Nick and Judy were at a routine traffic stop; their enormous cruiser juxtaposed massively against a rodent-sized car.
"I assume you know you were going twenty miles over the tiny-lane limit," Judy reprimanded while Nick daintily wrote on a small ticket book. "You could have gotten someone killed."
"I could have!? ME!?" The male squirrel shrieked, placing his paws on his chest. "I'd just passed one of those RAT grannies that go ten UNDER the speed limit! Those are the ones that are gonna get someone killed by pissing someone like ME off! They drive like they got one foot in the grave already, they might as well JUMP IN!"
"Delightful," Nick said dispassionately, tearing off the ticket and handing it to the squirrel. "Well, there's your ticket, and I hope you have a pleasant day."
The squirrel let loose a colorful string of expletives as he started his car and sped off, barely missing Judy's foot.
"Sheesh," Judy muttered as the two police officers made their way back to their cruiser. "He was pleasant."
"Doesn't surprise me," Nick replied airily, hopping into the passenger's seat. "Squirrels have some of the nastiest mouths of all rodents." He chuckled, aiming a chiding look over at Judy. "Not like you, with your precious little non-curses."
"Excuse me?" Judy scoffed. "What are- are you calling me a rodent?" She punctuated the word by turning the key to the cruiser and starting the engine. "I'm a lagomorph. Those are rabbits, hares, and pikas, and that's it. Even if lagomophs- hey, are you even listening to me?" Nick didn't appear to be, he was looking at his phone.
"Uh huh," the fox claimed. "Hey, what do pikas say when they have to sneeze?"
"Hilarious," Judy's brow furrowed. A little chime indicated a text message coming from Nick's phone, and Judy's ear twitched. "What's going on?"
"Oh, just a message from my girlfriend," Nick answered casually.
"Gh-girlfriend?" The bunny tried not to sound so shocked, but didn't quite know if she succeeded.
"Yeah, she's reminding me that tonight's the last night for the Zootopia International Food and Wine Festival," Nick said. "I haven't hit the last few years of 'em. Been meaning to try some of the Pawaiian drinks they roll out there."
When the cruiser came to a stop at a traffic signal, Judy chanced to flick her eyes over to Nick's phone, which was mostly unguarded in his posture. The title of the banner read "Honey". Judy felt an odd pinch of panic followed by a knot of mild worry, almost like her heart sinking.
"Hey, you wanna come?" Nick offered. "Food, drinks, fun. Should be up your alley."
"Oh, uh, I don't know about that," Judy offered a cheesy grin she didn't really feel. "I'd just get in the way, wouldn't I?"
"Nah," Nick smirked. "I mean, I thought you bunnies were something like party animals, but I guess not."
"Bunnies know how to party, okay?" Judy regained a bit of confidence, smirking as she pushed down the gas pedal. "We practically invented it."
"Right, what's the bunny fall festival, the Carrot Days festival?" Nick mocked. "Sounds like a riot waiting to happen."
"That's just one of the fall festivals!" Judy returned defensively. "The Harvest Moon Bunny festival is a big one, and then each Bunnyburrow region has some different ones scattered through autumn, and that's just for that season! If I ever took you to Serendipiday in the summer, that'd knock the brown socks right off of those feet of yours!"
"Is that so?" Nick's voice still dripped with teasing syrup. "Well, maybe you should just prove how much of a party lagomorph you are by showing up at Mezzo Park tonight. Say... 6-ish?"
"I think I will...!" Judy enunciated in a dangerous, challenged voice, giving him a snide smirk.
"Oh, this'll be fun," Nick's own smirk splayed wide across his muzzle.
Mezzo park looked a lot different than Judy usually had seen it. Granted, she usually came for police-related reasons on random days of the week, but the difference in sheer volume of animals was jarring. Creative, thematic, and rather understated cutouts decorated many stands and kiosks, evoking monuments of far-off lands. The districts had their own larger sections, with countries from which their cultures were derived dotted around them. Judy felt a little lost there by herself, but she knew she'd find Nick soon enough. She'd seen laser beams less blinding than his shirts.
Her somewhat hurried pace slowed however, as she thought about what Nick's "Honey" would be like. That was a very affectionate nickname; much more so than "Carrots". She shook her head, trying to jar loose negative thoughts.
