CLASSIFIED: DO NOT READ
Operations Clock: 7 hours
"Capt'n! Come back! That's not going to work!"
Sailor standing on shore shouts out at man wading in surf next to blown up ship's boat they'd used to get to the island.
"I'll be damned before I let him get me again! That's my brand new ship!" the captain shouts back gesticulating wildly, "Now be quiet! I got to rope me some sea turtles and make a raft so I can get back to my Ship before he blows up that Fluffing Nuke!"
"Sir! That only works in the movies!"
"No," Coughed the officer poking around trees on the island, "That didn't even work in the movie, that was just a story the actor used to hustle people in the movie."
"Silence! I'm getting my ship back come Hell or High Water!"
"Sir." The sailor pleads, "That took Three days in the movie! And the tide is coming in and that Fluff Nuke is going to make this island Fluffing Hell on earth, in like thirty Minutes! Not THREE Days! He even put up a countdown timer in the rigging, see?!" sailor gestures at the big digital race clock hoisted up on the ship just so they could see as it clicked down with a 'BEEP' spelled out between second changes on the LED clock display as it dropped toward zero.
"That damned grinch is always late! He won't detonate that Bomb on schedule! It's just another Trick! I'll get me some turtles before he does, then I'll get to that ship, then I'll sail all the way to the arctic to ice that Grinch if I have to!" The captain screams waving his arms, then stops, "Damnit! Your scaring away my rafting turtles!"
"Give up sailor, it's no use." The officer says as he stops, then jumps up and down on a spot below a palm tree.
Sailor looks over at officer as he crouches down and examines the spot under the tree, then looks back at the captain worriedly.
"Capt'n! Please! What are you even going to use to tie the turtles together?"
"Hair! You use hair damnit! Everyone knows you tie sea turtles together with hair to make a raft to escape barren islands!"
Officer shakes head as sailor contemplates that for a second.
"Um… Capt'n…" sailor says scratching his own close shaved head, "you're bald… and the rest of us all have buzz cuts…"
Captain stops in surf for a moment, then shakes fist at his ship.
"Then I'll grown some hair!"
"He's going to need a lot more time and rogaine than we currently have if he wants to make that plan work…" Muttered the officer as he lifted up a trap door hidden in the sand under the tree.
The sailor sighs and turns away from the captain.
"You're right sir, I don't think he's going to listen. Hey! What did you find there?"
"Not sure…" the officer mutter disappearing down the trap door then tossing some items out of the hideaway onto the sand.
"Ground coffee… Instant Coffee… Whole bean coffee… canned coffee ohh… looks like that bottled starbucks lattes! I think this is a coffee smugglers hide away!" the officer said excitedly.
"You think we can use that coffee to trap the grinch sir?" The sailor said hopefully, glancing back toward the ship.
*Beep* 25:58 *Beep* 25:57 *Beep* 25:56 scrolled across the LED clock face.
"Maybe… Maybe… huh, that's different."
A couple of beach chairs were thrown up and landed in the sand followed by the officer emerging and reading a off a list he'd apparently found down in the coffee cache.
"This says… Sit back and enjoy the show, we've even lined up some music for you before we light this puppy off! Oh and here have a coffee on me too… Signed, Grinch. P.S. Ha Ha! You're Fluffing Screwed! Fear The Fluff! Muhahahaha!"
The officer stared at the paper for a second looking like he was sucking on a lemon.
"Sir?" the sailor asked sounding scared and glancing back toward the ship as some concert speakers started getting hoisted up into the rigging too.
The officer flipped the piece of paper over then squinted, reading.
"P.P.S. Ha Try and stop me now Disney the Great and Mighty! I've successfully stolen your Zootopia characters!
P.P.P.S. The office of Lawyers for the Fluff Federation of Evil Grinches advise me that I should put the above as a disclaimer…*Pfffttt* as if!
P.P.P.P.S to those barbarian heretics among you that do not enjoy the angel with horns voice and are not familiar with her songs as well as other awesome artist's, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the concert songs or music videos etc. etc. before meeting your doom! It will make the experience that much more… um… worse? Doomyier? Whatever, Listen to the songs first you heathens or I'll Rain Fluff down upon you… wait I'm already planning on doing that Agghhhh! What ever! Clawhauser will haunt your dreams if you don't!
Roar By Katy Perry
Waka Waka By Shakira
Hips don't Lie By Shakira
She Wolf By Shakira
Whenever, Wherever By Shakira
Can you feel the love tonight By Elton John/Disney Singers
Somewhere Only We Know By Lily Allen
Try Everything By Shakira
P.P.P.P.P.S. Okay I may have thrown in some extra songs just to keep you all guessing and the grinch lawyers are saying something about disclaimering those too… *Pfffttttt* really? Like a grinch would do that!
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. YOU ALL ARE DOOOMED! DOOOOOMED! MUHAHAHAHHA! GRICHES RULE! SUCK IT LOSERS!"
Officer and sailor stare at message for a second as Music starts playing from speakers.
"I think he likes using P.S. too much…" sailor mutters
Officer looks offended.
"Okay, I am now officially pissed off!" Officer glares at ship off shore, "Sailor we are going to wreck that grinch's plan. I don't care if we have to set off the Fluff Nuke first to get him, but he is going down!"
"Sir! But we'll be caught in the Fluff-splosion if we do that!"
Sailor looks pale.
"Ahh. But so will that grinch." Officer glares evilly at ship.
Sailor nods then glances at the captain splashing around in the surf chasing a turtle before he trips and faceplants in the water.
"Umm… I could get on board with that plan sir… but the captain… if he loses this ship too…"
"The Captain will get over it." The officer says sternly, then glances at the captain sitting in the water crying.
"Maybe…" the officer amends watching as the turtle comes up and nudges the weeping captain. The captain pets the turtle for a second, then looks up and lunges at the turtles as it skitters away in the water before clumsily chasing after it again.
Officer shakes his head.
"But that doesn't matter sailor. All that matters now is that we take that Grinch down with us!"
"Huzzah, Huzzah, We're with you sir!" cheered the lone sailor.
"Good. Now before that clock runs out I need you to go find me some saplings, a bunch of coconuts, a conch shell, some bamboo if there's any on this island, some palm fronds, a couple of rocks about yey big and shaped like this."
"Um, sir, how am I supposed to find all that in the time we have left?!" The sailor asked stunned.
Officer picks up some of the canned coffee and passes it over the sailor.
"Drink up, we gots work to do."
Chapter 15 In Page Art!
Courtesy of J-McKeon inspired by OceRydia
Courtesy of Alamarus thanks to Anheledir
(YES this FanFiction DOT net so you have to go look it up yourself, but it is SO WORTH IT!)
CHECK IT OUT AT:
j-mckeon DOT deviantart DOT com/art/NICK-and-JUDY-GOOD-vs-EVIL-LOGO-FREE-VERSION-708176011
alamarus DOT deviantart DOT com/art/Commission-The-Kiss-730095066
(Can also be found by googling artist's names and 'Deviantart' and looking in their Deviant Art Galleries)
Chapter 15 - IT'S A TRAP!
"So…" Jack asked, holding back a grin as he and Skye made their way through the crowded concert, "What do you think their chances are?"
To any mammals watching them it probably looked like they were separating from the two ZPD couples that had come in behind them to find their own spot, but Jack could tell from the path Skye was taking that she was really finding a spot from which they'd have a good view to where the other two couples were headed.
Skye let out a small amused snort.
"For Wilde and Hopps? Well… let's just say that I'm betting all in on them finally realizing the obvious. What with everything that's happened I'm a bit surprised they haven't already." She shrugged, "But even if they don't soon, with what's planned they'll either figure it out or prove that they're so dense they never will… or they might possibly die, I wouldn't put that out of the realm of possibilities either. They could make Romeo and Juliet scream bloody murder for all their dancing around the issue and threaten mortal peril if they don't just get on with it and Kiss."
