As soon as Nick saw that he and Judy were connected, he began to speak. "Judy, there's something I need to tell you…"
But as he paused, he heard something strange on the other line. At first, it seemed like Judy was having trouble breathing… then his eyes lit up with realization and horror.
"…Judy, are you crying?"
"Nick, I…" Judy sniffed. "I'm sorry, I'm trying to talk… I need to talk!" She was struggling to hold herself together. "I wanted to make the world a better place… that's why I came to Zootopia. But the Chief… he won't let me do anything! Nothing productive, anyway! I just get in the way of the actual cops!"
"Judy…" Nick began. But he was interrupted.
"And then I called my parents and they're happy with that! They're happy that I'm safe! They don't want me catching criminals, or solving cases! Leave that to the real cops!"
"You've got the badge, right?"
"Then I'm pretty sure that makes you a real cop."
In all honesty, Nick wasn't sure why he had said that. It just felt like the right thing to say. He had to end the relationship, he had to say goodbye. It's just that when someone is crying, the polite thing to do is to try and comfort them. Even if you're trying to break up with them.
On the other line, Judy was smiling. "Thanks, Nick… I needed to hear that."
But there was still something that confused Nick. "Are you at work right now?"
"I took the rest of the day off."
"But… how did you know I would be available at this time of day?"
"I didn't," Judy admitted. "I just hoped."
"Ah…" Nick tapped his fingers on the desk. "Look, Judy… There's something I wanna talk to you about."
"What is it, Nick?"
"It's just, I've been doing a lot of thinking about…" Nick realized he could feel his hands shaking. "Well, where our relationship is headed."
After a few moments, Judy responded. "I think I know what you're talking about."
"You do?" Nick asked, his heart racing at an abnormal rate.
"Do you think… we should meet each other?" Judy asked. "I mean, in real life?"
"No, no… I just." He tried desperately to find the right words. "I'm just not sure how this is gonna work out."
"What are you unsure about?"
"Everything." Nick took a deep breath. It was now or never. "I don't think we should keep talking to each other."
On the other line, Judy was silent. It took a moment for her to even register what he was saying.
"…What, why?" She asked, stunned. "I thought our conversations were going well! …I thought you liked me."
"I do like you, Judy. I think you're amazing, but…" Nick was being sincere, and he kept telling himself he had to stop it. "I don't know what to tell you…"
"Is this about your taxes?" Judy asked. "Because if it is, I don't care!" Judy had to make an effort to not start crying again. "Nick, I'll probably never make a single arrest in my career! And even if you turned out to be some sort of underground criminal, you'd still be a more decent mammal than most of the police officers I know! Certainly more than my own boss!"
Nick was starting to hold back tears himself. "…You don't have to say that."
"Well, I'm sorry if you were offended by my complement." Judy said, simply. "Listen, whatever second-guessing that's going on right now, I know you're good. You're kind and caring, you're funny and charming, and you respect me-"
But suddenly, Judy cut herself off. For a moment, she was completely silent. And when she continued speaking, it was in a much quieter voice.
"…you respect me because you don't know what I am."
Judy was struck with the realization that Nick envisioned her as a much larger mammal. He had actually guessed that she was a jaguar two nights ago. Maybe Nick was a much larger mammal. Maybe he didn't want to be with some pathetic little bunny.
She took a deep breath. "You know what?" she asked. "I don't care anymore. I am not going to spend any more time believing in something that won't come true. Nick, if you're going to break my heart, I'd rather you did it today. That way it happens all at once."
Nick was the only one who took her seriously. Now it was time to put him to the test.
"I'm a bunny."
She waited. For a while, there was absolute silence on both ends of the phone. After a moment or two, Judy spoke again, hoping to fill the silence.
"There, I said it. I'm a bunny. And as hard as it is to believe, I'm also a cop. I'm actually the first of my species to join the ZPD. I swear, I'm not lying to you. There are a ton of articles about me online. Just look up 'Judy Hopps', that's my full name. Well, 'Judith Laverne Hopps' if you want to be specific."
Judy paused and realized that Nick was still not responding.
"Nick, say something. Anything."
As Judy's words were sinking in, Nick's initial thoughts were 'It doesn't make sense.' He had never heard of a bunny cop, much less a bunny who was able to take down a rhino or outrun a cheetah. But given how sincere Judy had been up until that point, he didn't know why she would lie to him, especially at a moment like this. Maybe this was just a devious cop trick.
But then he began to think. And slowly but surely, the puzzle pieces started to come into place..
The fact that Finnick had brought up 'bunny officers' merely hours ago. The fact that her co-workers and boss didn't respect her. The fact that she had grown up in a small town…
…The fact that she had brought fox repellant to the city.
Judy spoke again, breaking his concentration. "Nick, please say something!"
Nick looked around, nervously. "Um, well… I never would have guessed it in a million years."
"And, uh…" Nick tried to lighten the mood. "Your middle name is Laverne, really?"
