Chapter Fifty-Eight – Disbelief
Judy and Nick had retreated back to the couch after the officers had left, and it was Judy who broke their stunned silence.
"You were right," she said quietly, breaking the curtain of heavy air draped about them. "I am just a naïve, country bunny."
Nick put an arm around her slight shoulders, drawing her close. "Not at all," he uttered, speaking through the jumble of conflicting information in his brain. Raymond had told him it was a mammal who had had a vendetta against Big who'd hit them, and who was trying to take out his allies before coming for the boss himself. Nick also distinctly remembered the polar bear had referred to their assailant as a him. "I'm new to this much prejudice too."
He felt big, violet eyes look up at his jaw. "Well, you haven't debased yourself by dating prey before," she said, her voice dry and depressed.
Nick tightened hold, the indecision about which party to believe vanishing from the forefront of his mind. "Our different lineage in some ancestral tree has nothing to do with us – a lone sheep full of hate doesn't know who we are or where we've come from – she's only concerned with our different kinds of teeth," he flashed a half-smile of sharp canines. "I'm just surprised it was a targeted attack. I thought it was some crappy driver."
His last sentence held a waver that Judy picked up on. Her ears perked, and she sat up, palming his chest. "Nick? Why do you sound like you already know better?"
The fox's eyes widened, and he palmed couch cushions, scooting back into their ample embrace. "Huh?"
The violet pierced his gaze, searching for what he wouldn't say. "You had us leave the hospital on purpose, didn't you?" Knowing filled her tone. "What aren't you telling me?"
This exchange reminded him too much of the one he'd had with his mother. Obviously, his subterfuge skills weren't as honed as he thought.
"I…," he started, feeling terror and courage mingle together in his chest. He didn't want to lie to Judy anymore – she deserved better. "I was angry," he murmured, letting her pull away from him.
Her back went straight and stiff, but he plunged on. "Someone hurt you. I wasn't going to just sit back and settle for a police investigation. Not with a system built on bringing mammals like me down," he held up his hand as she opened her mouth to protest.
"We've done this dance Judy," he said. "Trust me, I have a lot of experience. Maybe I should have given them another chance, but I didn't want to when it came to you," he met her gaze, hoping she could see his seriousness. "So, I contacted…," his courage failed him them, and he let her finish his sentence.
Judy palmed her mouth. "Mr. Big?" She spoke through her fingers. "Oh Nick… how could you?"
The couch's embrace couldn't shield him from the look in her eyes. Her disappointment pierced like a lance, and Nick wrenched his gaze from hers.
The mantle of silence resettled, oppressive in its weight. A clock on one of his bookshelves made its steady march be known, and the mechanic fleetingly wondered if its constant ticking would remind Judy he was older than her. That he still had some sort of analog way of keeping track of time in his apartment.
The couch creaked as Judy finally pushed off its padded cushions and turned to go.
Nick launched forward and grabbed her wrist, keeping her from leaving. "Where are you going?" He winced as his voice came out in a pained whisper.
She didn't look back. "Away from you," she muttered. "I don't want to see you again until you're going to tell me the truth," the rabbit turned her head, catching his gaze in the corner of her eye. "I believed in you Nick," her words sounded choked. "Believed you wanted to be done with Big," the violet darkened. "That you wanted to be judged for who you were, rather than your 'lineage'."