Jack snickered as Skye grinned.
"As for the other two…" Skye said shooting him wicked little smile, as she rubbed up against his side, "Given that they've pretty much marked each other, I'm sure that Fangmeyer and Wolford are a done deal by this point. For them, it's going to be just a matter of enjoying the fireworks as they figure that out for themselves. That, and watching to make sure the explosions don't accidentally burn down anything nearby, too."
Jack snorted, looking at the stage were some of the special effects for the end of the last song were finishing.
"Ya... we might want to make sure Fangmeyer isn't too close to the stage if Wolford's parents manage to track them down in here. She might try using those special effects to keep them at bay if she gets cornered right now."
Skye let out a low, sweet laugh that trailed off into giggles before she pecked him on the cheek.
"Always on the job protecting the city and its mammals from behind the scenes, aren't you Jack?" She said half in jest and half with a sort of possessive pride and no small amount of love.
"Well, as funny as watching a mammal try to fend off her future mother-in-law with roman candles might be, having a Gazelle concert end early really would be a tragedy for the city now wouldn't it?" Jack replied casually even as he stood a bit straighter, chest puffing out from the way Skye's look affected him, "Though to be honest," Jack added smiling back at her, "I'm not really doing it for the city, I'm doing it for this girl I like that really really wanted to go dancing at the concert tonight."
Skye stopped in her tracks and turned to face him.
"You know Jack, sometimes you are just too damned smooth," she said, sounding almost irritated, and scowled right before she kissed him.
Jack grinned as the kiss ended, feeling more exhilarated than even when he was pulling off the hardest covert missions where only that smooth charisma was what made the difference between succeeding and dying.
"Too smooth, and too charming," Skye said and nipped his lip lightly before pulling back from the kiss, "I swear, I'm going to find a way to remedy you of that tonight."
She took his paw and led him onto a small opening in the crowd ahead.
"For the rest of the night Jack, you are all mine. I already took care of the issue with Wolford's parents." Skye said with an evil little grin and waved her phone in her other paw before tucking it back into her pocket. She stopped in the open section and spun to face him, picking up his other paw so she was holding both of them in hers. "All you need to worry about tonight my wwwrabbit," she grinned devilishly and swayed her hips and tail in counter motion to each other as she started moving toward him, still holding booth his paws, just as the next song started, "… is whether I can manage to break that smooth charm of yours before that little bunny and her fox finally succumb to the inevitable."
Jack's attention had gotten stuck on Skye's sashaying hip motion so much so while she talked and closed in on him, that his attention on everything else going on around them almost slipped.
It took him a few more seconds than it should have to recognize the song that was starting up, but when he did, his eyes went wide.
"Skye!" Jack said quickly a note of dread in his voice as he gulped, "Come on, that's… that's… not fair…"
Skye just smiled at him devilishly, putting more sway into her hips.
"Bess, you know texting and driving don't go together?" Bogo asked over his shoulder as there was another stifled giggle from his wife followed by a few seconds of furious tapping.
"Of course," she replied cheerily. "But you're driving, I'm just riding."
"Yes… but we don't have helmets, so I'd like you to be holding on with both hands instead of typing just in case something… unexpected happens," Bogo said, thinking darkly about what chaos they might be driving toward, what with Wilde and Hopps and some of his other best officers going winter not even to mention how Jack and Skye seemed to be prodding them all on. He groaned as he turned the Segway around the last turn toward the stadium where the concert was and tried to think happy thoughts.
If nothing else, at least he'd get to see the concert; That was a good thing, a very good thing. And he'd get to see it with Bess, that was even better. Life couldn't be all bad and chaotic with that to look forward to… right?
Bogo's forehead scrunched, and he prayed to all the gods that he hadn't just jinxed himself.
"It's cute that you worry so much about me," Bess commented teasingly from behind, "but I somehow doubt that anything would happen with you driving a Segway, it's not like it's a motorcycle," Bess added with a giggle but after a second Bess's other hoof holding her cellphone wrapped around his waist, her hoof drumming lightly on his stomach.
"You know though, there are easier ways to get me to hold onto you than using that as a pretense." She added slyly pressing up against his back as her arms tightened around his front, one of her hoofs wrapped around his stomach dropping just a little lower than necessary.
There was a momentary bobble in the Segway as a jolt ran through Bogo's body and he let out a involuntary snort of air, though there wasn't even another bull in the vicinity to challenge. It only took him a second to stamp down the involuntary reaction and stop himself from actually stamping as well but it was too late to hide his reaction entirely.
"On second thought," Bess added with a pleased and rather self-satisfied tone, "Maybe I should keep a tight hold on you so I don't fall off."
"BESS!" Bogo said trying to keep his voice from turning into a surprised bellow as he tried to figure out how he should respond to her flirting.
Dooooo it! whispered an imaginary devils voice in his ear again and Bogo's face turned stony. You know you want to! Dooooo it!
Oh, would you stop it already! Came a sullen voice of the bunny angel, though she was missing her halo as she appeared on Bogo's shoulder glaring at the devil fox whispering into his ear, "You told him we'd leave him alone if he did it and he did!"
There was a snicker from the fox as he casually leaned against Bogo's neck and blew the bunny angel a kiss that had her cheeks turning a bright blushing red.
It's called a hustle, Sweetheart! The fox said smugly and winked at her.
That's- That's- That's- against the law! The bunny stammered her blush growing worse and traveling up her ears.
Is it now? The fox asked with, what Bogo thought was the world's most annoyingly smarmy grin, I'm just helping him along to the end that we all know is going to happen.
You don't know that for sure! The bunny shouted back, though her denial was rather unconvincing, almost like she was afraid that he might be right.
Of course I do, The fox replied, eyes going half lidded as he gazed at her and the angel bunnies face turned cherry red with her blush, contrasting quite a bit with her ruffled white robe.
You, the fox devil pointed at her, know where this leads, I know, Hell -bless those flying pigs- even Bogo knows! He's married! As much as that stuck up buffalo butt tries to deny it, he absolutely knows where this is headed! He's just still a giddy love struck fumbling teenager deep inside that sometimes needs a little Push. The fox thumped Bogo on his nose with a paw right as there was a bump in the road that bounced the Segway and had Bogo bouncing back against his wife's hips as she held onto him and let out a stifled chortle.
See? The devil fox said dripping smugness, He knows. And if he didn't, then why is this little- the fox looked up at Bogo from his shoulder and coughed, *ehem* Big cupid, so concerned about making sure things work out for his officers?
That hit a little too close for Bogo and he frowned fiercely.
The only reason he was doing this after all, Bogo told himself, was because the performance of his officers was dropping! It was an issue of the ZPD's morale! Of public safety! Just look what had almost happened with Fangmeyer and Wolford today! Mammals could have gotten hurt! He didn't care if those two finally figured out the happiness they both wanted could be theirs if they just stopped being so dumb about the whole thing!
Hey! That was a cheap shot Nick! The bunny shouted furiously, We're not allowed to use mammal's hidden secrets like that! It makes them uncomfortable! Let him have his denials if he wants! It's not like everyone doesn't already know he's got a big marshmallow for a heart already!
The fox just grinned and pointed at himself.
Me, devil. You, angel. He replied pointing from himself to her. You might not be able to, but I can. He can keep his denials so long as he knows he has them. This is why things work for us my bunny, We're two extremes, two opposites and we balance each other out. Angel and devil, Fox and Bunny. The fox finished, paw stopping its back and forth to pointing at her as he smiled.
The bunny in turn opened and shut her mouth flushing badly and trying not to look back at him.
Bogo let out violent snort. Wilde and Hopps had obviously driven him to partial insanity given how insane and sappy his thoughts had become, but that didn't matter. He didn't care about the personal lives of his officers so long as it didn't affect their performance and morale. He'd was only doing his job, nothing else. He didn't care.
