Judy watches her husband from their bed, browsing through her Critter feed on a tablet. "Is all this really necessary?"
Nick wears a ZPD hazmat suit in the safety of the hallway. Beside him, Officer Delgato uses a laptop to navigate a bomb disposal robot through the apartment.
"Are your pranks a threat to life and limb?" Nick's voice is muffled by the suit. "Yes. Yes, they are."
She sighs. "Nick. Be reasonable. Do you honestly think I'd hurt anything more serious than your pride?"
"I think you're a desperate bunny out for sweet revenge. I'm not taking any chances around you."
"The other five cops didn't lose their lives or limbs!"
"Oh they could have! And I've got the sneaking suspicion that you're saving the best for last."
Judy cracks a smile. "You're right about that."
"But it won't happen, Carrots! I cannot be gotten!"
The robot grabs Nick's toothbrush and shampoo off the shelf with its hydraulic arm.
"Does 'cannot' mean that you're incapable of being gotten, or would being gotten be a giant blow to your ego?"
"What do you care?" He carefully steps to the threshold. "All you care about is winning. Doesn't matter how mean or vicious the game gets as long as you come out on top. Isn't that how you think?"
She puts the tablet down and offers him a sympathetic look. "It isn't. You're playing our game too seriously! I'm not out to make your life a living hell! All I'm after is a little payback— just a teensy bit of fun at your expense. Like you had with me."
"And you're not going to get it."
"Why is this such a big deal to you? Are you afraid of me?"
The robot runs over a creaky floorboard and Nick jumps, hitting his head against the doorframe.
"Oh no!" Judy stifles her laugh. "Are you hurt?"
He holds out his paw in warning. "Don't you come near me!"
"This is too much! I'm proposing a ceasefire. Right now." She pats the bed. "You spend the night with your bunny and I promise I won't prank you. Simple as that. If I do, I forfeit the game. And then we'll pick up where we left off at work."
"I can't see your face! Nick, please. Take off that suit! I want to see your handsome face! Show me that I haven't hurt you over a silly game."
"How dumb do you think I am, rabbit? If I take this off, you'll release some foul substance that will make me cough, itch, burn, puke, or become otherwise indisposed."
"I would never do that to you! Oh my poor fox!" Judy hops out of bed and rushes toward him. "This is totally gonna get me glittered, but you're way too important to let that stop me!"
"Stop it! Stop it!" He runs backwards until his suit bumps against the wall of the hallway. "Don't come any closer! Delgato, back me up!"
The tiger stands in front of the door, blocking Judy from leaving.
"I'll call off the twenty-four hours completely." She peers around Delgato's leg. "Swear to God. If I break my promise, you can prank me without consequence until the day I die. But only if you apologize for humiliating me yesterday."
Nick struggles to cross his limbs under the thick hazmat suit.
"A simple apology. No, not even that! Just two words. 'I'm sorry.' Even better— 'I'm sorry, Judy.' Or 'I'm sorry, Judy, my amazing wife who happens to be a master conbunny.' And afterwards, we'll celebrate the end of the game. Right here in this pre-warmed bed."
She raises her eyebrow.
"You know I hate spending the night alone without my big fox to keep me company."
"You'd call it all off?"
"And then we'll..."
"...not even joking. All you have to do is say you're sorry."
What an incredible bunny. Oh, she's the greatest mammal in the world! Nick sees himself throwing off the hazmat suit, picking her up and tossing her onto the mattress.
He takes several steps forward. "I love you to death, little bunny."
Judy slips around Delgato. "I love you too."
"But sorry. No."
"No?" say Pronk and Bucky in unison through the wall.
"That's right. No."
She frowns. "Well why won't you!"
"Because accepting a truce would be a concession. I'd admit that you're capable of getting me. Which despite the events of today you are still not. There is only one master conmammal in this household, and it happens to be yours truly."
Judy's jaw drops. "You! You! You are the most... stubborn fox! To turn down… my goodness!"
"Uh huh. And you, rabbit, are a real pushover."
She grabs the toothbrush and shampoo out of the robot's claw and throws them into the hall. "Here. Take your toiletries! Five down, one more to go, buster! You better watch that big fluffy tail of yours, because I will get you!"
