry about it. I'll be fine."
A moment later, Finnick felt the need to ask the question.
"So, this is your new girlfriend, huh?" He smiled.
"We're not a thing." Judy droned. She already figured that everyone she knew would soon be asking the same thing.
He chuckled, "Too bad, 'cause Nick hasn't had any action in a long time."
"Ugh. Shut up." Nick threw back. Judy giggled as well, but he just rolled his eyes.
He added, "Neither have you, buddy."
The inside of the fennec's red van was just as much of a dump as the alleyway in which it resided. Empty cans and wrappers littered the floor and passenger seat. He saw that seat as the perfect garbage collector since Nick wasn't staying in there with him anymore.
Finnick gnawed on something that looked vaguely familiar to a steak while Judy recalled everything they knew about Jorrad and the case they were just put on. Meanwhile, Nick was recovering beside her, not adding much to the conversation.
"…So that's why we came for your help." She finished, then added, "Do you think you know anything about him?"
He thought for a second, putting a paw to his chin, "Yeah. I think I remember a gang leader, went by that name. Didn't like putting up with a whole lotta mammals' nonsense."
"Do you… Remember anything about him? Where his gang usually hung out?"
"Hmm… I'd have to talk to a few guys I know. They'll know more than me."
"Alright… Should we come back, say, tomorrow?"
"Nah, don't bother, I'll come to you. I've been to that precinct enough to know how to get there myself."
"Great! See you tomorrow, then. It's getting late, anyway. We're almost done for the day."
He chuckled, "In more ways than one, am I right?"
An almost fully-recovered Nick groaned, "Can we go before he makes this any more awkward?"
"Oh, shut up, Wilde. You know that you're a couple waiting to happen."
"I'm not exactly counting on it." Wait, am I? He silently questioned himself.
Finnick motioned for Judy to come in closer for a second, and whispered something into one of her tall ears, inaudible to Nick. He became a little irritated at the possible secret being kept from him.
"What is it?"
She giggled, backing away from the fox and returning to face Nick, "Nothing."
He groaned, "Now you're keeping secrets from me?"
"No, it's not a big one. I wouldn't even say it's a secret. More of a surprise."
"Whatever. Let's get going." He took Judy's paw and opened the door, exposing the alleyway on the outside.
She called to Finnick on their way out, "I hope you get some good info for tomorrow!"
"I'll try, Cottontail."
They both made their way back to the cruiser, which was still intact right where they left it, almost surprisingly. Judy told Nick that she'd drive this time, because he still had some recovering to do. He agreed without reluctance and made himself as comfortable as possible on the ride back to the precinct. At some point, he remembered falling asleep on the rather long returning trip, waking up after what felt like twenty minutes of uninterrupted napping.
Once they were back, they reported to Clawhauser about their possible informant, and that they would resume the case tomorrow due to a lack of any other evidence or leads. The rest of the day, as always, was paperwork. Tons of it. Then, at the end of the day, they clocked out and walked back to the apartment together. Judy was carrying something in a white plastic bag.
"So, what were you whispering to Finnick earlier? And what's in the bag?"
"Oh, right. He just told me to get you one of these." She pulled a blueberry pie out of the bag. A concave, clear-plastic top shielded it from Nick. If it weren't there, he would have already stolen a slice.
"Really? You could have just told me."
"You want it or not?"
"Of course I do."
"Great, because there's a catch."
"Oh boy." He didn't want to ask, but then again, he was going to get that pie even if it meant doing something regrettable. "What's the catch?…"
"I get another sleepover. And we're going to be a bit lenient on the 'nothing weird' policy."
"How lenient is lenient?"
"Yeah, I'm not sure I want to see."
She smiled deviously. "Do you want the pie, or not?"
It turned out to be almost the same as the night before. Judy was curled up on the inside of his chest, and her head rested on one of his arms. The tail was off-limits, however, which wasn't her favourite rule, but she got over it.
"I guess this isn't as bad as I thought."
"And you got a pie for it. How easy was that?"
"You know I can't say no to a pie. That was a pretty mean bribe, Carrots."
"Finnick suggested it, none of this was my idea."
"So, he's basically a wingman now?"
"I guess you could say that."
He didn't really mind the closeness. It was definitely a change from his usual routine. He enjoyed her company a fair amount, and didn't really see anything wrong with it as long as it was strictly platonic. Although, he figured that Finnick would have intended for it to be the opposite of platonic. He silently thanked his old friend for the set-up.
I guess I can't stay away from you, either, Fluff.
Author's footnote —
Holy cow! I'm overwhelmed by the flood of people coming to read this fic once I put out chapter two. Thanks for the support, friends.
And of course, UmbraTsuki helped out a whole lot with his comments. There were some minute details that he highlighted just to make the personalities of the characters feel more true-to-canon. Thanks, man!