There was another slight bump in the road that had Bess bouncing against his back and her tapping hoof on his stomach bouncing lower again for just a second.
Bogo's whole body went rigid like she'd zapped him with his own taser and he let out another challenging snort of air.
He didn't care about Wilde and Hopps's personal life… but on the other hand, he did care about his and Bess's.
Doooo it! The devil snickered quietly right into his ear.
Okay, that's it! the heavily blushing bunny angel said putting her foot down and glaring, You want to play dirty, then I'll play dirty! She held up her paw and snapped her fingers. There was a puff of smoke and her angel robes were replaced with devil's clothes, complete with cape and hat, all in a flash of flame.
Your angel wings are still showing, Nick replied with a wink and snicker and then pulled out her stolen halo and fitted it over his own head, But if you want to play devil's advocate for a bit, I guess I can play the angelic voice of reason for a little while too. The foxes devil clothes shimmered disappeared. Suddenly he was wearing slacks and a nice white shirt… though in an untucked, loose tie manner that despite clearly not being up to on duty ZPD uniform policies managed to give off an air of relaxed competence. It drove Bogo crazy and he wanted to yell at the figment of his imagination to tuck in his shirt.
Humph! The bunny devil huffed indignantly, though she was clearly taking the chance to check the fox angel out, No one would ever believe that you're a perfect 'follow-the-letter-of-the-law' angel Nick!
Probably not, he replied nonchalantly then placed his hand over his heart and smiled angelically at her, But for you Carrots, I'd try.
The foxes smile hit her with an audible sizzle and crack, and the bunny was momentarily distracted as she put out a few fires on her clothes that her blush caused.
Well then fox, the bunny said now fanning herself with a paw, Since Hell's freezing over why don't you and I go and find us a nice warm spot by some fire and leave the Chief alone so he can decide for himself how to flirt back with his wife?
Are you trying to seduce me away from my mission to help this good hearted buffalo? The fox replied, looking aghast.
Well… the devil bunny said giving him a look, a small wicked smile playing around the edges of her muzzle, kissing you obviously wasn't enough to distract you away from annoying the chief so I thought more drastic measures might be needed, She turned and took a step toward the edge of Bogo's shoulder and flicked her tail at the fox. Mammals always joke about bunnies being good at multiplying, I'd thought you might want to see if that's true or not for yourself.
The halo over the foxes head drooped to the side suddenly, almost falling off as he ogled the bunnies tail. Then he coughed and tried straightening his stolen halo over his head.
*Ehem* Sorry chief but I've got to make this quick, he brought up his paw making a flicking motion and a book with a very familiar figure on the front appeared in his hand.
He started to hurriedly read in grand manner.
Bogo, disciple of the great archangel, she of the horns, listen to her words and do not take counsel of your fears or insecurities. Try, and if you fail, get up and try again! Keep trying, Try Everything! Don't give up, Don't give in, Try till you reach that end! The fox looked over at his shoulder at Bess then winked at Bogo in a conspiratorial manner and whispered, then start with her all over again!
Bogo despite his determination to remain stone faced, actually blushed a bit as the imaginary devil angel fox elbowed him and waggled his eyebrows.
You coming Nick? Judy asked in a voice that held all sorts of devilish promises.
The fox threw the book away and sprinted over to Bogo's other shoulder picking up the now giggling bunny as he went and jumped off the edge of his shoulder with her like it was a cliff edge and they were cannon- balling into a lake.
Justtttt Dooooooo Ittttt! The fox called back as the two imaginary devils or angels or whatevers (Bogo Really Really REALLY didn't care to try and figure exactly what they were) disappeared.
Bess's hoof was still tapping on his stomach rhythmically as she hummed Gazelle's Try Everything to herself and chuckled lightly, her hoofs occasionally dropping lower to run over his belt buckle.
Bogo decided it was best for his sanity if he just ignored everything those two had said, they were just imaginary right? Anyway there was only one angel he would listen to and it was pretty clear what she would suggest he do with his dilemma.
Bogo snorted again as one of Bess's hoofs went adventuring.
"Bad Bess!" Bogo said chastisingly, swatting her rump with his tail while he tried to keep his voice utterly stern (and for the most part succeeding except for a slight giggle at the end).
"Sorry! I'm just got distracted by this pair of buffalo buns, I promise I'll hold on and behave!" She replied though she sounded anything but apologetic as she pressed up against him and wiggled just a bit.
Bogo started to giggle like a teenager, then covered it up with a cough before sternly saying, "See that you do."
Bess's hoofs stopped their wandering as she pulled herself a bit closer and leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. She sighed in a contented manner, before giggling 'Bad Bess' to herself and kissed his cheek.
Bogo actually smiled (since Bess couldn't see it and the road to the stadium was fairly empty what with the concert already going on) Bess was holding on to him humming Gazelle songs again and everything seemed just about as perfect as life could be.
Then Bogo noted the storm clouds gathering to the north of the city and heard the two wolves arguing with park security as he pulled the Segway up in front of the stadium.
"We have passes to the concert and a court order!" Mrs. Wolford shouted at the rhino who was squinting at the piece of paper she was waving.
The guard, either not able to read it in the dimming light of oncoming evening or just too nearsighted to see it properly gave up with a grunt and crossed his arms.
"Doesn't matter." He said obstinately, "Starting a Howl, Commandeering a security vehicle, brawling. We even got a call from ZBI about all the chaos that was going on. Said that we're supposed to hold you two until the ZPD Police Chief arrived."
"Oh! Cassandra! There you are!" Bess piped up and hopped off the Segway as Bogo pulled it to a stop. She ran over to the wolf, with an almost giddy skip to her step, "I was just texting with everyone else and we think you should probably be brought in on the plan. No reason we can't help you solve your little problem while taking care of the other one."
The she-wolf gave an amused snort as Bess came up, "You just really want front row seats at the wedding don't you?" She said with a mocking glare and Bess laughed.
"Not just me! So do the Savages."
"There are more savage mammals?!" The rhino's small eyes went a wide and he started looking around wildly.
"No, no silly! We already took care of that little incident." Bess said waving her hoof and the rhino glanced back at her and blinked.
"And just who, exactly, are you?" The security guard asked still sounding a bit nervous, but a note of irritation edging his voice.
"She's my wife," Bogo said coming up to the group and the rhino turned to face him, now looking like he was starting to get rather annoyed, "And I'm the ZPD Police Chief." Bogo added before the irate guard was about to speak.
The rhino snapped his mouth shut, biting off whatever he was going to say, then opened his mouth only to freeze for a second, his brow furrowing, as if thinking very carefully about the words that were going to come out of his mouth before he spoke.
It took all Bogo's self-control not to roll his eyes. He paused for a second to take a calming breath, then spoke in his 'on the job' voice.
"Thank you for your help, and we apologize for any inconvenience we've caused the park, but we have the situation under control and will make sure nothing else happens."
"Uhhhh…" The guard looked back over at the two wolves and Bess and this time Bogo did roll his eyes.
"I'll be taking charge of those two personally, they won't be causing you any more trouble tonight." Bogo added and the gestured at the two security Segways parked in front of the stadium, "The park has our thanks for lending us their vehicles, I take it we can leave them in your hands?
The security guard said looking at the two Segways and then back to him as if he had no idea what to do or say or how to even address him.
"Right," Bogo said rubbing his forehead, "The third Segway is down that road near the intersection. We passed it on our way here. Why don't you go get that one and then call the security teams we borrowed them from and tell them they can pick up there vehicles here?"
"Uhhh… right. Yes… yes, I'd better do that," The guard, given instructions from someone in charge, now seemed to be back on familiar ground and nodded at Bogo, "I'll uh… just do that." He nodded once more and the headed off to go retrieve the other Segway.
Bogo pinched his nose and sighed. His officer's might be over achieving pains in his butt, but at least thank all the gods, they weren't that dense. Well, not that dense when it came to police work at least.
