This chapter is the first thing I've written in years that includes an earnest attempt to follow the correct rules for punctuation and capitalization at the end of dialogue. It's maddening.
The Catch-a-bun Fun-run, or The Best Birthday Ever
Things had progressed since the fateful night a few months ago when Judy confessed to Nick that she fantasized about him preying on her. Like some other important moments in their relationship, it was marked by a bold willingness on both their parts to try the things that mattered to them. The inexperienced bunny's calculated gamble had paid off for both of them: Now, Judy got the thrill of being submissive and vulnerable to the handsome predator she loved, and Nick got to use the very traits that had made his life difficult to make his favorite bunny happy.
Today was Judy's birthday, and the knowing smile Nick had been wearing for the last couple of weeks left her pretty certain that he was planning something special. (The smile was hard to miss - she wondered if his hustling skills had atrophied after she turned him into an upstanding citizen). But despite her formidable skills as an investigator and the fact that she knew Nick better than anyone, she still didn't know what that special thing might be.
That is, until he announced that they were going to her favorite restaurant. She assumed that the fine dining - pricier than they usually went for, but unparalleled in the quality of their vegetable dishes - was the "something special." She received a further surprise when Nick snatched up her menu as soon as they were seated and tucked it under his own. He reached out to boop her nose with a single claw and told her he already knew exactly what she was having.
"Trust me. You're gonna love it," he assured her, taking one of her paws in his. She did trust him, of course, so when the waiter returned, Nick ordered himself a black bean burger and informed him with a smile that the lady would have "what we discussed."
Judy spent a few minutes wondering what her fantastic but cryptic mate had planned while he made incredibly smug googly eyes at her. Thankfully a steaming dish was soon deposited in front of her. Judy looked curiously at her meal. She leaned in slightly to inhale from the bowl, and then she was absolutely still. She could see Nick and even the waiter watching for her reaction at the edge of her vision, but her eyes were focused squarely on the orange ambrosia under her nose.
"Bunnyburrow carrot stew," her voice warbled a bit as she spoke. It smelled exactly like home. Even though she was in a fancy restaurant in the heart of a huge metropolis with the world's most wonderful fox, she could almost believe she was underground in her childhood home with a teeming horde of little siblings banging at her elbows.
She picked up her spoon with sudden urgency and took a bite, heedless of the steam billowing off the surface. Thankfully it was just below the scalding point. It was perfect.
"Nick, how?" her voice cracked this time, and the fox in question actually felt himself getting a little misty just watching her. She was stunned at how close it tasted to the stew she'd taken for granted as a child but craved intensely since moving to the city.
"I begged your mom to send the ingredients, and it turns out that this place already gets a lot of its carrots from Bunnyburrow," he gestured to the dining room around them, "Apparently they're the best," he explained quietly. Judy's eyes were shining with unshed tears, and he couldn't pass up the opportunity to be difficult with his favorite emotional bunny. "Now sweetheart, your Mom and the chef worked hard on that. If you cry in it you're gonna get the salt content all out of whack," Nick teased with a loving smile. She attempted to glare at him, but her face was trembling too much for it to work very well.
"I'm an adult, I'll cry where I want to," Judy laughed wetly and took another bite, savoring the taste of home.
"Your Mom sent the spices all pre-mixed in a little tub and left them out of the recipe. Even then she made me swear the kitchen staff to secrecy. Bit paranoid, I think," he smirked. The rest of the tub was hidden in a rarely-used cabinet in their apartment. He was toying with the idea of making a batch to freeze in case of a bad day.
"That sounds about right." Judy laughed, dabbing at her nose with her napkin after the hot stew and her gooey emotions had conspired to make it drip.
After they'd finished their wonderful dinner, they stepped onto the street to find the evening air pleasantly warm, but not terribly humid. The concrete beneath them would be releasing the heat of the now-departed sun for another hour or two. Judy expected that they would get a cab home or perhaps walk for a bit in the nearby park, but Nick stopped a few paces outside the door of the restaurant, and she looked up to him curiously. "So, the night's still young. I've got something else planned."
Judy could see nervous excitement under his subtle smile. He still didn't show much genuine emotion in public, but she didn't mind too much - it made their moments alone more precious, and she never gave him the chance to bottle anything up, anyway.
"There's more?" Judy's eyebrows rose. "That stew is a pretty hard act to follow, just so you know," she warned him playfully.
"Have a little faith, Carrots. The stew was the opening act. The main event is… well, it's a little early to call it a masterpiece, but I feel like it's some of my best work." It was the closest thing to humility she'd ever heard from him. "I'll let you decide."
"Well now I'm really curious. Where to?" she inquired as she squeezed his paw, inviting him to lead on.
He smirked and reached into his pocket for something, casting a surreptitious glance around them. "That…" he began, pulling a dark piece of cloth taut between his paws until it resolved itself into a blindfold. "is for sly foxes to know and curious bunnies to find out."