Sure enough, Nick eventually stood out like a sore thumb in the middle of a thicket of other animals. He was talking to someone; Judy gulped as she prepared to meet some sort of vixen goddess. She instead tried to focus on the rage Nick's intensely yellow shirt made her feel. It was bright enough to make a lemon blush.
Strangely, one she dodged the legs of a couple of deer, she saw that Nick was talking to a fairly overweight badger of some kind.
"Ah, there she is," Nick jerked his thumb at her, holding up his paw. "Carrots!"
"Nick! Hi!" Judy stumbled forward. "How's it going?"
"Good, good," he smiled at the badger. "Guess I should probably introduce you, huh? Honey, this is Judy. Judy Hopps."
Judy smirked. It almost seemed weird to hear Nick pronounce her full name. "Hi! ...Hh-Honey? Should I call you-"
"Judy Hopps!" The badger bellowed. Her voice had a tinge of rasp to it, but it was as gregarious as she looked. Judy backed up a step, expecting to be squeezed by the encroaching badger, but instead she merely captured one of Judy's paws and vigorously shook it. "Amazing to finally meet you! Great job with Bellwether, by the way. Always knew those sheep were up to something."
"...Oh!" Judy was blindsided by her forwardness. "...You did?"
"A hundred percent," the badger leaned in. "And Bellwether was the shiftiest one of them all. You see how her pupils were so round? That ain't natural for a sheep. She prob'ly put contacts in to look normal."
"Okay, Honey," Nick rolled his eyes, putting a paw on her shoulder and forcing her to back up. "Remember what we said about personal space."
"It's okay, I don't mind!" Judy found herself saying. She was a hugger, and she'd be the first to admit that. She mostly just felt confused. "So um, what should I call you then... 'Honey'?" Judy used big air quotes with her fingers, leaning in with an ingratiating smile.
"Uh, Honey's fine," she laughed. "That is my name."
"Oh, is it?" Judy said, her ears perking up. "Oh, right, right." She shook her head, rubbing her forehead with her paws. "Like a honey badger..."
"Of which I am not," Honey laughed. "I guess my parents thought it'd be hilarious to confuse everyone. Man, I'd love to be a honey badger, though. So tough! So suave! They could drink straight poison and laugh it off! Speaking of drinking poison, I can't believe you actually came out tonight, Nicky-Nick!"
"Well, it is my last chance to try some of those exclusive Pawaiian drinks, unless I wanna travel," Nick grinned, folding his arms.
"Oh ho, just like you to want some of those frilly, fruity drinks," Honey roughly pushed Nick, and he showed momentary alarm before reconstructing his cool look. "Well, have fun! I'm off to get smashed. SUPER smashed, brother!" The badger waved and padded off.
"...I... excuse me, what?" Judy blinked, holding an open palm out toward her in disbelief. "Your girlfriend just walked off...?"
"Oh, right," Nick cleared his throat, grinning somewhat sheepishly. "Honey is my girl friend. With a space in the middle, a girl who is a friend."
"...Uh HUH," Judy smirked, her brow furrowing. "And when were you going to tell me that?"
"When it was the most hilarious," Nick winked.
"Okay then," Judy folded her arms and leaned into one hip. "You know, you had me thinking you had a date for this festival tonight."
"Well, don't I?" Nick said in a posh voice, rotating his wrist and faux bowing to the bunny.
"All right, you crafty canine," Judy said in a warm, reproving voice. "I see what this is about."
"Um, actually," Nick switched almost instantly into a dull voice. "I'm not a canine. I'm a canid. There's a difference."
Judy inhaled to say something, but quickly deflated. "Oh, okay. I guess that makes sense."
"Shall we, Ms. Lagomorph?" Nick offered his elbow's crook.
"We shall!" Judy adventurously moved her own arm into his. She then looked back at him after starting to strut forward. "I can't believe I'm asking this, but could you maybe not call me that?"
"Is 'Carrots' better?" Nick gave her a cheese-eating grin.
Judy squinted, almost in defeat. "Yeah. It is."
