The darkness in the tunnel was almost all-encompassing as Nick and Judy continued to make their way along, the only real light coming from the flashlight feature on Nick's phone that was in Judy's possession.
"Man, the least they could do is string some lights along. I can barely see." said Nick quietly, attempting to lighten the mood.
Unfortunately, the only real reaction he got from his counterpart was a shush. While Nick understood her reasoning behind doing so, he was admittedly a little disappointed that she didn't even bother playing along.
Time passed as they kept going down the seemingly never-ending tunnel, both of them remaining silent although Nick was forced to bite back a few choice curses after stepping on a pointy rock and nearly banging his head on the ceiling.
"The hell?" he said to himself, reaching out with a paw and realizing that the tunnel was becoming smaller.
Kneeling down, Nick took a look inside where the smaller part of the tunnel began, placing his paw up against the ceiling to test how much room he had to move.
Luckily, it was big enough that he didn't have to start crawling, but he still had to kneel quite a bit before his head would fit into the gap.
"Here goes nothing."
Pressing his torso up against his legs, Nick began slowly crouch-walking his way into the rest of the tunnel, managing to catch up with Judy not too long after despite the rabbit having went ahead while he waffled about with the new tunnel size.
Once again in silence, Judy and Nick continued on their way down the tunnel. While Judy had no real issue crouch-walking, Nick's legs were becoming increasingly sore due to the workout they were being put through.
Thankfully, though, just as it was about to get to the point where Nick felt like his legs were going to cramp up, the tunnel suddenly widened again into what appeared to be a large warehouse.
Judy was almost completely caught off guard by how quickly the tunnel ended, so she almost ended up falling out of the hole and into a place where she definitely didn't want to be caught in.
Luckily, Nick was there to catch her, wrapping his arm around her waist before pulling her back in to the hole.
"Thanks." said Judy quickly.
"Don't mention it. Now, how do you want to do this?" asked Nick, his voice quiet enough so that the noise going on down below sufficiently drowned out their conversation from any eavesdroppers.
Judy didn't answer immediately, instead looking around the area as she formulated their next course of action.
Down below them was a ladder, which they could easily use to climb down from the hole and get back on to solid ground. However, with how close they were to the action, Judy believed it was too risky to try, especially since the warehouse was most likely guarded from multiple angles.
Upwards was a different story, though, as once she looked upwards, she spotted a catwalk hanging above.
"Carrots, what are you doing?" asked Nick as Judy took a few steps back into the tunnel.
Nick ended up getting his answer in an unexpected way, as Judy took a running start before bouncing off of the edge of the tunnel towards, barely catching the edge of the catwalk with her fingers.
Thankfully, despite a few hair-raising seconds where Judy was struggling to pull herself up, she managed to eventually do so, kicking one of her legs on to the catwalk before sliding under the railing to safety.
Relieved that Judy wasn't going to have to be scraped off of the ground, Nick clutched at his chest for a few moments to calm his beating heart before looking back up and realizing that she was leaning over the railing head first with both paws outstretched towards him.
"Come on, Nick! Jump and I'll catch you!" she said in a loud whisper.
"Are you crazy, Fluff?" said Nick in the same tone. "I'm double your size!"
"I'll be fine! I've got my legs hooked around the railing."
Nick got up on his toes and looked up to find that Judy's legs were indeed wrapped around the railings, and while he was admittedly worried about how far they were apart, he's seen enough of her in action to know how strong those legs were, being a rabbit and all.
Slapping a paw over his face, Nick slid it up and over his ears before letting his arm fall back to his side.
"If you let me fall, Carrots, I swear I am going to haunt you for the rest of your life!" he said, pointing towards her with a finger.
"Come on, Nick! You can do it!"
Although slightly miffed that she didn't make a comment about his haunting threat, Nick chose to let it go in favor of psyching himself up for the jump.
Sighing, he began taking steps backwards, taking even more steps than Judy did considering he felt better getting a bigger running start than her.
Once he was back enough to the point where he was comfortable, Nick got down into a three-point stance, mentally counting down before shooting off, putting his ZPD training to use as he pushed himself to get as much speed as he can before he reached the end.
As the end of the tunnel came up, Nick figuratively coiled his legs up like a spring, waiting for the exact moment when his foot hit the edge.
That moment quickly came.
Springing off of his back foot, Nick flew through the air, desperately reaching out for Judy's paws as he hoped that his aim was close enough that she wouldn't miss grabbing him.