"Long day, Mason?" Mr. Wolford asked walking up and Bogo let out a loud snort.
"You have no idea."
"Oh… I might." The wolf said grinning and looking back toward where Bess and Mrs. Wolford were now having an energetic conspiratorially whispered conversation. The she wolf was grinning toothily now, her tail wagging in excitement.
"So do I understand it right," Mr. Wolford asked pointing at the two, "that you have some sort of plan that will help us with our love sick pups?"
Bogo groaned seeing the two excited females whispering together and then looked back up at the gathering storm clouds to the north.
"Had a plan. I had a plan." Bogo emphasized, "But I'm pretty sure the plan is now out of control. Certainly out of my control at least. Lets just hope we don't get caught up in whatever chaos is about to happen."
"Come on you two!" Bess called over waving at them and pointing to the stadium where the sounds of the crowd and music could easily be heard, "Lets get in there and enjoy ourselves before things start getting interesting!"
"To late." Greg Wolford whispered to him and shook his head before smiling and following after their wives.
Bogo gave out defeated groan and followed, muttering 'Doomed' to himself.
Judy stared up at Nick as he raised both eyebrows, and tried not to meep.
"What deal?!" she squeaked, swallowing hard, "I have no idea what deal your talking about, I didn't take any deal!"
She hadn't taken the deal… not really, otherwise she would have just handed over Nadine and Ralph to Mrs. Wolford on silver platter. There was no deal... just a sort of… understanding. Yes, an understanding between her and Mrs. Wolford. She wasn't going to let that devious wolf get her claws on them and force them to do anything, though…
Well… if Nadine and Ralph decided to go ahead with the wedding on their own… Well then, as their friend it was her job to help out right? And if that help gave her a chance with Nick…
"Soooo… you have no idea about the deal you didn't take." Nick asked looking down at her with an amused smile and this time Judy did meep.
Nick laughed. She flushed in embarrassment at how transparent she was being and then blushed more at realizing how close he was holding her to him. Though that was probably just because of how they were getting bumped from the crowd around them that was going wild as more mammals recognized the distinctive trumpeting start to Gazelle's next song.
"Just what did that she-devil promise you Judy?" Nick asked, a huge grin across his face as his eyes shone with amusement, "A cave full of gold? Three wishes? The Buck of your dreams?"
"NOOO!" Judy squeaked out in a flustered mess.
She hadn't promised her the Buck of her dreams… she didn't want a buck; It was the Tod of her dreams.
"Oh Judy," Nick snickered and then of all things hugged her.
Judy thought that it was a damned good thing he was holding her, because she went a little weak in the knees whenwith how he pulled her her. It was like the boat ride with Nick when she'd lost it. All warmth holding her with russet and cream fur against her face and pleasant fox musk. In fact, it was better because it was all fox, what with the way his tail wrapped her legs; no hard bench seat or anything else to interfere…
Time seemed to stop even as her heart started racing and her mind spun trying to figure out the reason for the sudden hug.
Nick didn't hug. She was his best friend and he'd rarely ever hugged her. He'd hug her back when she hugged him, but she was almost always the one that hugged first… which, part of her mind thought suddenly, made sense given what Skye had said about foxes and their perplexity with touching.
But then why would he be hugging her now?
Her heart thumped hard.
It wasn't like Mrs. Wolford was right and Nick did have some conflicting feelings for her as well as that stupid vixen of his was it? It wasn't like he was actually flirting with her. The very idea of it, the chance it represented, made her heart jump in her chest… But Skye had hugged her too… said that sometimes with foxes that rule was bent with close friends, and Nick was a close friend… her best friend… but maybe… maybe it possible…
"Oh, Judy, Judy, Judy." Nick snickered again, and patted her ears like she was a little kit, "You, my poor little cute country bumpkin bunny, need to be more wary of mammals in this big city or you might just get hustled someday."
Or… he could just be teasing her again, Judy thought with sudden exasperation.
"Cute. Country. Bumpkin. Bunny!" Judy bite out with rising ire and glaring up at him only for Nick's grin to widen.
"Okay maybe Bumpkin was too much, Cute Country Carrot? My good hearted but sometimes oh so naive cutiekins? Maybe- offt!"
"I should have never given you permission to use that word," Judy muttered darkly after elbowing him lightly at the 'cutiekins'
"I thought we agreed that since I'm a fox 'cute' doesn't necessarily mean the same thing that it would if another bunny called you that." Nick said and tapped her nose grinning fit to burst.
"That doesn't mean you can use it all the time like that!" Judy snapped, blushing hard. She'd get him for that cutiekins remark, she would! Even if it was the last thing she did!
"No… but being your best friend does, my cute naive bunny." Nick whispered teasingly just below the rising roar of the crowd, which meant he had to more or less shouted.
"I am not naive!" Judy bit back trying not to flush even more than she already was. Nick wasn't exactly hugging her now, but he hadn't really let go either and his tail was still around her legs… probably because of the way the packed crowd was jumping and shouting she thought. She wouldn't want to worry about her tail getting stepped on, and his tail was so nice and fluffy and warm…
"Well, if you're not wary of a deal from some wolf pack leader then you sure are naive." Nick chuckled, "There isn't a very long list of mammals I'd be worried might turn a hustle back on me, but they'd certainly be on it. Even Nadine the Indomitable had the good sense to run in terror from them."
"She ran," Judy said archly, pointing over to Nadine and Ralph, "because her boyfriend's mother tried subpoenaing her to her own wedding!"
"Exactly." Nick replied with a laugh and more than a little amount of respect in his voice, "Alpha's manage to hold packs of everything from the most cantankerous old wolves to the craziest super hyper energetic youths together Judy. They're beyond devious and conniving." Nick snickered and waved a paw. "Think of them like toothy fairy godmothers with eccentric ideas about what is best for you. They'll promise you the moon and the stars and then spin you around till you don't know up from down.
"She lied?!" Judy said, suddenly aghast and enraged.
She should have known better than to even consider for half a second what that wolf had been promising! Carrot Blasted wolf had only been saying all that to get her to do what she wanted!
Nick waffled his paw.
"Not really… Wolf's are die hards when it comes to things like honor, especially alphas. They wouldn't lie, not directly at least. You'll get what they promised. But you'd better be careful making deals with them, because the better the deal you think you're getting, the more you'll end up doing for them instead." Nick said though Judy wasn't paying attention by that point.
No, she was furiously thinking back over every word Mrs. Wolford had said, what she'd promised. About Nick being scent drunk (and just what exactly did that mean anyway?) and following her, but more importantly about her promise that she could have Nick falling for her. That while Nick might be completely, almost hopelessly, infatuated with his mysterious Foxy Lady, that her nose told her that he did harbor some secret feelings for her too. That there was more than just platonic friendship under what he felt for her. What was it she'd said exactly before Nick had caught up?
Oh your right it would take more than that, numbskulls that you two are, but having you catching the bridal bouquet is just the start to my plan. I won't tell you the rest until I get what I want. Otherwise you wouldn't need the help of such an expert matchmaker now would you?
*Huff* being a 'fiendish' matchmaker doesn't discount the fact that I'm still an expert at it! You want him, you love him, why not help me so I can help you get him? It's the smart thing to do.
Oh that's the biggest load of bull shit I've ever heard! 'Stealing' him away from his love?! HA! You have NO idea just how stupid that is! Let me tell you about True love you dense bunny. If he'd already decided some vixen was his 'True Love' you'd be screwed! *Snicker* We'll at this rate maybe I should say will be 'screwed'? *Snicker* it's a good thing you have me here to help you with your 'possibly to be screwed' problem, 'screwing' problem? I guess it's more accurate to say your fox issue is more a 'lack of screwing' problem *Laugh*
*Guffawing* Oh, honey, I'm not trying to make fun of your issues getting laid but that is germane to the point, life mates and all. If he'd already chosen some other girl as his one and only, as his True love, you wouldn't have a chance! He Certainly wouldn't be so conflicted everytime his cute tailed bunny 'friend' gave him the hots, because he wouldn't give you the time of day! That goes doubly for him since he's a fox; we canines can be truly stupid when it comes to how the heart feels and our instincts only make it worse.