A pleasant fall chill crept through the air, somewhat mitigated by the density of mammals at the festival. Judy almost didn't know where to look, but kept following Nick, figuring he knew where he was going. Her attention was soon diverted by the sound of bickering. The bunny's ear twitched as she turned her head to look.
"You have to listen to me; you've put me off long enough!" A lioness demanded. She shook a fistful of documents at a somewhat meek-looking lion who was positioned behind a kiosk. "You uncle is ruining your father's company. Don't you care?"
"Can you just drop it, Nala, just for today?" The put-upon voice of the lion returned. Judy's brow furrowed as she stopped to listen. The mammal gestured to the name placard of the stall, which read "Hakuna Matata". Judy looked around, confirming they were in a section representing Girafrica. The lion went on. "Sometimes bad things happen, but it's- there's nothing you can do about it."
"SIMBA...!" Nala thrust her paws downward. "There absolutely is! Your father wanted you to have his company! I've got some sensitive information here that could-"
"Could it wait until tomorrow?" Simba whined, running his hand through his mane. "This is the last day of the festival. Just... get with me tomorrow, okay? We'll talk about it."
"Fine," Nala snipped. "If you want to waste your time selling fast food- just- just FINE." She left in a huff, walking briskly past Nick and Judy.
"Whoa-" Nick blinked.
"I was wondering if I was going to have to intervene," Judy shrugged her shoulders at him.
"Between two arguing lions?" Nick smirked. "While you're off duty? You're a braver mammal than I."
"Well yeah," Judy flashed a wicked smile, "I think we've established that by now." Nick rolled his eyes at the quip, but kept his smirk.
A small head flashed over the edge of the counter, making sure the lioness was gone. His snarky voice was barely audible: "Yeesh. Lionesses, am I right?"
"Timon..." Simba sounded depleted.
"Don't be rude, Timon..." a warthog in the back admonished gently.
"She was scaring away all of our customers!" The unseen mammal snapped. "This is the last night, so we gotta make bread while the sun shines! Or however that goes."
"Well, I'm not scared away, anyway," Judy stepped forth boldly. "Whatcha got?" Taking a sniff, she was beginning to regret her question immediately.
"Oh well, sorry little bunny," Simba sent her down an apologetic smile, "but we're mostly serving carnivores and omnivores. Mostly we've got a selection of grubfurters and other things from Girafrica."
"Oh uh, never mind," Judy chuckled, but Nick stepped forward.
"Hey, I'm hungry," Nick gestured at himself with one paw. "What'll a small grubfurther set me back?"
A meerkat's head peeked out, his paws balancing him on the edge of the counter. "7.99."
"For a small one?" Nick's left eye narrowed.
"Hey, it comes with a free shot of Hakuna Matata!" Timon wiggled a shot glass.
"What's that mean?" The bunny blinked.
"It means 'no worries'!" The warthog enthusiastically chimed in from the back, cooking several grubfurters.
"And 'no worries' is what you'll have after drinkin' it!" Timon added. "It's got a high alcohol content!"
"Okay, put me down for that, then," Nick held out a few bills.
"Pay the big guy," Timon clambered up to the counter and began to prepare napkins for him. "One small grubfuter, Pumbaa."
A few moments later, Nick was gingerly offered a thick, brightly-colored crimson grubfurter nestled in a bun, and a shot glass full of rich golden liquid that smelled very powerful.
"Yech..." Judy scrunched up her face. "Gross."
"Hey, I don't complain when you eat a salad," Nick smirked, taking a small bite. "Mmm, crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, but it hits the spot."
Simba chuckled. "Right?"
"You're a fox, though," Judy argued, "an omnivore. You'll eat anything."
"I absolutely will not," Nick insisted, faux offended. "I have a discerning palette."
"Sheesh," Timon piped up. "How long the two of you been married for?"
Judy's eyes fully opened. "Er! We're not married, heh! We're just... partners."
"Riight..." Timon shot a look back to the smiling warthog and smirked back at the two mammals with half-lidded eyes. "Partners, I got it."
"Tch," Judy snapped, looking miffed. "If anyone here needs 'no worries', it's me." She grabbed up Nick's shot glass with barely any time for him to protest and gulped it down.
"Hey!" Nick blinked.