She punts the robot out of the room and slams the door.
Delgato looks at Nick and shakes his head. "Good going, Wilde. Must have been fun being married." He begins packing the robot in its case.
Nick unzips the hazmat suit enough to check his phone: Fifteen hours. Fifteen hours to avoid being gotten.
But he can pull it off. He's a fox, after all.
Nick walks for nine blocks until he feels alone enough to request a Zuber. The responding driver turns out to be an arctic hare. Oh yikes.
It's probably nothing. Zootopia is home to dozens of millions of mammals. Judy can't know all the leporids.
The car pulls to a stop, and the hare steps out to open the back door. That's a nice touch. Or he's sucking up because...
"Howdy fox! The name's Steve. Looks like you're headed to the Outback Island Marriotter?"
Nick gets in. "Right."
"Nice place!" Steve drives off. "You know I can only take you as far as the aerial tram. The island's for pedestrians only."
"Exactly. Nice and isolated." He turns around and looks out the back window. "By the way, we might be followed. Know how to lose them?"
"Sure!" The arctic hare snaps his chewing gum. "You got a crazy girlfriend or something?"
"Something like that."
How would he guess? Maybe he sees this a lot. Or maybe...
Nick keeps a close eye on the GPS in case the driver makes an unexpected turn.
Forty minutes later, the Zuber is making its way through the dull suburban boulevards of the Meadowlands. They're still on target, and so far the driver hasn't done anything out of the ordinary. But he could report Nick's location back to Judy. What if he already did that when he got the ride request?
It's so unlikely. It would only happen if he and Judy had some previous connection. Nick has to know.
"What's your name again, buddy?"
"That's right. Tell me, Steve." Nick leans on the back of the front passenger seat. "Where'd you grow up? Zootopia?"
"Nah. I come from a burrow. Way to the south of the city."
That could easily be a coincidence.
"Eh, you've probably never heard of it."
"I probably have. I'm married to an Eastern Cottontail."
"No kidding!" Steve glances over his shoulder and he gives him a thumbs up. "You're alright in my book, fox! So how do you like rabbit culture? You foxes probably think it's pretty lame."
"I like it enough."
"Good answer! Very political. You and your doe must get along great."
They pass strip malls and cookie-cutter subdivisions.
"So what's the name of your burrow?"
"It's called Bunnyburrow."
Nick gulps. Hold on, Bunnyburrow is huge— hundreds of square miles and millions of residents. No need to panic.
"Huh! That just happens to be where my wife grew up. Maybe you know her."
"Doubt it. The rabbits down there multiply like rabbits. What's her name?"
Steve gasps. "That's right, she did marry a fox! Oh wow, what a coincidence! Judy and I went out in high school! We just stay in touch on Muzzlebook these days... "
Nick's heart pounds and his fur stands on end. So she colluded with the Zuber driver. Goddamit, rabbit, you are so not getting me!
"I know all about you and Judy!" Nick points an accusing claw. "I know what you two have been up to!"
"Hey, wait a minute!" Steve's ears go down. "When I said we went out…"
"You can't hide it from me!"
"...that was years ago! Listen, I haven't seen your wife face to face..."
"And you thought you two could get away with it behind my back!"
"No! No!" Steve gulps. "I swear, fox, I swear!"
"Stop this car!"
"I'm innocent! I haven't touched her!"
"Stop this car RIGHT NOW!"
Nick leaps into the passenger seat and grabs the steering wheel out of Steve's paws. The car swerves the other side of the road and lurches to a halt on the shoulder of Meadowmont Boulevard.
He yanks at the passenger door— stuck! Must be the child safety lock. Nick reaches to the driver's side in search of the child safety toggle and accidentally bumps Steve on the head.
"Oh God, don't hit me, fox!" Steve shields himself with his paws. "We broke up years ago!"
Where is that damn toggle? The interior is black, and Nick's night vision isn't offering much help. He fumbles around the door and steering column and ends up shoving Steve against the window.
"Ow!" The hare crouches and covers his head. "We never even went past second base!"
"That crazy bunny knew you were a Zuber driver, and she tipped you off so you would be the one to pick me up!"
Nick finds the toggle, unlocks the door, and jumps out into the night.