"I guess I'm not one to talk though. I mean, my middle name is ten times worse…"
"Nick," Judy said. "I need you to be serious for just one moment. What do you think of me now? Do you still respect me?"
There was a part of Nick that wanted to say no. That bunnies couldn't be cops and that was that. That's probably exactly what Finnick would have said. But Nick was not Finnick, and despite everything, he felt it was important in this moment to be truthful with her.
"Judy, I've never met anyone who could honestly say they took on a rhino and won. And…" he hesitated. "You seem to have figured out the whole 'taxes' thing. No cop has ever figured that out before. So, I kind of hate you for that. But at the end of the day, I respect you. And honestly, the fact that you're a bunny kind of makes me respect you more, because I know that getting this far couldn't have been easy… I mean, if nothing else, just telling me your species was incredibly brave."
Judy found herself smiling very wide. "Thank you so much, Nick," she said. "But I didn't tell you because I was trying to be brave. I told you because I trust you."
On the other line, Nick had gone completely silent.
Nick spoke up. "…What did you just say?"
"I trust you," Judy repeated.
Nick couldn't remember the last time anyone said those words to him. For all he knew, no one had ever spoken those words to him.
He spoke to her through gritted teeth. "Shut up."
Nick didn't want to hear it. "You've only known me for a week, and in that time you've already figured out that I don't have the most noble of professions. You don't even know what my species is. And yet, you trust me?
Judy didn't even need to think about it. "Yes. Because I don't think you see the good in yourself, and I'm telling you, it's there."
"Don't tell me things about myself!" he yelled, louder than he had been in a long time. "There's so much that you don't know! Not just about me, about the world! That old saying, 'Anybody can be anything'… Do you honestly think that's how the world works?!"
After a moment or two, he heard Judy's voice, sounding genuinely concerned. "Nick… why are you crying?"
Nick hadn't even known he was crying, but once he realized it, he couldn't stop. The tears were pouring down his face with no end in sight. In that moment, it was as though he was eight years old again, sitting outside the building where the Ranger Scouts met. The real ranger scouts, no foxes allowed.
"Nick, listen to me, what's wrong?!" Judy asked, desperately. "Tell me why you're sad! At the very least, we can be sad together!"
"Judy…" Nick said, in between tears. "What you said… it just made me think of something…"
"Whatever it is, you can tell me," Judy said, firmly. "I'm here for you."
"Judy, I haven't told anyone about this… except for my parents and Finnick… he's a close friend…"
Judy leaned in. "I trust you, Nick." she said. "Do you trust me?"
There was a long pause until finally, Nick's words came out, slow and shaking. "Judy, I… I already told you that when I was a kid, my family was very poor. But, there's something else… I think I was about eight years old, maybe nine, and all I wanted to do… was join the Junior Ranger Scouts."
As Nick spoke, he wasn't even focused on his own words. Instead he found himself reliving the memory he tried so hard to forget. Because he had already cried in front of Judy. He had let her see that she got to him. He had broken his rule. Not to mention the fact that she had already opened her heart to him.
It was only fair.
But why did it have to be so painful?
Now he was back in front of the woodchuck kid, and the lights had turned off, and he was surrounded by the other kids, not knowing that they were about to become just fierce. He was just an innocent child who didn't have a clue what was about to happen.
And now, he was saying the words that he had memorized since childhood.
"I, Nicholas Wilde, promise to be brave, loyal, helpful and trustworthy."
With every word, Nick could feel his stomach tying up in knots.
"Go on," Judy said.
"…And then, he turned to me with the nastiest look I'd ever seen, and he spoke with this horrible disdain… 'Even though you're a fox?'"
After a few moments of silence, he heard Judy speaking very softly. "Oh my God…" With all of the trauma he was reliving, Nick had almost forgotten that he was actually revealing his species to her. But he couldn't stop. If he had told her this much, he had to tell her the rest of the story.
And as he continued, he tried not to listen for the gasps in Judy's voice. He tried to get back in the moment like before, being pushed down and unable to get back up. It had been five against one, and he couldn't even cry for help because the muzzle was too tight. Even when he had run out of the building, there was no one there to tell him it was going to be all right. Sure, his mother had comforted him when he got back to his house, but for the entire walk home, Nick had been completely on his own. Just him and the empty, black sky.
Looking back, it almost seemed like a nightmare. Except he knew for a fact that it was real.
"I leaned two things that day," Nick said, wrapping up the story. "One, I was never gonna let them see that they got to me. And two, if the world was gonna see a fox as shifty and untrustworthy, there was no point in trying to be anything else… which is basically how I entered my line of work." His heart rate kept getting faster. "I became a goddamned criminal, Judy. And it's not that I don't feel bad about it, it's just…" Nick tried in vain to stop the tears. "…I didn't see any other option."