Judy's face contorted and she shook her head and coughed. "WOW! Mammal's sake alive, that is strong. Oof, good, though!"
"Uh..." Simba's pupils narrowed. "That... was a pretty heavy shot, even for a mammal of his size." He pointed at Nick.
"I'll be fine," Judy insisted, grinning, though she coughed again.
"I'll keep an eye on her," Nick added, the two beginning to walk away.
"If I get sick, it'll be from your eating that gross thing," Judy insisted, feeling her throat blanketed in warmth.
Nick took another bite. "I'll thank you not to throw up on me."
Nick paid for a "Flight to Pawaii", a series of small, colorful drinks. He was handed the tray containing them by an oddly-shaped smalish blue-furred mammal wearing a Pawaiian shirt and sunglasses, despite the waning light.
"Hey, thanks," Nick said, cautiously adding in, "um, stop me if this is rude, but what kind of mammal did you say you were? I'm not a hundred percent familiar with all the Pawaiian mam-"
He was interrupted and the attention broken by a gray blur.
"Hey Nick, hey hey..." Judy dashed in, almost running into Nick. "What'cha got there?" She took in a big sniff. "Smells fruity!"
"Carrots, you're drunk," Nick observed, holding the tray away from her.
"Nuh uh," she smiled brightly, narrowing both eyes and pinching fingers together. "Maybe a li'l buzzed." Nick carefully took a sip from one of the drinks in the flight while nudging his leg against Judy to keep her away. She was making grabbing paws at it. "I wanna try."
"You've already had enough," Nick replied.
"Meh, just that hakuna mawhasa..." Judy grunted. She dodged and weaved around Nick, hopping up and snatching the last drink off the flight. She gulped it down remorselessly. "Mm! Tastes sweet, like candy! That's gooooood."
"Judy!" Nick snarled. "You drank the berry blaster!? That's the one I wanted to try the most! I shelled out a pretty penny for these!"
"Aw, c'mon!" Judy grinned, flicking her free paw. "I'll getcha- getcha a whole bottle of it for our anniversary-" she blinked, realizing she said something off. "Um, of bein' partners."
Nick scowled. "I'll be sure to remind you, so you can pitch a fit over the Pawaiian importing tax."
"Lighten up, Nick, this is about a fun night, right? You still got like three other drinks there," Judy made a cloying face. "So can I have one more?"
"No!" Nick snapped, quickly drinking a citrusy shot from the flight. "I told you, you've had enough."
"Tch, you think I'm a lightweight?" Judy folded her paws.
Nick responded with a furrowed brow, then grabbed Judy and lifted her up by the back of her long-sleeved shirt, letting her dangle there. She only had a giggling fit in response.
"That's funny," Judy grinned, wriggling out of his grasp and dashing off to the direction of some thumping music. "C'mon, Nick, let's go dance! I'ma go see if I can get the DJ to play 'Try Everything'!"
"You better not!" Nick figured he better keep his eyes on her, following her while awkwardly trying to finish his flight. "Also, 'try everything' doesn't mean 'try all the alcohol'!"
The bunny was like a bolt of lightning, jaggedly darting through the crowd. She reveled in the sound, the flashing lights, and the mood, which she was completely lost to. Of course, the alcohol helped, but her wild exuberance was emblematic of Judy Hopps, and Nick found himself having a hard time keeping up.
She bounced around from one end of the throng of mammals to the next, slippery as a greased otter. She tried to get a look at the DJ, to get their attention, but seemed to fail despite her loudest squeaks. Nick looked worriedly at the cheetah DJ, who was thankfully too caught up in her own groove to notice the bunny. The DJ's vision might also have been impaired by the fancy neon-lighted visor she was wearing.
Undeterred by her inability to garner attention, Judy started partying and dancing anyway, thrusting her fists upward and this way and that. She had surprisingly good rhythm for a country bunkin, Nick thought. A drunk country bunkin, he was quick to mentally add.
"C'mon, Nick! Let's dance!" Her voice was barely audible over the ambient din, but her intent was clear.
Nick's own dancing was guarded. Not that he didn't have the confidence to, but of all the things he had learned how to do, proper dance was not one of them. Judy, however, might not have received formal lessons either, but she seemed like a natural conduit for the music. For joy in general, it seemed.
