Nick finds Judy texting in the lobby right before the start of their next shift. "Where've you been hiding, Officer Hopps?"
She puts her phone away quickly. "What makes you so curious?"
"Might have something to do with you being my partner, maybe?"
They walk side by side across the lobby toward the patrol car lot.
"If I patrolled Zootopia by myself there's a good chance I'd be arrested for impersonating an officer. I let you stick around to keep me honest."
"I doubt anyone can keep you honest for very long."
"What if I told you that underneath this thin veneer of sarcasm and impudence I'm actually an earnest, hard-working citizen? That I'm only pretending to be a master confox?"
"Pretending to be a hustler, Slick?"
"That would make you a hypocrite. A fraudulent fraudster!"
"Except those double negatives would make me the real deal."
"More like a real negative."
"Hey now!" He stops and leans on her shoulder, playing with her badge. "It's barely afternoon and you've already exceeded your wordplay quota for the day. Are you trying to outfox me? It ain't happening."
She wraps the end of his tie around her paw. "Me? Outfox you? Never! I've got plenty of fox in me already. I'd be uncomfortable asking for more."
"And unless they invent a way to change your DNA on the fly, that's the most fox you'll ever get. Look. Biology isn't everything, but foxes have a head start in the brains, senses, and overall craftiness departments."
Judy shakes her head in disbelief.
"Carrots, you're an extremely clever bunny. One of thousands of reasons why I'm hopelessly in love with you. But you'll never be a fox."
"Don't try to backpedal with that backpawed compliment! You're playing the species card!" She gives him a mocking smile and pulls his tie tight. "Which is what you do when your wit is failing and you're afraid you'll lose a jesting tournament to a dumb little bunny. I'll take that as your forfeit."
She lets go of his tie and they continue walking. "I never give up that easily," says Nick. "By the way, you haven't told me where you spent the rest of your lunch break."
"Don't be so obvious. You're trying to guess what your prank is going to be! Honestly, Nick, I'm disappointed. I thought you master confoxes were sneakier."
"Rabbit, I couldn't care less about the silly little diversions you call pranks. I am ungettable."
"Is that even a word?"
"It is now. Since nothing you'd do could possibly fool me, why should I get myself worked up over…"
"Ack! Oh mercy!" Clawhauser's voice echoes throughout the lobby.
Nick and Judy rush to the reception desk, where the cheetah spits out the remains of a donut into a napkin.
"You alright there?" Nick climbs behind Clawhauser's chair in an attempt to perform the Heimlich maneuver, but there's simply too much cheetah for him to grab.
"Goodness gracious!" Clawhauser coughs and clears his throat. "That was ridic!"
"What happened, Benji? Eating too fast?"
"Species card!" murmurs Judy. Nick shushes her with his paw.
"I don't really know! I was finishing up my box from this morning." Donut crumbs tumble down his chin. "And I took a bite from one of these chocolate cremes, but instead it tasted…"
"...like paw lotion?" Judy puts her paws on her hips. "Huh. I wonder how that happened?"
Clawhauser gasps. "You! You got me right where it hurt the most!" He laughs. "Oh goodness, taken down by the bunny! I have to give it to you, though, that was a stroke of genius!"
"Actually, it wasn't genius at all." Nick grabs the donut box from the desk. "I've seen this one before. You take a filled donut." He holds up another chocolate creme as an example. "And then you find yourself a reputable syringe. Creme comes out, lotion goes in. It's an old trick, Carrots."
"That may be true, but so is this."
He sets the box back. "What is?"
Judy grins and holds up five fingers. "One down. Five more to go."
They patrol the streets of downtown in the Z-240, making little conversation other than police chatter. Did she take the wordplay quota joke seriously? Nick hopes not. On most shifts, their banter is the only thing that makes the hours bearable.
He sips his afternoon coffee. What's that bunny thinking right now? Is she betting on getting him because they're together in a confined space? It won't be that easy. She can watch his every move, but he can watch hers, too. And smell, hear, feel, and even taste. He's got her covered.
The sporty red two-seater in front of them blows through a stop sign.
"Dumb move, buddy."
"You said it, Slick."
Judy flips on the lights, and the two-seater pulls over and puts on its emergency flashers. Nick radios their location and the car's plates to dispatch.
Traffic stops are always tense, but Judy's a pro at keeping cool and keeping herself out of danger. As she walks toward the vehicle, Nick watches its cervine driver for any signs of trouble. Nothing to radio Judy about.
The driver unrolls the window. She talks with him, gathers his license and registration, and hurries back to the patrol car. "You won't believe who we just pulled over!"
"I can believe a lot."
"It's Kevin Parkherd from Tame Impala!"
"No way! No way are you trying to prank me in the middle of a traffic stop!"
