It only took the media two days to identify them from the pictures that ended up plastered all over social media, but to Judy's surprise the first requests for comment didn't come until after the story was covered by the evening news. She just stepped out of her apartment that Monday morning on her way to work and a dozen reporters immediately ambushed her in a dizzying flurry of questions. The experience was so disorienting she nearly had a flashback to her disastrous press conference.

She couldn't actually remember what had happened too well. At some point she'd gotten past them by insisting she needed to get to work while refusing to answer any questions. Then she'd sprinted to the train where she had enough time to collect her thoughts. Most of the mammals there had given her curious looks, and a few were openly hostile, but they left her alone. The whispered comments she'd overheard didn't count.

More reporters—many more—outside Precinct One. Then came the looks the other officers gave her and Nick, although there she only saw a few expressions of disapproval. The rest were simply curious. And a very pointed meeting with Captain Uncia where both she and Nick argued for the chance to prove they could remain partners, followed by a standard daily patrol where paparazzi followed them every step of the way.

In short, a flurry of new pressures neither she nor Nick were used to dealing with. She hadn't realized just how exhausting and invasive the constant attention would be. Everywhere they went the paparazzi lurked, and when there weren't paparazzi there were always others who took an interest. Cameras or phones seemed to be pointed at them no matter where they were. Even going out for a meal together seemed to attract attention.

There was also a new unknown any time she interacted with someone while with Nick, or when she was by herself but someone recognized her. Several times mammals had outright refused her help when she was on patrol with Nick, and once another bunny had recognized who she was and called her a… Well, nothing polite that was for sure!

The fawning curiosity some mammals had was even worse in a way. On the one hand they were never intentionally offensive, although many of the questions did tend to veer in that direction. It was more an issue of just how ever-present the attitude seemed. A jerk was a jerk, but then they went on their way. Curious mammals were completely insatiable.

No matter how many questions she or Nick answered there were always more, and there seemed to be very few boundaries that other mammals were willing to respect to satisfy their curiosity. The same questions were asked over and over again by different mammals. She'd lost track of how many times she'd had to tell someone that Nick had never bitten her even by accident. She also came to understand why the Lifeline forum had such a lengthy post explaining that predator/prey relationships were not a sexual kink. Some of the things she'd been asked made her flush just thinking about them.

And if she ever refused to answer a question because she was getting tired, or was busy with something else, or felt it was too personal, or just wasn't in a good mood to open up? Many mammals took offense to that as if they were entitled to have access to her.

The few mammals that responded to their relationship with indifference were a boon to be treasured. Bland disinterest was a blissful reprieve from the usual hostility (whether guarded or open) and the pestering questions. She hadn't realized just how many of her day-to-day interactions had fallen into that category until it was gone.

At least Captain Uncia appeared to be taking a "wait and see" approach so far, maintaining that she was willing to allow them to remain partners provided they could behave professionally while on-duty. That came at the cost of finding themselves under more scrutiny than the other officers, but it was a fair trade in Judy's opinion. Nick complained of course, but he threw himself into his job despite how boring he thought it was as if to prove to everyone that he could make things work out.

For all of that, Nick had been right about one thing: the news cycle was dominated by their relationship. Flip never completely disappeared from the news, but his coverage dwindled away. Neither of them went out of their way to push the story, the most they'd done was release a joint statement to the press in an email, but it almost seemed like that only fueled the media's thirst for more. Even the Lifeline forum was blowing up, with the regulars tracking the public reaction with a mixture of interest and very open concern. A few of the posters had hinted that they were beginning to consider coming out as well, something that filled Judy with hope even as she wondered if the kiss she'd given Nick might had inadvertently started something.

Mercifully the news cycle turned again after a few weeks, bringing with it Bogo's surprise announcement that he would be running for Mayor on a platform of reconciliation. So far he hadn't selected a running mate, but the impact was felt almost immediately. The day after a political cartoon made the rounds depicting a bunch of miniature clown hats inside a circle moments before they were to be flattened by a massive police officer's cap. Not all the attention had vanished, but the intensity had certainly become more bearable.

All of those were problems for the big city though, and for now Judy did her best to ignore them as she walked over the trails that crisscrossed the lands around Bunny Burrow with Nick at her side. A short vacation they'd planned to have some time alone, only to discover that news of their relationship had caused about as much uproar in her hometown as it had back in Zootopia. Her parents and most immediate family remained supportive, and many of the younger mammals tended more toward curiosity than fear or hostility, but finding herself facing the same problems where she'd grown up had been a shock. As had the realization that some of the mammals she'd gone to school with, even some who had previously called her a friend, now looked on her with disgust.

But Nick was with her, and that was all that mattered. She'd actually been surprised by how intent he was to experience as much of her hometown as possible in the short amount of time they had, and worried that the sometimes open animosity they faced would ruin the experience for him. He faced it all with his usual sarcasm despite the verbal abuse he occasionally received.

"So what is special about this trail?" Nick asked. It was the same question he always seemed to ask when she brought him somewhere.

Judy took a deep breath through her nose. "It's just a trail. The tri-county area is full of them."

"Then why choose to take a walk on this one instead of another one?"