Said bunny felt heat rise in her cheeks as he gently tied the blindfold. Seconds after it was secure, she heard a vehicle approach, and a moment later Nick was gently guiding her inside. Wherever they were going, they were on their way.
After a few quiet minutes nestled into Nick's side, she had decided that the vehicle carrying her to parts unknown was familiar somehow. She'd heard this rough idle before, but it had been a while, and she had the vague notion that the sound of the engine had been buried under something else the last time she'd heard it. It even smelled vaguely familiar.
Normally, when Judy Hopps had a mystery on her paws, she could count on her favorite fox to help her solve it. But on the subject of why she was blindfolded and where they were going, he was less than helpful. Still, even working alone and without her sight, she had a theory. "I just want to be clear about something," she began.
"And what would that be?" Nick prompted.
"Is this Finnick's van?" There was a tiny element of admonition in her voice, as though he really never should have tried to pull one over on her.
"Maybe," Nick admitted.
"Hmm," The blindfolded bunny didn't seem pleased. "I'm hoping I'm way off the mark here, and I probably am, but I just want to cover my bases," she delicately explained. But when she spoke again, she did so quietly and somewhat sternly. "You and Finnick are not double-teaming me. Not in this van. Not anywhere. Not ever," Judy succinctly explained, but her last few words were drowned out by her boyfriend dissolving into hysterics beside her. A smile tugged at her lips, but she pressed on. "I am a one-fox bunny, and quite happy that way. Thankfully it sounds like I never had to worry about that, huh?" She took Nick's uproarious laughter as a confirmation that a fox-bunny sandwich had never been in the cards.
"Wow, Carrots," he choked out between gasps for air. "You gotta warn a guy before you say stuff like that," he wiped away a tear and squeezed his girlfriend's shoulder. "I could've died! At the very least, I'm gonna be all winded before we even get started. Hoo boy." He seemed to take a moment to catch his breath. "No, that kind of thing never crossed my mind. Anyway, Finn's just handling logistics tonight. I figured leading a blindfolded bunny into a cab was bound to lead to some uncomfortable questions. Finn doesn't ask questions. He just demands bribes."
Judy heard Finnick mutter something from the front about his new subwoofers not paying for themselves.
"I have to admit my curiosity is piqued," she commented.
The van pulled to a slightly jerky stop several minutes later, and Judy was no closer to figuring out where they were.
As Nick gently lifted her out of the van and onto the ground - pavement, she quickly determined - it occurred to her that it probably wasn't even necessary to blindfold her for the entire journey. He could have taken her nearly anywhere in town and still managed to surprise her if they were doing something new, which she assumed they would. She smiled to herself as she considered the idea that the blindfold was mostly for the sake of reminding her who was calling the shots. She loved it when Nick took charge, and he knew it.
They had been on a sidewalk or some other kind of smooth path for a few minutes now. Judy knew they were outdoors, but from what she could hear, it didn't seem like there were many buildings or people nearby. Perhaps a park after all? But if it was a park, then why the secrecy? And why not the one close to the restaurant?
Nick squeezed Judy's paw and felt her squeeze back. She was walking along beside him, curiously tilting her ears in various directions, but ultimately trusting him to guide her. He smiled as they reached their destination, coming to a stop in front of a canvas-covered iron gate. He looked back in the direction from which they'd come and held up a paw as a signal. He wanted to buy himself an extra moment at the gate to have a little fun with Judy while she was still blindfolded.
Judy smiled shyly now that they had stopped, imagining that Nick might be looking at her since they were no longer walking. He bent down in front of her, placing both paws on her shoulders and brushing his muzzle against the base of one of her ears. "We… have arrived," he whispered, removing her blindfold with a flourish.
With the gate behind her, Judy cast her eyes in a wide arc but didn't turn around. The huge, widely-spaced buildings and pennants hanging from the lamp posts gave away their location, but she still couldn't imagine what they were doing there. "Zoo U… Are we seeing a play?" Judy wondered aloud. Not having spent any time at the university, she wasn't certain where the theater building was, or that one even existed, but none of the buildings nearby seemed like good candidates.
"If we were going to a student theater production I would have brought some earplugs to go with the blindfold, Carrots," Nick smiled wryly. "I do love you, you know."
He gave her a quick peck, stood up, and removed a key from his pocket, sliding it into the gate that Judy hadn't noticed until now. After a short struggle with the lock, he pulled the large gate open to reveal a running track surrounded by row after row of completely empty bleachers.
The couple stepped inside, and Nick locked the gate behind them.
The question on Judy's face was clear, and Nick delighted in the fact that she hadn't figured it out yet. He couldn't bear to keep it to himself any longer, though. Finally, he spilled the beans.
"I am going to chase your cute little cotton tail around this track until I catch you. Then I'm going to have my way with you." Judy's eyebrows shot up and she looked at him dubiously. She was fast - faster than the average bunny - and he knew it. "Alternatively, I will chase you around this track until I require medical attention. If that happens, you're free to have your way with me in the ambulance," he declared magnanimously.