*Snicker* Oh yes you do! You turn him on, crank his wheel, whatever you kids call it these days. He might be good at hiding it, but scent doesn't lie! That stupid fool is too caught up in what you do to him, too scent drunk to use his own nose right and put two and two together… but that's not the point. You say he's already in love with a Foxy Lady? Well the fact is that as deeply infatuated with her as he might be, you still have a shot at being his true love. That Foxy Lady hasn't locked up his heart yet; It's up for grabs… well up for grabs between the two of you at least, but no matter how far behind in the race to get it you might be, you're still in the running. *Evil Grin* And I can help you get off the starting line and win it too. All I need is your help getting my two run-away pups to their wedding. You help me get their happily ever after and avoid a disaster for my pack and I help your you and your foxfox and you get the happily ever after you've been wishing for. I swear by the moon and the stars that I can.
Judy stood there, oblivious to everything as she furiously thought about that conversation.
If Mrs. Wolford hadn't been lying…
Judy's heart started beating way to fast, even for a bunny.
She glanced over to were Nadine and Ralph were. Her tickets to happiness… but she couldn't. Well, point of fact, she could. She could bag both of them and deliver them hogtied to Mrs. Wolford right now, she had her tranq pistol and cuffs… but no she wouldn't do that, even as carrot picking much she wanted to. She couldn't, not by force like that. But there were other ways…
It seemed like Nadine might have been right when she'd yelled at her earlier. Maybe it was time to do less assuming and more finding out… And maybe she'd corner Nadine after the concert and give her a tough love conversation too. She could be very persuasive when she needed to be. She'd made it into the Academy and then into Precinct One by using the facts of what was right to club down every obstinately opposing mammal in her way. And if that didn't work, well there were still other ways besides force… begging for one… or maybe a super soaker, even Nadine had her weaknesses too...
Devils bargain or not though, if that wolf could do what she'd said she'd take-
"So what was it you thought that she-wolf had lied about?" Nick asked snapping Judy out of her racing thoughts and back to the present.
"I, ah- what?" Judy asked, half dazed by the sudden flood of ideas and possibilities and half terrified out of her mind. She'd heard him perfectly fine with her ears but she needed a moment for her mind to catch up, to try and think, to get ahold of herself and figure out what to do, and carrot blast it! The way Nick was still so close to her, smiling like she was acting very interesting and amusing was not helping!
"I asked," Nick said leaning in so that his muzzle brushed her ears and shouted above the music and the crowd, and inadvertently made Judy's breath come in a bit short. "What was it-" He was too close; too close to her, too close to pulling the information about what she and the Devil's Matchmaker had discussed, too close to making her heart stop and explode- "you thought that she-wolf-" She needed a distraction. Something to change the subject, to do anything to get Nick not to ask what he was asking about.
Above the thunder of the crowd Gazelle's voice rang out over the speakers, "Come on Zootopia and all you girls out there, let's show those boys what we've got!" And the crowd roared in response, many of them starting to shout along as the crowd moved, danced, while Gazelle kicking into her song.
Perfect! Judy thought and beamed Nick with a smile born of such desperation and Gazelle music fanaticism she could muster that it was a wonder she didn't blind him.
"I think She-Wolfs a great song!" Judy shouted intentional mishearing what he'd been saying, "But this one's better! Come on, it's too crowded here to dance!" She grabbed Nick's paw before he could speak again and dragged him in the direction of the less crowded area Ralph and Nadine had found. She even put some hop into her steps as she began to sing to the refrain of the song.
"Judy, that's not what- I wasn't talking about the song 'She Wolf'- I was-" Nick spluttered as he suddenly found himself dragged along behind her.
"You said you were looking forward to dancing to 'She Wolf'?" Judy shouted back and let out a laugh at the flustered reaction that got from her fox, "I didn't know you liked that song so much Nick!" she said with just the right amount of honest disbelief and teasing in her voice and bounced over hip bumping him.
"No! I don't! I- I didn't- I-" Nick was full on stammering now. And Judy grinned brightly. She'd successfully sabotaged his line of inquiry, and even managed to fluster him. That was a bonus.
Judy grinned (only slightly manically); With the possibility of him discovering her little secret now (mostly) out of the way, her panic started to subside. And with Gazelle singing she was even starting to enjoy the concert, plus Nick looking flustered as he tried to regain his self-control was ridiculously cute.
Now she just needed to keep this up for a little while till he completely forgot about what he'd been asking.
Judy hopped over and hip bumped Nick again, effectively stopping his stammering.
Score another one for her! Judy mentally tallied for herself.
"Come on Slick, You said you were going to show me up with your groovy dance moves, lets see you try!" And Judy threw herself into the song, dancing and added her voice to the crowd. With Nick distracted, she could take a few minutes to forget about everything else, about all her worries and just enjoy being here at the concert with him, Judy decided.
Gazelle looked out over the roaring crowd and smiled as the powerful stage lights moved, twisting and turning like great white lances in the sky to the beat of the song finally stopped, focusing on the center stage. They dimmed while the pyrotechnics around the edge of the platform with their explosions of brilliance faded into the dusky twilight coming in from the opened top of the stadium.
"Thank you all, but we're only getting started, and we have quite the night planned!" She said into the microphone as she turned walking toward the back of the stage while her tiger dancers moved into position for the next song along with all the other performers on the suddenly dimmed stage.
She stopped at the rear of the stage and turned, one spot light still illuminating her and holding the crowd's attention.
"So are you all ready to party?" She asked throwing up one hoof in a flourish, as all the lights but the one on her faded completely and the crowd roared back.
She smiled at the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd and snapped the fingers of her upraised hoof.
Two trumpets sounded out of the dark as spot lights to either side of her snapped on illuminating the two elephantine trumpeters dressed like classic charro's moved onto the stage, playing a crisp descending salsa solo in sync, almost as if they were dueling each other.
Gazelle followed as the two trumpeters moved forward, throwing their trunks out from side to side under their large wide brimmed hats and belted out the music. She reached up taking off the coat she'd started the concert with and dropped it, adding more sway to her hips as she moved, the spotlight on her catching the edges of her ruffle skirt she know wore in full view as the fabric fluttered and snapped with her movement.
The roar of the crowd rose competing with trumpeters as their descending tune shifted, now rising and another spot light lit ahead of her at the front of the stage.
"No fighting now, no fighting!" the panther that the spot light illuminated called toward the trumpeters, before raising the microphone in his paw just as the two elephants turned to face each other and each took a step back leaving Gazelle in center stage as she stopped and started moving in a hip swaying dance.
The elephants raised their trunks blaring out the last notes of their solo just as the panther leaned back calling into the microphone, matching the rising end notes of the trumpets.
Gazelle grinned and swayed, flicking her hips as the full band kicked in right as the trumpet sole finished and the panther moved with the music singing into the microphone.
~I never really knew that she could dance like this~
~She makes a man want to speak Spanish~ he moved forward with music still singing as her tiger dancers took up position behind him,
~Como se llama~
Si!the tigers all chorused in unison as they moved, danced in perfect sync, and panther sung still heading toward Gazelle as she made her frilled skirt flash in spot light.
Gazelle smiled as the music swelled with roar of the crowd and gave an encompassing wave at them called into the microphone before singing,
"Come on Zootopia and all you girls out there, let's show those boys what we've got!"
And then she turned back to the panther and moved, hips swaying, skirt flashing as she danced in counterpoint to him, and sung with everything she had,
~Oh… baby when you talk like that~
~You make a woman goooo mad~
~So, be wise~ ~Si!
~and, keep on~ ~Si!