"No reason," she said, then bounded a couple steps ahead so she could turn around to face him while walking backwards. "It's pretty out here. Isn't that enough of a reason?"

"I guess. Just thought maybe you had some sort of history with this particular one," Nick said as he looked around.

"Well, I did go jogging out here almost every day when I was training to enter the academy."

"Just jogging? You made me do a whole workout routine to prepare," Nick said, just a touch incredulous. "Three whole months of you busting my tail every day."

Judy gave him the biggest smile she could. "And you should be glad for it too because you were as soft as a marshmallow back then. Plus when I got accepted I learned pretty quick that jogging hadn't been enough to prepare me. Ended up needing to work twice as hard to make up the difference. How many tries did it take you to complete the obstacle course?"

Nick took a moment to think, silently counting to himself. "Um…Probably seven or eight before I finally made it through everything. Thing really isn't designed with smaller mammals in mind."

"See? It took me closer to two dozen," Judy said. Her ears dipped down the slightest bit. "Twenty-one tries actually. The instructor said I was close to washing out for a little while."

"Really? That many?"

"That many," she confirmed.

Nick opened his mouth, then closed it again, ears tilting back thoughtfully for a moment before he finally spoke. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

They continued down the trail, idly trading ideas on how to go on a date without feeling like they were putting on some sort of show. Early on they'd learned that restaurants were off limits for that sort of thing. Going to the movies didn't turn out any better. Apparently just being there together was enough to cause disruptions and they were asked to leave. Nick thought things might turn out differently if they arrived separately, but somehow the idea of sneaking in that way just ruined the fun. A backhanded reminder that her relationship with Nick was somehow seen as less worthy of respect than other relationships. Sometimes it seemed like the best she could hope for was that other mammals would view her relationship with Nick as something to be fetishized; at worst something to be scorned.

At some point they ended up holding hands, something they'd been doing more and more often recently when they were off-duty. It was getting to where she could instantly recognize Nick's hand when it closed around hers. The amount of pressure he used when squeezing, the way his thumb traced over the back of her hand, even the way he made sure that his claws never found their way to her skin.

And the best part? Now the hand holding inevitably led to hugs, and those naturally progressed into kissing (once they were no longer in public, of course). Still taking things slow, they were continuing to lean on the breaks pretty heavily after that first week, but that only meant there was room to talk each new step over until they were both comfortable with moving forward.

So when Nick began to slow down she was caught completely by surprise when she tried to pull him along and he simply let her hand slip free. Confused, she turned back to him to discover he was staring at an ancient tree with a tire swing hanging from a branch. Without a word he walked over to the swing and touched it. The rubber was nearly crumbling from exposure to the elements, and the rope was beginning to fray. Nick gave the tire a light push, then looked around the surrounding area.

"Something wrong?" she asked.

That seemed to snap him out of his reverie. "This place, you sent me a selfie standing right here," he said, then pulled out his phone and flicked through several images until he found the right one. "See?"

Judy stared at a picture of herself grinning at the camera while she stood beside the swing. "I can't believe you bothered to save that."

"Why wouldn't I?"

"It's just a silly thing I took so I could send it to you," she said, her ears tilting back. "Honestly I don't even know why I did. It was just something I started doing when I got here."

Nick looked back at his phone, running his claw over the image lightly. "So did your dad hang this up for you or something?"

"No. I have no clue where it came from, just stumbled across it one day," she recalled, her ears folded back. "I think mom and I were fighting at the time, we did that a lot when I was in my late-teens because she kept trying to make me give up on the police officer dream. She'd convinced herself it was just a phase, or something I was doing for attention."

Nick tilted his head to one side. "Really? I got the impression your parents supported you the whole way through."

"They did, but they never really agreed with what I was doing," she told him, looking at the tire swing again. She reached out to run her hand over its cracked surface. "Looking back on it I realize they were just worried that I would fail and be crushed, but back then it messed with me a lot. Seeing my parents do all this stuff for me so I could follow my dreams while whispering behind my back about how worried they were…

"Anyway, when I found the swing I just jumped into it and had a good cry once I was sure I was alone. Just worrying that everyone was right and that it wasn't worth the trouble. Probably sounds weird, but it made me feel a little better to let that out from time to time. After I just always felt determined again."

A hand brushed her cheek, then down over her neck to rest on her shoulder. "I don't think that's crazy at all," he whispered. "It's actually kind of refreshing."

"Oh? And why is that?"

Without warning, Nick's hands both went for her sides and began tickling without mercy. "Because it means even my invincible bunny girlfriend can't be strong all the time!"

She squealed in surprise, gasping for air as the tickling made her laugh hard enough that it was difficult to even breathe. By the time she managed to fend him off and had jumped out of range her eyes were watering, her body quivering as small fits of giggling continued to take her.

She pointed a finger at Nick while he put on the most innocent expression he could manage. "J-just wait until I catch you."

"Should I be worried?" he asked, a smile slowly spreading across his muzzle. "What are you going to do?"

"That depends entirely on if anyone's around to see," she said and matched his smile.

AN: Thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, and commented on this story!

I have finally started posting the sequel to this story: Incidental Matters. You can find it by checking the list of stories I have published on my author page.