"I think the paramedics might have an issue with me sucking your face while they try to bring you back to life," Judy remarked.
"I'm a little rusty on my first aid but I think you're supposed to blow," Nick reminded her cheekily, beginning to walk down the steps toward the field.
Judy rolled her eyes and followed him. "Such a smart-ass," she declared fondly.
"Guilty," Nick agreed immediately.
Judy looked around the sprawling field. "So did you get tired of chasing me around the apartment?" she inquired coquettishly, paws behind her back.
"Well, the apartment is fine if you're a sloth, but I'm getting a little tired of dodging furniture. I mean, it's fun, but I thought it might be even more fun to find somewhere we can really open it up. Here it's just the two of us - no end tables in sight."
"Well it's a really nice idea." Judy smiled warmly as she closed the gap between them and nuzzled her face into his belly. "Provided no one can see us," she added in a small voice.
They'd come to a stop at the edge of the field. The track was a few meters away, but the grass beneath their feet was soft and cool compared to the sidewalk and stairs. "Way ahead of you," he declared smugly. "I've got Clawhauser guarding the gate just in case."
"You got Clawhauser in on this?" Judy exclaimed in a strangled voice, trying to stay quiet in case it carried up through the empty stadium seats. She really wasn't too surprised though. The doughy cat was their biggest cheerleader - perhaps literally. "So how much did you tell him? Is Finnick in on the plan too? Is he waiting in the van with smelling salts in case you can't catch me?" she teased.
"Finnick's gone, and like I said, he doesn't ask questions. I told him we'd get a cab or the subway back home. As for our cover, I told Clawhauser that we had a moment together once on a run, and I thought you'd enjoy the gesture," he shrugged. "What we like to do behind closed doors or on a state university's athletic complex is between you and I," Nick solemnly decreed.
"You spoil me," Judy sighed and looked up at him adoringly.
He smoothed the fur on top of her head back and kissed the tip of an ear. "I needed a hobby," he murmured with a tiny shrug.
"How did you get a key?" Judy asked suspiciously. "Let me guess, you 'know everyone?'"
"You wound me, fluff! As if I'd use my shady contacts to gain access to these fine facilities. I did no such thing." He crossed his arms smugly. "I just informed the head of the athletics department that the ZPD would need the track tonight for a training exercise."
Judy's jaw dropped. "You are a shifty fox!" she scolded. "Using public resources to fund our foreplay! I should chase you around this track, Nicholas Wilde!"
"But that would be backwards," he helpfully reminded her, beginning to unbutton his shirt. Judy glowered at him in a way that suggested she would not be distracted by his gorgeous, lush chest fur. She was about to chastise him for turning her into a delinquent, but her train of thought was derailed when she saw what was hiding under his shirt.
As the first few buttons were undone, a neon-colored tank top began to materialize. As his shirt opened more and more, she noticed that the tank top seemed to be made of mesh, almost like a - "You bought a running shirt for this?" she laughed incredulously.
"Oh, just wait, Carrots. It gets better," he grinned confidently as he undid the last few buttons.
It did get better. The jersey-like material had lettering. It read "1st annual Catch-a-bun Fun-run." Judy's jaw dropped yet again. Nick turned around to show off the back, which indicated that he was contestant number one.
"You like it?" he asked rhetorically, looking over his shoulder with his paws on his hips to let her take in the giant "#1" on his back.
"You… are a massive goof," the grey bunny sighed, shaking her head hopelessly, "Very lovable, but still a goof." Said goof turned to face her again, still posing majestically with a toothy grin. "You know, this is probably the only time in your life you'll run on purpose," she teased.
"Hey, when first prize is Judy Hopps, I'm in. And I'm in to win," Nick's voice lowered an octave, and she closed her eyes, quivering with anticipation as he approached her. "So what do you say, little bunny? Are you ready to run?" He dragged a claw over one of her cheeks and roughly nuzzled the other, pressing his nose into her fur and drawing in her scent with the ferocity of a jet turbine. She could feel him smiling with every tooth he had - for her benefit, of course.
"Yes," Judy breathed, feeling slightly dizzy with anticipation. Regardless of who was faster, he was absolutely going to catch her. She could never let her fox go hungry.
Nick growled triumphantly. He knew quite well that she was ready - the heady aroma of her excitement told him all he needed to know. He'd just wanted to hear her say it.
"Then run," he whispered. His claw vanished, and Judy registered his movement as a sudden absence of heat on her face. She opened her eyes just in time to see him at the apex of a pounce.
The bunny cop was meters away before he hit the ground. She grinned from ear to ear, dress whipping around her hips, her lover's deep, lusty laughter floating through the air behind her as she flew along the track.
If another chapter happens, it will be a direct continuation from here. Please review if you're interested in more, or if you enjoyed reading.