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She knew how she felt. He knew too. She knew he knew. She thought she knew how he felt. He knew that too. She thought he knew she thought she knew that as well. Sorting everything out would require help and a bit of inspiration from some unlikely sources. And a crafty plan. Humor/Romance/Drama and others as the story evolves.
This begins 6 months after Nick and Judy are first assigned as partners. Zootopia is still broken, as Bogo would say, however things have greatly improved from the lows of Bellwether's time and even before. Discrimination and specism still exist but are slowly fading. Due in large part to the day-to-day efforts, and news coverage, of a certain unusual pair...
Bunnies were not known for being calm and collected. It just wasn't in their nature. And Judy was even less typical than the typical bunny. She paced back and forth in front of the reception desk in the ZPD headquarters. The tips of her ears were just visible going to and fro, to and fro. Clawhauser kept watching them as they cycled back and forth unsure if he should say something. He knew she knew he was there, so she could talk to him if she wanted.
Judy was lost in thought. It had been a long week. Not from the job though. Nick was even more Nickish than usual. He'd finally agreed to make special plans for after work tonight. Of course it involved extensive ribbing and teasing. He'd kept it up during most of the week both on and off duty. She knew tonight was important to him just like it was to her. And she knew, or at least believed, he really did care although he'd never admitted it. None of this made it easy. Most of the time it didn't bother her. She knew why he acted the way he did. Of course it was also why she was pounding the floor pacing and still waiting for him 15 minutes after he was supposed to meet her at Ben's desk. Even atypical bunnies have their emotional limits...and she was rapidly approaching hers.
Ben noticed the ears stopped pacing right in front of him. He heard a loud sigh. "That's it. I'm going to kill him. That's the new plan for tonight."
"Um...what?" Clawhauser peered over the reception desk and looked down at her.
"Nick. He's late on purpose. He knows what we had planned." Judy was glaring, not due to Ben, but at him. This was not one of her cute looks.
"Okay." Ben paused. Judy looked and sounded angry. A for-real angry, not the "Nick just being Nick" normal kind of exasperation that made her adorable. This was not good. He'd just doubled-down in the Wilde-Hopps betting pool.
"It's our 6 month anniversary! He knows we were going out to a movie and then to Viaggo's for a nice dinner to celebrate!"
"Viaggo's? That's a fancy place. OHHH! 6 months! You guys have kept it a secret all this time?" On one hand Ben was thrilled. On the other there goes the betting pool they all had going on the couple that couldn't seem decide if they were a couple or not.
"What? NONONO! 6 months working together! As partners! Work anniversary! Since we're partners! Who work together! For 6 months now!" Her eyes went wide. Keep telling yourself that said one part of her brain that she just couldn't keep quiet tonight.
You know it's a lot more than that.
Shut up! We are not having this discussion now, not in front of Ben.
Seems like we've already started. You can't keep avoiding this. If it was just a work anniversary you wouldn't be so upset.
LALALA I'm not listening to me!
Watching her Ben had no idea what she was thinking or who she was having a conversation with but it must be rather serious. Her color kept changing from flushed to white and her ears...well...they were almost flapping as they cycled between straight up and hanging down. She is SO in love with him he thought. It's adorable. They're just adorable! He had to hold in a happy squeal.
You've always wanted this to be a date, not just some work anniversary. You know how you feel. You've known it for months.
No, no, no, nooo! We are so not talking about this.
Accept it. YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH HIM!
Her ears shot straight up and she covered her mouth with her paws. She looked up at Ben with wide eyes.
Having not been in whatever conversation just happened he had no idea what to do. Best to say something neutral.
"Judy, are you okay?"
See, don't you already feel better admitting that?
Oh yeah. Wonderful. I'm in love with my partner. Woo. Nothing bad ever came from something like that.
You know he cares. Yes, he avoids talking about things like this. You know why.
That doesn't make it any easier. I need to have a real talk with him. About us.
"Judy?" Ben was starting to get concerned. This was not normal, even for Judy.
Yes, yes you do. It's long overdue. And tonight is the perfect night to do it.
What if he freaks out? What if we can't be partners anymore?
You're best friends. The chances of that are so low it's worth the risk.
I'm terrified of losing him. Even if we can only ever be friends.
You need to know. You're standing in the middle of ZPD frozen and having a deep introspective conversation with yourself. This is NOT normal.
Being biased towards action and movement, like all bunnies, had its advantages. She was already starting to feel better with a decision being made. She felt her color slowly returning to normal and her ears starting become their perky selves again. Ben noticed her starting to relax. He thought he'd try one more time.
"Judy? You okay down there?"
"Hmm. Yes...yes I am. Thank you Ben. That helped." She smiled up at him.
"Um...okay. Glad to help?" having absolutely no idea what she was talking about but quite relieved she seemed much more like Judy than in the last few minutes.
"Back to the original plan. We are going out tonight and we are celebrating. I'm going to go find Nick and if I have to I'll drag him out by his tail. Hmmp." She started scanning around the first floor of the headquarters to see if he had walked out yet.
Clawhauser gasped, drawing her attention back to him. And turned red. Oh oh, she thought. What now?
"No no no!" came out almost as a hiss. Her ears started drooping and her eyes widened. "Not by the tail. Foxes tails are sensitive. Very, very sensitive." He looked worried.
She shrugged. "I know that Ben. I had the basic mammal anatomy and body language training in the academy. I'm not an idiot. Plus Nick and I have talked about it."
"Really?" He perked up. "You've talked about his...tail?"
"Well yeah. When we watch movies at the apartment we curl up on the couch. He let's me use it like a blanket - I just have to be careful to not squish or pinch it."
"He lets you do that?" squeaked Ben. He was very interested now and feeling much better about having doubled-down.
Uh...oh oh for real now. Why is this such a big deal? she wondered. Some part of her must have known this wasn't typical of a fox as she felt herself flushing again; and at this point her ears had no idea what to do. For now they decided to point sideways.
"Foxes are really, really selective on who they let touch their tails." Her ears made a decision; they went lower. The blush went to crimson. You can stop anytime now Ben one part of her mind shouted. "And wrapping them around another mammal, well, that means they are very close to them. Like family. Or a...or...um...a..." Ben trailed off looking uncertain. Don't say it don't say it don't say it! Ben must have heard her thoughts. He didn't say it.
The Chief, who had walked up unnoticed some time ago, didn't get the mental message. "Or a mate" was his contribution to the discussion. His face was expressionless.
Her ears were already as low as they could go. That didn't stop them from trying to go lower. As in rip themselves off her head and run away and hide. She thought they had the right idea. If they succeeded she'd follow their lead. Part of her mind was rooting for them.
"Oh...hey...uh...hi Chief. Hopps and I were just...ah...talking." Ben deserved points for trying. He failed completely, but still deserved points.
I guess the chief heard all of that.
Okay, Plan B. Kill Nick then kill myself. That seems an appropriate way to deal with this.
Agreed - that's a very mature way to respond
I'm glad you approve.
"I heard," was all the buffalo had to add.
Assuming we don't die here on the spot from embarrassment.