He felt he needed to keep his eyes on her. To protect her? No, she'd be okay.
Nick was getting a mild headache; he certainly didn't act as young as he felt sometimes. Nick actually found himself ducking out of the dancing at one point to get some water to clear his head. He rubbed it and shook it.
"Nick... Nick, Nick, Nick..."
Judy's voice. She wandered right into his side, giggling in a muffled tone.
"You're smashed, Carrots," Nick huffed.
"Maybe a li'l," she giggled. She poked him in the side. "You're a real cool fox, you know? ...Really cool."
Nick took in a breath, hoping the alcohol he had hadn't made him as obviously goofy as Judy before he responded. "Carrots, I don't think now is the time for you to be fawning over me."
"Why?" Judy looked confused. "What time is't?"
Nick had an honest laugh at that.
"Nick you gotta party wif me," Judy nudged up to his side, smelling lightly of alcohol. "We gotta party! It's not too late. We kin have fun together!"
The fox downed his water and rubbed his head a bit. "Guess you're right. You're a handful, you know."
"Mhm!" The buzzed bunny seemed quite proud of this fact. "Mmm, Nick."
"Heh," Nick grinned. "What am I gonna have to do with you?"
"Niiiick..." she grinned wider, then her expression crashed into weariness. "Ugh... I think I'm gonna be sick... Nick... slick sick Nick.. urh..."
Nick recoiled. "Oh God..."
The bright light of the 24-hour diner was blinding. Judy could barely see out of heavily slitted eyes, and saw a blurry fox sitting opposite her.
She groaned, taking in a sip of coffee, wincing at its bite and heat.
"Feeling any better?" Nick asked coolly.
"No... I feel awful," Judy moaned, resting her head in her arms as her ears flopped onto the table. "My head is pounding..."
She couldn't see the fox's response, even though she was listening for a chuckle.
"It's what I get, I know," the bunny rolled her head to the side on her arm-pillow. "I shouldn't have acted like that. I can't believe I- ugh. Sorry for ruining your festival."
"Hey, there's always next year," a small bit of mirth crept into Nick's voice as he nursed his own heavily-creamed coffee. "Now that I know what you're like, you should be easier to deal with. Thanks for not throwing up on me, by the way. There was at least that."
Judy grumbled loudly. "Don't remind me. That chinchilla I got is probably going to have nightmares about tonight..."
Nick tried not to smirk.
"What are you doing here at four in the morning with me anyway...?" Judy moaned, poking her coffee cup.
"What else?" Nick calmly placed his paws on his own coffee. "I'm getting what I deserve; getting to watch you suffer from stealing some of my drinks."
"Oof," Judy frowned, then her countenance fell further and she genuinely looked sad. "Sorry..."
"It's fine," Nick insisted. "It was a lot of fun anyway. Definitely more memorable than most of the Food and Wines I've poked my head into."
"Mmf..." Judy blearily stared out the window, which had a more welcoming darkness than the searing light of the diner. Colorful lights flickered around the city in the night, some still from the festival, which was in the process of dismantling.
There was a long pause while Judy collected her slow-to-arrive thoughts.
"I just... whew, I thought that Honey..." she trailed off.
"Pff, me and Honey?" Nick laughed. "No."
"No, but- when I heard that name..." Judy continued staring away from Nick. "I heard it, and I imagined this goddess of a vixen, fur the same color as her name. Some big sweetheart that would totally deserve you."
Nick's smile waned a bit. "Well, that's a nice thought and everything..."
"You'd tell me, right? ..If you found someone?" Judy looked to him cautiously, as if it hurt her.
The fox sat idly for a moment. "Yeah, pretty sure I would."
Judy barely nodded, wincing as the slight movement caused her pain. "Urh. As much as pain as I'm in rigth right now... I think I'd miss things like this."
Nicks chuckle sounded almost forced, and he shook his head, joining her as she slowly looked out the window once more.
"I don't think you have to worry about that, Carrots."
Author's Note: This chapter was based loosely on Nick and Judy's appearances at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival's "Du Jour Dance Party". This is the last day of the festival, so I thought it would be fun to post now.