"It's not a prank! We're on duty! Come on, don't you want to meet him? He's being cooperative and he's just as down to earth as you could hope he'd be!"
"I'd love to meet him. But since he isn't in the vehicle we pulled over, that's not happening at the moment."
He grabs the ID out of her paws. "This says Chaim Parkstadewitz."
"Must be his birth name."
Judy enters the driver's data on the onboard computer, and Nick leans on her head. "Carrots. Please. Making someone look is the oldest prank in the book. A little cub can do that. It's as hoary as 'pull my finger' and 'did you know there's "gullible" written on the ceiling'. A more sophisticated hustler would be embarrassed by your tactics."
"I'm not hustling, Slick." She stops typing and gently removes his forelimb from between her ears. "Remember when Tame Impala played at the Palm Hotel Casino?"
Judy's going to play the nostalgia angle on this one. But he's had years of practice of not letting anyone get to him. She doesn't realize who she's up against. "Mm-hmm. How could I forget? One of the best evenings of my life."
"Glad you think so too." Judy scoots across the vehicle to Nick's seat and buries her face in his uniform. Her warm breath against his chest… Oh, bunny! He can't help but wrap his limbs and tail around her.
"We stood outside the doors because we didn't have tickets," she says. "I was wearing that salmon pink dress with the tiny clutch we bought that day at the thrift store. You were wearing your off-white suit with the black shirt."
"Always my favorite! And there, right on the carpet of the casino floor, was where you taught me how to dance. So I wouldn't just jump up and down like a dorky backwoods rabbit."
Nick rubs his paws on her back. "What was it I kept telling you to pay attention to?"
"Ears, head, shoulders, paws, tail, feet!"
"That's right, little bunny." He squeezes her tight and gives her a peck on the forehead. This is the moment she'll go in for the kill. "But you can't use our love as a weapon against me. That's out of bounds. And besides, I simply cannot be gotten."
"Fine! Don't believe me!" She scoots back to the computer and continues typing. "If you won't believe your own wife, it's your own loss."
"Not everyone is married to a conbunny, sweetheart."
"At least you admit I'm a con artist! That's some progress."
"I freely admit that you're a talented apprentice. You've got a long ways to go before you become a master."
Judy returns the keys to the metal cabinet in the garage when Francine bursts through the door, charging at them in a hot pink bathrobe with bunny ears.
"That's not really your color, hon." Nick sips his coffee. "Or your species."
"Judy Hopps! I bet you think this is really funny, don't you?"
The elephant leans on the garage wall, her giant bunny ears pointed straight up.
"I think you look amazing, personally! I'm a bit biased because I found that on sale during my lunch break."
"I knew the truth would out eventually." Nick jabs her with his elbow.
Francine shakes her head and trunk. "What did you do with my clothes, Judy Hopps! Where are my clothes!"
"Should I tell her?" She turns to Nick. "I'm torn."
"Naw. I think this is an improvement."
Francine waves her trunk at him, and he jumps behind Judy.
"You want to hear what your wife did? I was taking a shower in the locker room like I always do at the end of my shift. When I got out, someone had stolen the clothes out of my locker and replaced them with this... thing!" She tugs at the robe. "I ran upstairs to catch you two before you went on patrol, but you'd just left! So I've been hanging around Headquarters for hours until you got back!"
"I'll tell you where your clothes are." Judy steps up next to Francine's toes. "If you admit that I got you and you didn't see it coming."
"Yes! Just gimme back my clothes!"
"They're in the armory. Far back corner on the right, hidden underneath an elephant-sized emergency blanket."
Francine trumpets under her breath and hurries out of the garage, sending the floor rumbling.
Nick scratches his head. "As much as I enjoy an elebunny or a rabbiphant, that was a little overkill, Carrots."
"Really now? If you could take credit for it, you'd be bragging about my prank for the next six months."
"Breaking into a locker and stealing someone's clothes? It's edgy at best. Larcenous at worst. Making her wait until we got back was just mean."
"You know what they say, Nick. All's fair in love and war."
They walk towards the lobby. "So you've declared war on the ZPD?"
"Just on the six cops who laughed at me being humiliated."
"Fair deal." Nick grins. "So how exactly did you break into her locker? Did you guess her combo? Use a shim?"
She grins back. "I thought a master confox wouldn't have to ask! I mean, it's not like I've got a head start in brains, senses, and craftiness. I'm just a dumb bunny!"
"We master confoxes could use a little continuing education now and then. Tell me."
Judy shakes her head no. "A magician never reveals her tricks. Except for this one—" She holds up four fingers. "Two down, four more to go."
"No, better make that three attempted down. You had your chance with me and you blew it. I would never fall for your Lame Impala story."
