A/N: I started half a dozen WildeHopps stories during Nanowrimo this year, and this one was my favorite idea. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter One – Day One
Judy clasped her hands together, trying to rein in an excitement that was making her nearly vibrate. She stood in her cadet uniform in the police academy's sleeping barracks, fighting down the urge to start jumping in place.
I did it! I'm finally here!
The building housed forty beds, half with trunks at the end. It was newly quiet – vacated by classmates out exploring the grounds – and Judy savored the stillness, letting it settle her enthusiasm. Sharp, violet eyes that had tried to soften and seem friendly when shaking hands of soon-to-be peers, now turned to her bunk, searching for any last wrinkles in its impeccably-smooth surface. The rabbit had already remade it twice, painstakingly flattening out every crease, but paused to study anyway, hunting for any hint that she didn't deserve to be here.
Judy was the first bunny to register for the sixteen-week program, and she was going to prove to everyone how much she belonged in the ranks of the ZPD, starting with the state of her mattress.
"Looks perfect Carrots," a deep voice called.
Judy turned to see another cadet saunter over – a fox – dressed in an identical uniform, sipping coffee from the mess hall. Although his species was a surprise – she thought she'd been the only mammal making history today – she zeroed in on the bigger shock of his top, unbuttoned button. He's not going to greet our instructor like that, is he?!
She closed her open jaw, and managed, "H-Hi, I'm Judy."
He extended his hand. "Nick."
She pulled hers apart and shook it, forgetting to dull the drive in her gaze.
A smile crinkled his eyes as her fingers folded over his, and he glanced to her bunk. "Eager, huh?"
Judy wrenched herself away from the horror of his collar – wondering how he could meet anyone in such a state – and followed his gaze. "What makes you say that?"
Nick took another sip from his steaming cup, raising a brow at the meticulous lines of sheets and standard-issue blanket. "This looks like you took an iron to it."
Judy flushed. He's making fun of me.
"I'm just serious about joining the Zootopia police force," she eyed his open collar meaningfully.
He smiled easily, revealing rows of sharp teeth. "Our instructors will care about how we perform, not our level of tidiness," he purposefully undid a second button with his free hand, letting his grin widen. "See you on the field Carrots."
Judy flushed as he brushed past, irritated that he would risk his first impression just to make her feel foolish. "It's Judy," she muttered.
Nick offered his arm in a wave. "Do all bunnies get cute when they're mad?"
A frown pulled at her mouth. Cute?!
Judy stormed onto the training field a few minutes later, working to let her anger bleed away – that red-furred jerk wasn't going to dampen the brightness of her dream in its first hour. He hadn't been the only fox in her life to try. As she raised her head, her ears fell.
The other nineteen trainees, all of impressive builds and size, had already assembled and were now staring with raised eyebrows and hand-covered mouths at her approach; she was the last to arrive.
Fighting the heat in her face – a mix of mortification and swallowed tears – Judy scrambled to her place beside a stern-looking wolf, just as a large polar bear pulled a clipboard from her face.
"Nice of you to join us Cadet Hopps," she called, checking her watch.
"Sorry ma'am!" She returned, spotting Nick in the row behind her and glaring his way. He had made her late! Her father's voice echoed in her head, cautioning about 'shifty, low-life foxes', and she nodded as if he were there to see.
Nick looked up, feeling her stare, and shot her another grin, brushing his fingers against the upturned ends of his open collar.
"Cadets!" The polar bear shouted. "Stand at attention!"
Judy swept her feet together and pulled her arms behind her back, following the order faster than her canine neighbor. She had practiced a hundred times in her bedroom in Bunnyburrow, and her nerves melted at the joy she felt in finally executing the stance for more than a mirror.
The instructor started down the first row, eyeing the assembled group. Her appraisal was wordless, and several mammals straightened under her gaze. She stopped three quarters of the way to Judy and whipped a huge arm out. "Cadet Wilde!" She accused. "Close up your uniform immediately!"
Judy heard scrambling behind her and worked to hide a grin.
"If I ever see you so disheveled again, you'll be scrubbing the sleeping barracks with your tail!"
Judy's pleasure spread against her best efforts, and she ducked, staring down at her feet.
The polar bear glanced her way. "Something funny Cadet Hopps?"
She shook her head vigorously. "No ma'am."
Heavy footsteps approached. "You sure?" A long, white muzzle got close. "Because you look very amused."
Judy flicked her eyes up. "Sorry."
The mammal frowned. "Two laps. You and Unbuttoned Wilde. Move!"
Judy burst from her spot, heading for the track surrounding them, shoving her pounding heart down into her stomach. Nick jogged behind her, and she went faster, determined to start before him.
Unfortunately, their different biology allowed him to catch up quickly, and his longer legs made strides that easily outmatched hers. He reached the track's starting line a breath after her, and caught up as she began her first trip around the field.
Judy heard his beginning pants at her shoulder and felt a small satisfaction at his obvious exertion.
"Sorry," Nick mumbled, coming up beside her. "Guess your glares were right Carrots. Should have used your iron on my collar."
Judy ran harder, letting her feet pound against the well-tended track. "Who knows? Maybe Major Friedkin likes slobs who don't care."
She surged forward, and Nick fell behind. Pushing herself, the rabbit put several yards between them and risked a glance to the interior.
Their instructor was giving basic information about the barracks, and Judy lifted her ears, straining to pick out the vital details being dispensed.