"She thinks she's so slick, but she's not as slick as Nicholas P. Wilde! You tell her that!"
He slams the door and runs the remaining six miles to the aerial tramway. Perhaps Steve really was innocent… who knows. It's hard to tell in the fog of war that rabbit has created. And Nick can't afford to take any chances.
As soon as he sets foot on the island, Nick stops at the local Targoat to buy a baseball bat for protection. Fourteen hours left.
After lifting the mattress, pulling off the sheets and comforter, taking down the drapes and rehanging them, and inspecting the closets, drawers, and bathroom sink cabinets with a flashlight, Nick feels safe enough to lie down on the bed with his bat and hope for sleep.
Sleep never comes. Every noise inside and outside the hotel stirs him back to consciousness.
He checks his phone: 3:49 AM.
Almost sixteen hours without being gotten. Eight hours left.
She's probably sitting in the lobby right now, trying to hustle the wallaby receptionist into giving her his room number. It'll never work— Nick told the front desk that no one was to find out where he was staying. Even if she claimed to be his wife.
Sorry, Carrots. Your fox was three steps ahead, as always.
The wind blows through the trees outside— his ears go back and he lifts the baseball bat, ready to strike.
What if he took tomorrow off and got out of the city completely? If he left for the countryside now he could get in a long, cozy nap by dawn...
No! He can't win on a technicality! That's the loser's way out!
Nick is going to beat that crazy bunny's game fair and square. No matter what it takes.
"Uh… Nick?" Clawhauser sets down his donut and stares. "I don't want to be rude? But uh… I don't think you should be at work today?"
"Why?" Nick props himself up on the reception desk, dark bags under his bloodshot eyes. His uniform is frumpled, his collar flipped up to one side. "Because you think she's going to…" He yawns. "Get me? I'm at the top of my game, chubby cheetah!" His eyelids fall shut. "She doesn't stand a chance..."
Nick shakes himself awake.
"No, it's… uh…" Clawhauser whispers: "Chief's not going to let you go on patrol like that! You look terrible!"
Nick adjusts his tie knot, lowering it and making it more cockeyed. "I'm here to see my darling glitter get covered in bunny." He yawns. "Or the other way around." He picks up his baseball bat and trudges into the bullpen.
Only three hours left! Thank God. If he can make it through twenty-one hours straight without being gotten, these last few will be a cinch.
But as anyone who ever attended a sleepover or summer camp knows, he must not fall asleep. He's a little fatigued. Just a little. Although a long nap sounds like a great idea...
The cops go silent as he enters the bullpen.
"What happened to you?" says Officer Snarlov.
Judy looks up from her chair...
Nick holds the bat straight out. "Don't get any closer!"
She holds up her paws. "I wasn't…"
"Yes you were!
"You were thinking it!"
"Shhh! Not another word, rabbit! I'm winning this!"
"TEN-HUT!" shouts Higgins, and the officers begin to chant and stomp their feet. Nick slumps to the back off the room and leans against the whiteboard. No way will he be sitting next to the crazy bunny. His eyes start to close… Nope!
Bogo marches in with a scowl and slams a notebook on the podium. "Hopps! Front of the room!"
She makes her way to the podium, head hanging low.
The Chief snorts. "Well. Words fail me. They absolutely fail me. Your behavior yesterday was a disgrace to the Zootopia Police Department. Is that understood, Hopps?"
"Yes," she murmurs.
Nick stands up straight. Oh, you poor little bunny! The Chief shouldn't pick on you in public like that! It was just a game…
A game he's going to win. Judy is going down.
"Meet me in my office after assignments and we'll discuss the terms of your suspension. Take your seat!"
She does. Nick feels his eyelids slump...
"Wilde!" shouts Bogo. Nick springs awake. "Why aren't you seated!"
"And what are you wearing?"
He looks down and scratches his head. "Looks like my uniform."
"In that state? I happen to disagree." Bogo thumps his notebook. "How many hours of sleep did you get last night?"
"Not sure of the exact number, Chief." He blinks and forces his eyes back open. "I'd say in the ballpark between zero and... zero."
"I'm well aware that Hopps was playing pranks yesterday, but your behavior has also been deeply disturbing. Disrupting lectures? Chasing through the premises on four feet? How do you explain that?"