~Re-ading the signs of my body~ ~uno, dos, tres, cuatro The tigers continued to chorus, now surrounding both of them as Gazelle sang, hips flashing, as she danced around the other singer and the crowd thundered, many of them singing and dancing along to the pulse and beat of the music.
Gazelle let out a beaming smile, feeling the exhilaration of the music and the mammals, and stopped in place, flicking her hips and sang on,
~I'm on tonight, you know my hips don't lie~
~I'm starting to feel it's right~
~All the attraction, the tension~
~Don't you see baby, this is perfection~
~Don't you see baby, this is perfection~ Skye sang along, pulling Jack with her as she moved, her oh so perfect hip brushing against his seductively.
"Perfection alright," Jack muttered, swallowing hard and tried to subtly adjust his pants that felt way too tight at the moment.
"You're way to good at this attraction thing Skye," he added almost sullenly and she smirked as he unsuccessfully tried to shift to relieve the pressure, muttering, "the tension is going to kill me."
Skye just snickered.
She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer as she moved to the music, her sandy white tail wrapping around his legs before she leaned down and nipped his nose.
"It's winter and I'm a vixen Jack, you should have figured this out by now," she said smiling, a merry twinkle in her blue eyes as she slowed her movements and nudging him till he wrapped his arms around her back just over her tail and started to move with her, their hips almost pressed together.
"You're my mate, my oh so reckless and too charming for his own good mate, and I'll do anything, use every underhanded and dirty trick there is to keep you." she pecked his lips, "You." Then again "are. Mine." She marked each word with a kiss, the last one coming out with a bit of possessive growlishness that he found unreasonably attractive.
"Still a bit peaked over my recklessly charming attempt to get Wilde to break earlier?" Jack asked looking up at his vixen as they slowly danced.
"Not really," Skye said smiling down at him, "Though it's a great excuse to torment you," she added with waggle of her hips against his.
Jack bit his lip trying not to react, and Skye chuckled before giving him a lighter longer kiss.
"I know what you were doing Jack. And more importantly I'm your mate, I know that you love me and only me, heart mind and soul. You've shown me that in a thousand different ways over the years," she rocked her hips against his, pressing against his tight pants and smirked as he let out a low involuntary groan, "See? There's another one too!" she added, grinning toothily.
"You really are intending to break me before the night is over aren't you?" Jack asked gritting his teeth as he tried to hold it together and not drag Skye out of the concert to somewhere more private.
"Yep-p!" she said popping the p.
"Vixen." Jack replied rolling his eyes and she smiled.
"Your vixen." She stated.
Jack leaned up and kissed the bottom of her muzzle.
She let out a happy rumbling sound.
"You know it's your fault, right?" Skye added looking at him as if nothing else in the world mattered to her, "You married me."
Jack let out a laugh, "It's not like I had much of a choice! You proposed! What else could I say but yes?"
Skye kissed him again.
"Well you made me fall in love with you! What did you expect to happen?" she asked with an indignant huff, then grinned and whispered in his ear teasingly pressing against him again, "I had to do something before winter rolled around; There's nothing so completely unreasonable as a love sick vixen in heat."
"Tell me about it." Jack groaned sarcastically as she pressed against him, and then desperate for something to distract him from his love sick vixen driving him mad, shifted the conversation.
"How is that other unreasonable love sick 'Foxy Lady' doing with her perspective mate? She hasn't had a sudden case of reason and just proposed to him yet has she?"
"No-pe!" Skye said popping the p again as she looked over his shoulder and giggled. "But it looks like she's already managed to break her fox so I think they'll be alright." Jack turned his head looking and saw dumbfounded gaping expression on Wildes face as he stared at the dancing bunny and snickered too.
Skye's muzzle brushed against his long ears, and she let out a deep possessive rumble.
"Looks like I have some catching up to do…" she murmured, and Jack's snicker died a sudden and ignominious death as she turned with the circle of his arms and started singing along to the music again.
Jack to his undying shame let out a startled meep! as she started dancing, rocking her hips and swishing her tail against him as while resting her paws over his, low on her waist, so he couldn't get away…
~I'm on tonight, you know my hips don't lie~
~Am I starting to feel you boy?~
~Come on lets go, real slow~
~Don't you see baby asi es perfecto~
The tigress didn't seem to hear him as she popped her head above his shoulder and looked around as if they were in some savannah grassland and she was trying to spot another dangerous predator. Which Ralph guessed, wasn't far off from what she was actually doing.
"Nadine." he said a little louder.
Nadine popped back down and pulled him a little to the side using a few hippos and then a giraffe couple toward the edge of the stage for cover as if they were brush and trees in her urban savannah. She slunk past them pulling him by the paw then stopped again and carefully raised her head looking around.
"Nadine." Ralph tried once more to no effect, then had to bite back a laugh as he saw how she'd positioned them in a gap to the far side of the stadium near the stage. It wasn't a great spot to view the concert since they were more to the side instead of in front of the stage, but they had one wall covering their side and a group of larger mammals between them and the main entrance. It would be nearly impossible for anyone entering the concert to pick them out without have to do a lot of searching.
"Nadine. We're safe." Ralph said with another chuckle, but when she didn't reply and only continued to scan their surroundings he huffed in exasperation.
"Nadine! My parents won't find us here. We're fine now."
Still no response. Ralph rolled his eyes and decided to take a different approach and see if that could get any response.
"So you want to make out?" he asked grinning boyishly.
Maybe another tack then. He should probably get a few things off his chest anyway since Nadine was bound to find out regardless.
"Sooo. I hope you won't be upset but I should probably tell you that… well… you know how I told you yesterday that I was really conflicted when I first started having feelings for you? well ya… I might have… um, sort of… stolen one of your ZPD training shirts… back um, when we were at the academy…"
Nothing. Huh, well that little revelation was going better than he'd feared.
"I mean 'stolen' is a strong word since we'd graduated, and you were tossing your old academy clothes when we were clearing out of the dorms, and… well Nadine you got to understand it was a complete impulse reaction! It was on your trash bin outside your door when I was taking mine to the dumpster and… I don't know, I just remember smelling something really nice and sort of snagged it as I passed… I didn't really think about it or realize I'd um… taken it, till I was back in my room and then I was too embarrassed to give it back! I mean at the time I thought I was crazy and messed up for being so infatuated with you and we'd only recently really become friends after that whole boxing ring fiasco, and I was afraid if you'd found out I'd been so weird it would ruin our friendship. And ya… sorry again about ogling your chest in the ring, I know you said we're square on that because you got to slugged me good while I was distracted… but I still feel stupid for embarrassing you like that."
Nadine's ears perked up as she stilled, trying to listen for sounds of danger over the music and crowd.
"Soooo… are we good?"
Nadine's ears flicked and then she cocked her head, her whiskers twitched as she sniffed the air.
"I'll ah… take that as a yes?" Ralph asked.
Ralph let out a sigh.
"Nadine, My parents aren't going to find us here. There are way too many scents in this place for them to track us. Do I have to boop your nose to get that point across?"
Nadine yelped, jumping, before covered her nose with both paws.
"Don't even think of booping me here Ralph!" She shouted at him, eyes wide, "I don't have the self-control at the moment to deal with you booping me!"
"Oh good," Ralph grinned, "So you were paying attention to what I was saying, I was afraid I was going to have to repeat that."
"I -what?!" Nadine stopped and her brow furrowed as for the first time since they'd entered the concert she seemed to think of something else besides his parents tracking them down.
"Did you say you stole my academy workout shirt?!" She finely blurted out, a look of shock on her face.
"Ummm…" Ralph scratched his head, "sort… of…?"
Nadine blinked at him, then chuffed and crossed her arms.
"Is there anything else I should know about?" she asked.
Ralph blushed a bit and looked down mumbling.
"What was that?" Nadine asked, taking a step closer to him and angling her small round ears forward away from the concert speakers.
"I also maybe marked that shirt…" Ralph muttered blushing and Nadine facepalmed.