Thankfully, his aim was spot on, but as Judy got closer to him, he soon realized that she was getting further away from him.
Nick was convinced that he was going to fall short, his arms wildly waving in the air as he tried to grab whatever he could manage, his eyes tightly shut as he waited for the inevitable.
Just as Nick was beginning to think that he was going to have to follow through on haunting Judy, his momentum soon came to a stop as he hung in the air.
Puzzled, Nick slowly opened his eyes and looked up to find that Judy somehow had grabbed him by the shirt collar, the fox's midriff exposed as he swung back and forth below the catwalk.
"Holy crap, Judy! I thought I was going to die for a second there! My life flashed before my eyes!" he said, his tone breathless as he spoke in his loud whisper.
"Thank me later and grab my paws! I can't hold on for much longer!"
Judy was indeed struggling to get a good grip on Nick's shirt, and Nick could even feel himself slipping a bit out of the garment as his arms were slightly pinned in the air by how far above his head his shirt was.
After a few seconds of effort, Nick managed to twist his body around and grab Judy's left arm with his paw, enabling her to let go of his shirt with her corresponding paw and grab his arm.
Nick soon did the same with his other paw, and after a few more seconds of struggling, Judy somehow managed to pull Nick up far enough that he was able to grab the end of the catwalk and pull himself up.
Once the two of them had finally made it up, they both collapsed on the metal grating, catching their breath.
"Oh god, I feel like I've just aged ten years. That was probably the dumbest idea I've ever heard." said Nick.
"Well, we made it up, didn't we?" said Judy, letting the remark pass.
"Yeah, after nearly pancaking on the ground below. How are we going to get down, anyway?"
Nick's question was unfortunately ignored, as Judy's attention was grabbed by what was going down below them.
Crawling over to the other end of the catwalk, Judy looked down at ground level, her counterpart rolling his eyes before joining her nearby.
Nick's attitude quickly changed, though, when he saw what Judy saw.
There was a small group of what Nick assumed were some of the gang members crowded around a large table carrying a map, but what really caught his eye was the boxes and boxes of guns and other weapons.
"What is with these guys? That looks like enough guns to arm an entire army!"
Nick ended up not even getting an answer to his comment, because Judy was busy pulling Nick's phone out of her pocket, quickly typing in the password before pulling up the camera and pointing it towards the meeting down below.
Nick winced, though, when his ears caught the click noise the camera made when it took a picture.
Luckily, the gang members were too busy speaking to each other to notice, but Nick didn't want to take the risk, so before Judy could get too into her photos, Nick turned his head towards her, some slight panic on his face as he spoke.
"Carrots, mute the phone!"
Pausing just before hitting the button once more, Judy looked up at the top of the screen and noticed the lack of a picture to signify the phone being on mute.
Nearly panicking herself, Judy almost ended up dropping the phone before catching herself, swiping the options menu down before hitting the volume button twice to finally mute the phone.
"Christ, Carrots, you almost gave me a heart attack."
"Well, how was I supposed to know your phone's sound was on?"
"…Point taken. Now, get those pictures taken so we can get out of here before they're done down there."
Judy nodded before returning her focus to the phone, the device now mercifully silent as she took picture after picture of the warehouse full of guns, as well as the gang members.
When she went to take a picture of the map, though, that was when things got difficult.
Even though they both were well above the meeting, they were far enough away from it that there was an entire line of mammals blocking her from getting a good shot of the map.
Silently groaning in protest, Judy stood up on the catwalk, getting up on her toes and even raising the camera as high above her head as she could manage in the hopes of getting a full picture of the map, but nothing seemed to work. The pictures were either too blurry, or the gang members were blocking her view.
Exasperated, Judy turned towards Nick, holding out her free paw.
"Let me get on your shoulders. I can't get high enough to get a good picture of the map."
Nick's eyes widened a bit, no doubt surprised by what Judy was asking.
"You sure that's wise? We're not exactly in the dark here."
"I'll be quick. I just need one good picture and then we can leave."
Nick wasn't entirely convinced, but he shrugged before getting into a kneeling position.
"Don't say I didn't warn you. Now, hop up."
Judy did so, using her free paw to grab Nick's as the fox grabbed her other wrist in the absence of another paw to grab (thanks to it holding his phone).
Once both of Judy's feet were firmly planted on Nick's shoulders, Nick slowly stood up, his already tired legs burning from the effort.