Heavy, wheezing exhales sounded behind her. "You… know…," Nick started. "I… was… right… too."
Judy glanced back in annoyance. "How?"
He threw his head back and gulped for air, palming his hip at an unseen stitch. "You shouldn't… show them… you want it… so bad," he dropped his eyes back to her.
Judy scoffed. "Showing is how I graduate," she let scorn edge her face. "And if you don't, you won't last long here."
Nick closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, forcing himself closer. "Just saying…."
She returned to the track. "Save it. I don't need your advice."
When Judy and Nick returned to the field, the group was already reviewing the protocols for doling rights to subjects. Friedkin paired them up with a dismissive wave, and they trudged to a corner together.
Judy eyed the fox's heaving shoulders and sweat-matted fur. "You have the right to remain silent," she said, trying to speak through her resentment. Its power surprised her – she was eager to make friends here, but not with someone who earned her a reprimand moments after leaving the barracks. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in court of law."
Nick glared balefully, dropping his hands to his hips and doing his best not to double over. The laps had been a rude wake up call – this was not going to be an easy four months. "I was just passing by officer," he role-played. "What's the meaning of this?"
She continued, lifting her chin as the instructor's gaze wandered their way. "You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
"What's my offense?" Nick countered. "What was I doing?"
Judy swallowed. He knows how to argue.
"Besides making me look bad?" She whispered.
Nick thought a moment, then nodded. "Sure."
"Do you understand the rights I've just read you?" She plodded onward, conscious of the eyes on her. "With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?"
"Just tell me what I did!" He exclaimed, throwing the back of his hand to his forehead with dramatic flair. "I don't see the need for an arrest!"
Judy scowled. "You were… interfering with an important case," she ad-libbed.
"Maybe I was just trying to be friendly," Nick countered.
She waited for a slow smile – more teasing – but saw only sincerity instead. Judy swallowed and hunted for a rebuttal. "You call swiping a purse friendly?" She said lamely.
A whistle blew, and the pairs stopped. "Alright!" The polar bear hollered. "It's time for our first obstacle course run!"
Nick and Judy straightened, turning to hear more, and he stepped up next to her. "A purse? He whispered. "That's the best you got? A bit cliché, don't you think?"
"Quiet! We'll miss something," she hissed, training her eyes forward.
"Cause you know, you're the first mammal to ever accuse me of snatching one."
Judy jabbed her elbow into his side, and he 'oofed' softly.
"So… violent," he muttered.
Their instructor ushered all of them around and outlined the different ecosystems of Zootopia, naming the perils of the Rainforest District, Sahara Square, and Tundra Town. At the last one, Nick interrupted by raising his hand, having regained his breath.
"Wilde?" She called on him. "Something to add?"
"Yes ma'am," he stepped forward. "I was just wondering if the police department will be outfitting us with tools to counter these different ecosystems."
Her eyes narrowed. "Tools are earned Pointy Ears," she shot back. "And you haven't earned anything," she raised a brow at Judy. "Except maybe one mad Farm Girl," she ignored Nick's frown and continued.
Judy forced her legs to move, exhaustion making the usually-energetic limbs heavy.
"Tired, Carrots?" Nick came up behind her, clapping a hand on her back.
The rabbit squeezed her eyes shut. Not now. She tried to answer lightly, but her 'nope' came out strained and discouraged. The obstacle course, which she'd finished last, had left her covered in bruises and sand. "And my name's Judy."
Nick pranced ahead, showing none of his earlier fatigue. "Not too resilient, are you?" His growing grin was unduly smug. "You may be able to lap me around the track, but a little actual hardship, and you buckle."
She closed her eyes, fisting hands at her sides and wanting only to stamp out the half-pound of dirt sandwiched between her toes. "Am I giving up?" She shot back, pouring more emotion than she'd meant to into the question. "Just leave me alone!"
He halted, letting his grin fall. "I can't," he said seriously.
Judy resisted the urge to elbow him again. "Why? What did I ever do to you?"
Nick put a hand out, stopping her trudge. "Haven't you noticed?"
Confusion mingled with her weariness.
"We're the smallest cadets here," he gestured to a cluster of bears and a pair of elephants getting ready for bed, shucking off shirts and trading small talk with easy smiles. Beyond them, a hippo, a trio of large cats, a rhino, and the unfriendly wolf, all whipped back covers and turned off lights with quiet severity, casting reproving glances to classmates not following suit.
Nick gave one glaring jaguar a mild wave, waggling his fingers. "We've got to stick together."
Judy shouldered his arm away, squashing down the small part of her wishing she'd been invited into the troop readying themselves for bed. "Like hell," she traipsed forward. "You made fun of my bunk and made the instructor think I'm going to be her 'tardy cadet'."
He turned and kept pace with her. "Ok. I have poor social skills and get folks around me into trouble," he spread his palms wide and shrugged. "New mammals are not usually fans of me.
Judy kept walking. "Shocking," she huffed. "And I'm not here to 'get into trouble'."
Nick grinned, flashing teeth again. "You sure? I bet you're fun when you're not wound tighter than ol' Wolfie over there," he nudged her as they reached the foot of her bunk. "Come on. What do you say? Want to be friends? Us little guys?"
Judy ground her teeth together and immediately shook her head. "No. You don't make your bed or button your uniform.
"That doesn't mean I won't make a good officer," he countered.
Judy sighed. "We'll see."