After a few more moments of Nick sobbing, Judy Finally spoke up. "Nick, that's so horrible… I am so sorry." Tears were starting to form in her eyes as well. "I wish I could have been there, I could have stood up to those kids…"
"You would have been a baby," Nick said, starting to pull himself together. "You wouldn't have been able to stand up, period."
"I know," Judy said. "But if I could have done something, I would have."
Nick sniffed, then realized that something was missing. "So, uh.. do you have any kind of reaction regarding my species?"
Judy bit her lip anxiously. "Nick, you should know… I threw away the bottle of fox repellant earlier this morning. And now, I hate myself for even having it in the first place."
"You really threw it away?" Nick asked.
"Yes, Nick. After what you said regarding foxes…" Her ears shot up. "Sweet cheese and crackers, I probably should have figured it out earlier!" She sighed, but there was a slight smile on her face. "I guess I'm not much of a detective, huh?"
"No, no you're not," Nick said, starting to smile.
"Look," Judy said. "I may have had some… irrational thoughts… regarding foxes before, and I feel so horrible about that."
"Well, if it helps," remarked Nick, "I may not have always held bunnies in the highest regard."
Judy found herself rolling her eyes. "Surprisingly, that doesn't really help…"
Nick chuckled. "Okay, okay. So we both had our own prejudices."
"But we can get better," Judy said, determined. "I know we can get better."
Suddenly, Nick started to laugh.
"What's so funny?" asked Judy.
"It just hit me," Nick said. "This website thought it would be a good idea to pair up a bunny cop and a fox criminal." I mean, I know opposites attract, but damn! That seems unrealistic by most rom-com standards."
"Well," Judy said, "I am glad it paired us up, even if it is awfully unconventional."
Nick smiled. "Me, too."
At that moment, Nick heard a buzz from his phone. He looked down and saw that Finnick had texted him.
It read; 'Going to the bowling alley, u wanna come?'
Nick looked up, "My buddy Finnick wants to take me out for bowling." He hesitated. "Should I…"
"By all means, go." Judy said. "You deserve it. But now that we know each others species, we should probably talk about setting up some sort of meeting. You know, in real life."
"Well, we've come this far," Nick said. "When's your next day off?"
"Sunday," Judy said. "Day after tomorrow."
Nick looked down at his phone to see another text that said, 'Nick, you there?' He sighed. "How about you contact me tomorrow, and we can arrange it."
"Sounds like a plan," Judy said. "Oh, and Nick… there's something I wanted to say before signing off."
"I just wanted to say… you may be a fox, and you may be involved in some sort of crime… And both of those are gonna take some getting used to for me… but no matter what, you are a good mammal. I know you are. And you've made my life better just by being in it."
Nick could feel his heart melting even more. "Judy… you're gonna make me cry again."
"No, don't apologize."
For a few moments, the two mammals just sat by their computer monitors in silence. Only to be brought back to the real world by the sound of Nick's ringtone.
"I've gotta go. Goodbye."
And just like that, the conversation was over. And almost immediately, Nick felt sad that she was gone. He realized at that moment that he needed her in his life. Bunny or not, cop or not. He had gone past the point of no return, and all that was left was for him to see her.
But first, he had to answer his phone.
"Nick, where have you been?"
"Sorry, phone was on mute," Nick lied. "So, uh… Grizzly Bowling Alley in Tundratown, right?
"You bet your tail I'm coming," Nick said. "Oh, and… you might wanna do yourself a favor and get completely hammered."
"Uh… I was probably gonna do that anyway, but why?
Nick stood up and straightened his tie. "I have an… interesting story to tell you."
Author's Note: This chapter took an incredibly long time to figure out. For obvious reasons, this is probably the most crucial part of the story to get right. I think I'm happy with how it turned out, but I'll let you guys be the judge of that in the reviews section.
So, given how this chapter ends, I suppose I could probably end the story right here, but I'm not going to be that cruel. I still have a few more chapters up my sleeve. So, stay tuned.
EDIT: So, this fanfic may or may not be over.
The thing to keep in mind is that this is the first time I've ever written a multi-chapter fanfic, and I've never written anything that received such a warm reception. For some reason I just let the story get away from me. And now, suddenly writing the next chapter feels like something I have to do rather than just something I wanna do for fun.
There are a lot of 'dead fics' that ended without resolving conflict.' While there is a little bit more of this story to go, I think this chapter could be considered a satisfying conclusion to the Z-Harmony story. Two more chapters were initially planned, one depicting their real-life meeting, and then an epilogue. It's possible that these chapters will never see the light of day.
I know that the next time I attempt a multi-chapter story, to do a lot more planning beforehand. And to do most of the writing all at once when I have that initial spark. Because if you work on one story for a long time, you eventually start to get tired of your story and it's hard to keep yourself focused. In fact, I think you'l have to wait until NaNoWriMo before I attempt another ambitious story like this. (Although I'll probably write some one shots in the meantime.)
Thank you so much for all the love.