Nick loosens his tie further. "Well, usually you use words, or some sort of diagram..."
"I'm ordering you to meet with Dr. Ebbingmaus immediately! Dismissed!"
Nick strolls into the conference room with the smuggest grin he can muster under the circumstances. "So! I'm less than three hours away from winning and she thinks you're able to stop me."
He yawns so hard his jaw aches.
"But I'm onto you, shrinkster! This fox came prepared!"
Ebbingmaus eyes the baseball bat from his chair on the table. "Do you mind if you leave your, uh, sports equipment by door?"
"That's just what you'd want me to do, isn't it?"
The mouse gulps and smiles nervously. "Please have a seat, Mr. Wilde. This is a safe space. You can talk about anything that's troubling you. I'm listening."
Nick collapses into the chair. His head falls onto the table and his eyes close.
Whatever happens, do not fall asleep!
He props his head up with his paws. "Don't deny it, Funnymaus! You're in cahoots with the crazy bunny!"
Ebbingmaus takes out a notepad and makes a note. "Yes… the crazy bunny. Let's talk about her. Can other mammals see this crazy bunny as well?"
"If they can't, they better have their eyesight checked!"
"Hmm." The mouse makes a note. "Does the crazy bunny have a name?"
Nick sits up and scowls. "What kind of a question is that? Is something wrong with you, doc?"
"I… I don't think so…"
"Of course she has a name! Judith Laverne Hopps! Carrots! Fluff! Eastern Cottontail! Sylvilagus floridanus…"
"Oh, now that makes sense!" Ebbingmaus folds his tiny fingers. "Officer Hopps is the crazy bunny."
"You think so too! Good for you."
"How would you describe your relationship with Officer Hopps?"
Nick grins. "That's not appropriate for mixed company."
"We're alone, Mr. Wilde."
He looks around. "Gotcha." Nick folds his limbs and leans in: "To be perfectly honest, it's exhausting. We do it several times every night…"
"Oh!" Ebbingmaus sits up, flustered. "I didn't realize you two were… intimate. I meant your working relationship."
"You don't think that's work? Clearly you've never had to satisfy a bunny!"
The mouse closes his eyes and spreads his fingers across his face. "Mr. Wilde. In my experience, nothing good has ever come from having an affair with a co-worker."
"Perfect. I have no interest in having one. That crazy bunny is the love of my life."
"But you just said…" Ebbingmaus adjusts his seat and sprays sanitizer on his paws. "I shall be frank with you."
"Sure thing, Frank."
"Foxes and rabbits often find each other irresistible— latent interspecies tension from ancient predator-prey relationships tends to manifest itself as sexual chemistry. But attraction alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. You see, a healthy relationship revolves around mutual support and shared values. But foxes and rabbits come from such different cultural backgrounds that their values rarely overlap."
Nick's eyelids grow heavy. Don't go to sleep. Don't let her win! He holds his eyelids open.
"Unfortunately, studies predict that your interspecies relationship with Officer Hopps is doomed to fail. And perhaps that relationship is the main source of your stress? What do you think of that notion, Mr. Wilde?"
His eyelids close anyway. There's a warm bed in the corner of a boarding house room...
"Hmm. I believe that you are acutely sleep deprived," comes a voice from outside the dream. "Perhaps our time would be better spent if I left you to rest alone... "
Nick pushes up onto the table and gets in the mouse's face. "I'm not going to sleep, Frank! That's just where she wants me! Don't make me go to sleep! Please! I have to be awake! I have to be awake!"
"Control yourself! Take a deep breath and release it slowly!"
Nick pants frantically, exposing his sharp teeth. Ebbingmaus steps backward and stares at the giant teeth in horror.
"Mr. Wilde! You must learn how to manage your stress! You're on the verge of a complete mental and emotional breakdown and oh my God that fox is going to eat me squeeeeeeak!"
The psychiatrist jumps off the table and runs to the corner of the room to hide.
Nick dashes down the hall and spots the janitor's closet.
He'll wait here in the quiet darkness until he can catch his breath, and then...
There's a warm bed in the corner of a boarding house room. The most beautiful rabbit in the world pulls back the sheets, and Nick falls face-first into the pillow.