She chuckles. "Oh no, that wasn't even a prank! Pulling over Kevin Parkherd was a sheer coincidence."
"Carrots! Stop trying. Stop. It's an exercise in futility to prank me."
Judy runs her paw from his cheek down to his knee. "There are some pranks that can't be prevented. No matter how clever you are or how prepared you are."
He raises a skeptical eyebrow. "Never heard of them."
"You will." She taps her foot and gives him the determined look he's seen when they've responded to a crime in progress. "Oh, you will, confox!"
And before Nick can get in another word, Judy scampers across the lobby.
She has to be crazy to be that serious about getting him. Crazy bunny! It's not like she can dig up another set of tax records or lead him around with a carrot pen. She has nothing on him... other than a marriage license and a shared apartment. But it's not like he doesn't know how to take care of himself on the streets.
Even so, stealing an elephant's clothes out of a locker took a lot of time and work for a little rabbit. And Francine wasn't even the main mammal she was trying to get even with...
"I've got a meeting in five minutes, so I'll cut this short." Bogo and a white mouse in a double-breasted suit pass through the lobby. The Chief points out Nick. "This is Officer Wilde, the first fox in our department. Wilde, this is our psychiatrist, Dr. Miles Ebbingmaus. I'll leave you two to get acquainted."
"Pleasure to meet you, doc." Nick shakes his mouse's paw, who then wipes it with a handkerchief and spritzes it with a tiny bottle of paw sanitizer.
"Likewise. Wilde is it?" Ebbingmaus pushes up his glasses and looks up to get a better look. "Are you by chance related to the renowned vulpine playwright…"
"My great-great-great-uncle. The wit supposedly runs in the genes."
"Fascinating! I read a paper recently on the inheritance of creative traits…"
Judy peers from around a corner and then walks directly toward them with a smile. Definitely not a good sign.
Ebbingmaus continues to talk, but Nick runs to confront that crazy bunny. He makes it halfway to the wall before she spins around, her tiny footsteps echoing down a hallway. She's just too quick.
Nick walks back to the psychiatrist. "Sorry about that. You were saying?"
"Nothing of great importance. Were you expecting someone just then? Don't let me keep you!"
"For the record, I was expecting her. She's trying to pull something."
Ebbingmaus looks around the quiet lobby. "Yes. I was saying that there's a strong probability that creative traits can be inherited across multiple generations when researchers adjusted for…"
Nick catches a quick whiff of her scent coming from the hallway. He points his nose toward it so abruptly that Ebbingmaus jumps back.
"What is it?"
He sniffs. "She's down there, trying to stay hidden. It might work on other mammals, but she can't hide from a fox!"
"Interesting." Ebbingmaus spritzes his paws with more sanitizer. "You know, as the first fox on the force, you are subjected to unique stressors your coworkers don't experience. I wrote the foreword to a book called The First But Not The Last, which offers coping mechanisms species pioneers can use when they feel isolated, frustrated or…"
Her scent again. Now Judy is approaching from the hallway behind them.
"Excuse me." Nick spins around and runs straight for the smell, but all he can see is a flash of white bunny tail— she's darted down the hall.
He strolls back to Ebbingmaus, paws in his pockets as if nothing happened.
"Sorry. You were saying?"
The psychiatrist cranes his neck to look down the hallway. "Was that 'her' again? I don't see anyone... "
"It was her, alright! She tells me over and over that she's going to get me. But she's wrong, doc! My senses are too finely developed. I can see, hear and smell things other mammals can't."
"Oh dear." He wrings his paws. "Well, I'm very happy we'll have a chance to meet one-on-one, Mr. Wilde. I'll do as much as I'm able to help you cope."
"Me? I'm doing fine upstairs! It's her I'm concerned about."
"Who is 'she'?"
"That crazy bunny!"
Here comes her scent again! Nick charges after it, abandoning the psychiatrist in the middle of the lobby.
He focuses on her white tail, running with his own tail straight out and his head low to the ground. A predator's stance. Instinct reminds him that when chasing a bunny, he should drop to all fours. Sure, why not?
Judy's ears perk up when his front paws hit the floor. She glances over her shoulder, wiggles her nose, and bounds on all fours herself.
Officers and staff jump out of the way as the fox and rabbit tear down the hall. Nick edges closer and closer… until Judy darts into the female restroom.
Not even the most vicious predator dares to enter there without risking a sharp kick from his wife.
Nick skids to a stop, stands upright, and pounds on the door.
"You crazy bunny! You can't sneak up on me! I'm onto you!"
He turns around— a tigress with a visitor badge is waiting to enter. Nick slides out of her way and tightens the knot on his uniform tie.
"After you, ma'am."
She pushes the door open and shoots him an alarmed look.