Thankfully, though, he was able to fully stand up and make his way to the side of the catwalk after a few near stumbles.
Releasing the paws around her limbs, Nick waited anxiously, clutching her feet against his shoulders as she moved the phone around to get the exact right angle she needed.
After a few more agonizing seconds, Judy finally got the entire map in the frame, and after taking a few seconds to steady herself, she finally hit the button and took the picture.
"Yes, I've got it!" she said quietly, pumping her fist for emphasis.
"Good, now let's get the heck out of here and get these pictures to Cotton."
Nick picked Judy up off of his shoulders before setting her back down on the catwalk.
However, what they failed to immediately catch was that when Judy was being lowered down to the grating below, one of the nearby lights ended up glinting off of the camera lens on Nick's phone.
While it was only for what felt like a split second, it was just enough that one of the gang members that was on the side of the table facing them caught the light out of the corner of his eye.
The gang member, who upon closer inspection turned out to be the exact badger that Nick and Judy were chasing through Bunnyburrow not too long ago looked up, his muzzle twisting in fury as he realized just who was watching them.
"It's the cops!" shouted the badger, pointing up towards the catwalk where Judy and Nick were just about to head towards the end where they could get down.
Both Nick and Judy froze, the former silently swearing as they realized that their cover was blown.
All of the other mammals turned around towards where the badger was pointing, everyone very much surprised to see the fox and bunny spying on them.
"Grab them! Now!" said the badger.
Judy barely had time to shout that before the two of them were off, pushing through their fatigue as they rushed down towards the end of the catwalk.
Luckily, they ended up choosing the right side, as it led to a stairway down to the floor.
However, they were also quite high up as well, and in the time that they took to make their way downstairs, a few of the gang members managed to block their way just as they reached the final set.
"Come quietly, little bunny, and maybe we won't have to break your leg." said one of the gang members, a boar with an intimidating air around him.
Thankfully, Judy wasn't one to be intimidated. Judy took a step forwards, her posture making it look like she was going to start fighting the boar.
However, fighting him wasn't her intention, and when she noticed the flinch in his body movements, Judy went into action, grabbing Nick by the wrist and hopping over the railing.
Caught off guard, the gang members looked confused for a second before rushing around the stairway to give chase.
Luckily, though, these precious few seconds were enough to give Nick and Judy the chance to get to the ladder without anyone interfering.
"You climb first!" said Judy, almost shoving Nick towards the ladder as the gang members got closer.
Nick thankfully got the picture, grabbing the nearest rung and making his way up the ladder as quick as he could.
Meanwhile, Judy grabbed the ladder herself once she had enough room to do so, but just as she made it to the halfway point of the ladder, she felt a paw being wrapped around her foot.
Looking down, she noticed that one of the gang members, specifically the boar, had grabbed her.
Annoyed, Judy kicked the boar in the face as hard as she could manage with her free foot, earning a satisfying crack as the boar reared back in pain, his paws going up to his snout.
With both of her feet free, Judy returned them to the ladder, pouring on the speed as she climbed quickly up the ladder and successfully reached the hole, finding Nick a few feet down the tunnel anxiously waiting for her to catch up.
Once she did so, the two of them crawled hurriedly through the small part of the tunnel before getting back on their feet once there was enough room to do so.
Luckily, though, as she looked back once they reached the ladder, Judy noticed that there was no one right behind them. In fact, while she could hear footsteps coming down the tunnel, they were far enough away that she believed that there must have been some delay in getting one of the gang members in to the tunnel, no doubt because the boar probably couldn't fit in the small section.
Mentally thanking whoever was watching over them, Judy turned her head back to the ladder and continued climbing, both her and Nick eventually reaching the inconspicuous trapdoor and back into the backyard.
Once they were on solid ground, the two of them didn't stop until they reached the police station in town, both of them eager to share their evidence with Sheriff Cotton.
Ugh, I apologize for the insane wait. Honestly, no offense to everyone else, but the extreme abundance of Nick/Judy stories really burned me out on Zootopia in general. It's honestly not all that fun trying to look through the archives and finding nothing but stories about Judy and Nick fall in love and all that.
Once again, I don't mean any offense (I'm not telling anyone what to do with their ideas). I will finish this story, but this will probably be the last one I do for a while, at least until the sequel comes out and reignites my interest.
Anyway, I hope that you guys understand.