"Of course he did," she muttered to herself with an exasperated, "Wolves"
"Hey, you had my shirt from the cruiser in your apartment!" Ralph muttered defensively, still blushing hard.
"That," Nadine said a bit of pink coloring her white stripes, "was an honest mistake! Our clothes got mixed up and, and I was going to give it back!"
"Two weeks," Ralph retorted, grinned happily, "You had it for nearly two weeks." It was silly, but the idea that Nadine had been just as guiltily hanging onto some of his clothes made his tail wag.
"I was going to give it back!" Nadine said adamantly, her voice going a little high, and Ralph's grin grew as the telltale sign in her tone said otherwise. Her defiant expression cracked as she apparently caught how her voice was contradicting her statement as well.
Nadine quickly glanced at him as if hoping he hadn't caught that but then saw his wagging tail and huffed sullenly, "At least I didn't mark it!"
"Nope. No, you did not." Ralph said his grin now turning wolfish at the memory of just what scents had been on his shirt and he unconsciously took a step closer to Nadine, "Well… not 'scent marked' it at least." he added impishly, "Not like you did to this one," he tugged at the shirt he had on for emphasis and Nadine stammered for a second, flushing badly as he moved so that there was a bare fraction of an inch between them. "That shirt of mine you had at your apartment didn't have your scent mark on it, but it did smell of you." Her whole living room had smelled of her, of tiger, of heat, of arousal and satisfaction; his memory of that was a little hazy, like he'd walked into a too hot sauna, but there was no way he'd ever forget how Nadine's scent filling that room clung to his shirt.
~My hips don't lie and I am starting to feel it's right~
~All the attraction, the tension~
~Don't you see baby, this is perfection~ ~Gazelle, Gazelle~
The songs seemed far off and distant as her recalled the smell from his memory.
"Just yours and the lingering traces of my scent…" Ralph said huskily, almost growling with pleasure as he took in a breath through his nose, the inhale ruffling the fur of Nadine's neck as he pressed against her. Everything but his tiger seemed to fade into the background as he smelled her, felt her against him, even the music seemed to fade away…
"Ralph…" Nadine said her own voice a bit shaky and nervous though there was an undeniable hint of longing in the way she said it. It made his chest rumble with pride and exhilaration.
She liked him.
She was attracted to him.
She wanted him.
There was no denying that on the most basic primal level this tigress, his tigress wanted him and that deep primal part of himself exalted in the fact.
"Your scent Nadine." He said, staring into her eyes and seeing nothing else, even as her breath caught. "Your scent was all over my shirt," he nipped her chin and she let out a small gasp, more like a squeak and shuddered against him, "Your scent just like it smelled after we kissed this morning," he growled and took in another breath, "Your scent like it smelled on the boat in the tunnel Nadine. Your scent just like it starts to smell when I do this…" and he nipped her chin again.
"Ralphhhh," Nadine practically whimpered, an almost terrified desperation in her voice as she breathed hard. Both of her paws gripped the back of his shirt and shook slightly, almost for a second as if she was going to try and pull him away from her, though instead they pulled him closer.
The growl that emanated from him was deep and pleased and primal and possessive. He pressed his nose into her fur, breathing in as her ran it along her cheek and down under her chin along her neck.
This time there were no words that accompanied the soft almost silent mewling whine she let out, and her muzzle tilted up ever so slightly as his nose ran under it giving him full access to her throat. His possessive happy growl intensified at the subtlety submissive gesture.
Nadine didn't submit to anyone or anything. She was independent and strong and cunning and she could beat him more often than he could her, well sometimes, yet… there it was…
He nipped her throat lightly. A playful happy little teasing bite.
She wanted him, wanted to be his. Her scent said it. Her actions said. She'd all but even admitted it outright. And he wanted her back just as much. She'd never be some submissive mate, someone who'd do anything he told her to, but he didn't want that. He wanted someone who'd challenge him, who'd run beside him, not behind or in front of him. Someone to be his equal, his partner; someone to joke and play with, to love, to build a life, a family, together with. He wanted her, and she wanted him. And in that one way she wanted to submit to him, to be his. To be his in a way she'd never be to anyone else, just as he wanted to be hers.
"Ralph!" Nadine meeped as she shuddered under the nip, her scent flush with pheromones and adrenalin and arousal and pure desire that was driving him mad, "Ralph! The biting! Careful with the biting, I- Ralph… that means something more for felines…" Nadine's words cut off in a low mewl as he nipped the edge of her jaw while his nose continued to travel up to the other side of her muzzled.
Nadine's paws were holding him so tightly he could feel her claws poking him through the fabric of his shirt and pants. He held her back and growled happily.
Nadine was his.
His one and only.
Now and forever.
The need to shout that to the world, to proclaim his claim on her, to mark her for anyone and everyone to know that this tigress was his mate was overwhelming. Nothing else mattered but that she be his and he hers.
Ralph's nose traveled along her cheek taking in her scent as Nadine made an almost pained moaning sound, her breath coming quick and hot against his neck as her head rested against his.
MINE! Howled something deep inside of him and Ralph turned his muzzle to rub it along hers, to press his scent into her. A scent that, running high with his emotions and need and love of her, would tell any other mammal that she was taken. A scent that wasn't just from some accidental brush against her, a scent that screamed Mine, MINE, MINE, a scent that wouldn't easily be washed away… a scent… a scent that was already there?
The moment of confusion broke through the haze that encompassed Ralph's mind, bringing with it all the noise and lights and smells of the concert crowd around them crashing down on the world he'd been in a moment before that had included only himself and Nadine.
~Oh boy, I can see your body mooooving~
~Half mammal, half savage animal~
~I don't, don't really know what I'm dooooing~
~But you seem to have a plan~
~My will and self restraint,~
~Have come to fail now, fail now…~
The concert. They were at the concert and he'd almost lost it and marked Nadine! Well, lost it and marked her again, some part of him noted with a bit of shame while another growled menacingly and fought against his shaky control, wanting nothing more than to shed all the trappings l entrapping's of civilization and just claim her here and now before anyone else did.
And then there was that other part, that part that sent a shard of terror through his heart at the fact that he had technically marked her, but she hadn't marked him back. That he'd been rejected, that no matter how much he wanted her, loved her, that she would not take him as her mate. That he'd have to live his life alone knowing the one mammal he'd wanted nothing more than give his heart to didn't want it. Logically, he knew better. Could line out the facts of what had happened and that Nadine hadn't actually rejected him (yet… hadn't rejected him yet. yet. yet… Why else would she not have answered him yet? a little voice in the back of his mind echoed), but that painful jaggedly barbed shard of worry wouldn't go away no matter how much he tried to pull it out or how much logic he threw at it. It was the focus of all his fears and it was the best he could do just to keep it at bay especially with how every breath, brought the scent of his mark on her reminded him of the fact he hadn't gotten an answer to his claim.
"Nadine?" Ralph asked shakily, trying to reassert himself and not just start wildly, desperately marking her in case she hadn't realized he had the first time. Which was stupid, since she had, since they were here to talk about just that? Weren't they? It was hard to think past that bit of panic inside him, past the primal urge to throw himself at her. His instincts were screaming at him to do something before it was too late, to show the mammal he was holding how much he loved her, wanted her, that he was a desirable mate, that he'd protect her and care for her and love her and be there for her and-
"Rajah save me…" muttered Nadine almost incoherently in a low hoarse voice and Ralph belatedly noticed how unsteady she was. Her arms were holding him so tightly that her claws were digging through his clothes and pelt to the point it almost hurt, and her breathing was heavy and unevenly ragged. He turned to look at her face and when his eyes caught hers, she let out another mewling groan before hurriedly closing them and leaning down to bite the crook of his shoulder as she shook against him.
Ralph let out a startled yip at the bite.
It wasn't painful exactly, but she had a strong enough hold of him that there wasn't a chance in hell he would have been able to get away if he'd wanted to.
"Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf…" Ralph heard Nadine muttering past her clenched teeth as if it were some mantra.
"Nadine?" Ralph asked again this time with a bit of worry in his voice as he tried to wade through his sluggish thoughts and understand what was going on with his tiger.
"Give me just a minute!" Nadine growled savagely at him, her jaws hold on his shoulder momentarily tightening enough to make him yip again before she went back to mumbling.
"Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf…"
Ralph figureddecided it would be best to let her have her minute and decided to take the time to try and reign in his more primal urges and thoughts so he didn't lose himself in a case of winter savagery like he'd almost done a moment ago.
He sighed and laid his head against Nadine's large shoulder, then let out a stifled if amused snort.
They must look like an odd sight. Even ignoring the difference in species; With the way they were holding each other, it probably looked like they were slow dancing (and maybe necking too) while most of the crowd was enthusiastically dancing to the hip swaying beat of Gazelle's song.
In fact, add to that how Nadine was bigger than him and that without standing on his toes his head rested evenly against her shoulder as they held each other, and to any mammal without better night sight in the darkened stadium, it probably looked like he was the classic female swooning against her guy as he nuzzled and kissed her neck and whispered sweet nothings.
"Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf, Stupid wolf…" Nadine continued to repeat to herself, sounding almost like she wanted to punch something.
Well, he guessed he'd take that as Nadine's version of sweet nothings, Ralph thought with a smile. If it meant he was her 'stupid wolf' he'd take it and be happy for it. It was only after he'd started to let out a rumbly happy growl that Ralph realized he'd started rubbing his head against Nadine's shoulder and immediately stopped.
Ralph mentally kicked himself, as he redirected his thoughts away from the dangerous areas they'd been headed. Luckily though it looked like Nadine was still too preoccupied with her chant to notice that he'd started to mark the shirt she was wearing.
She'd marked his though… so fair was fair, right?
Ralph closed his eyes for a second and growled, this time at himself as he desperately tried to get control of his thoughts. He'd been holding it together fine all day, well except for that one bit this morning with Nadine's bed… but besides that he hadn't wolfed out once today while they'd been at the park! He'd been doing fine so why was his control so utterly shot right now?
It took him longer than it probably should have to come to an answer, but his disordered mind finally managed to produce it none-the- less. It was rather obvious when he thought back on it.
He'd been fine up until he'd found out that he'd accidently marked her this morning. That was what was driving him crazy. Well not the mark, but the fact that his claim was… well not that it wasn't reciprocated exactly, she hadn't rejected him after all… (yet… yet... yet…) oh gods he hoped she wouldn't reject him, he didn't know what he'd do if she- but that was stupid. He knew she cared, he could tell that she liked him, She'd taken his shirt and marked the one he was wearing and- Ralph shook his head trying to dislodge the circular train of alternatingly depressing and euphoric thoughts.
He didn't want to pressure Nadine into a response, but the unanswered question of his claim was eating away at any control he tried to muster. And in fact, Ralph thought, thinking back to this morning. The incident with him losing it when he'd scent marked her bed had happened right after their little episode in the living room where'd he'd unconsciously marked her.
Not that realizing any of that helped him regain his control now.
Ralph gritted his teeth but pressed his head back against Nadine's shoulder, this time though, making damned sure he didn't start marking her again.
He could wait, Ralph thought sternly, If Nadine needed some time, then he could give it to her. He'd wait even if it killed him… he wait forever for her…
Ralph closed his eyes trying to quite his mind, but his closed eyes only made him more aware of Nadine's scent and his mark.
Oh gods this wait is going to kill me!
Ralph tried not to whine and quickly reopened his eyes, looking around for anything to distract himself with.
There was… was… hey, there was Judy and Nick dancing near them. Well Judy was dancing to the music, bouncing and hopping and shaking her hips and tail with gusto. Nick wasn't so much dancing as… gawking. Completely dumbfoundedly gawking while staring at herthe little puff of a tail as the bunny bobbed and twitched it in front of him as she danced, her focus on Gazelle's performance on stage as she sang along with the crowd.
There was no way she wasn't doing that on purpose, part of his mind thought as Judy's puff of a tail made a little twitch and Nick's nose twitched in turn. The poor fox looked like he'd just been hit by a rhino sized semi truck as his gazed followed the bouncing fluffball wiggling in front of him with a longing desperation that was practically tangible.
There was no way she couldn't miss the effect she was having on Nick… but the way her focus was on the stage… she wasn't stealing glances back at him… wasn't…
Ralph shook his head as his mind debated with itself whether it was deliberate, or she was just completely oblivious.
At any other time he would have found the sight of cock sure Nick Wilde so utterly discomposed and confounded by an itty bitty bunny (not that he'd ever call Hopps that) hilarious. It was like watching a romantic slapstick comedy, and before today he might have even taken a few pictures to rib his friend over when they were having drinks, but the way the stunned fox was looking at Judy…
There was a painful sympathetic twinge in his own heart as he thought of just how much he wanted Nadine. For a moment he thought he understood exactly how the other canine must be feeling.
Denying how you felt about something and ignoring it was a lot easier until you admitted it, then it wasn't so easy to ignore any more. Nick had been doing a good job at ignoring his feelings until winter rolled around and clubbed him with them and now the fox was a literal discombobulated mess. Ralph thought he'd been doing a better job with himself, he'd finally confronted his feelings a while back when he couldn't hide it from himself anymore. He'd made plans to deal with it… okay, so he'd procrastinated too long with his worrying and second guessing and had missed his chance to ask Nadine out last spring… and summer… and fall… but he'd was going to ask her out this spring by Balto! He'd even bought the tickets to the game to make sure he would!
But that was beside the point, and things had gone off script when he'd walked into Nadine yesterday and she'd pulled him into the small viewing room like it had been one of his daydreams… which it hadn't been, much to his mortification and then exhilaration at the giveaway in Nadine's scent that incident had caused. Everything he'd been keeping bottled up sort of just came out completely unplanned after that and lead to one thing after another and now he was here facing the truth that he fooled himself with for he didn't know how long, that he wasn't just interested in Nadine and wanted to date her but that he was totally, completely, irrevocability in love with her and wanted nothing else in the world but to be with her, to…
Ralph looked away from Nick quickly, before he let out a longing howl and looked for something else to distract himself with.
There was the giraffe couple near them, it was pretty amazing, almost comically so, how far their long legs let them sway their hips to the music, but the thought of what it might be like for them being so high up on those wishy washy toothpick phone poles for legs reminded him of the rollercoaster and his dislike of heights and how Nadine had clutched at him when the rollercoaster dropped pressing her breast against his muzzle, those breast pressed against his chest right under his muzzle right now… and something else, he needed to think of something else, right, damned, now!
Ralph looked around desperately.
Gazelle's performance on the stage was everything her fans could have wished for, with her singing and dancing to the choreographed music, but despite all her vibrance and makeup and sparkly clothes she didn't hold a candle up to Nadine… Ralph dragged his eyes away from the pop idol as his mind tried to imagine what Nadine would look like dressed up and singing like that. Instead he focused on her tiger stage dancers. That had to be a safe thing to distract his mind from thoughts of his tigress, right? As well muscled as they all where Ralph couldn't help but imagine how Nadine could probably toss their prettyboy, sparkle clad, d ,spandexed rears around the fighting ring as if she'd was playing with kittens. The imagery of Nadine, his Nadine, upstaging all those pampered pieces of eye candy had him grinning. He could even imagine the witty sarcastic remarks Nadine would certainly make as she cut them down to size.
Oh come on put your hips into that punch, I know bunnies that wouldn't be knocked over by that tap. What was the point of all that hip shaking on stage if you can't do anything with it?
Oh the poor pretty kitty got cranky angry because he found out he punches like a dandy? *snicker*
Pfffft! You call that kitten mewl a roar? Opps! Look at that, you were so distracted showing off that now I have control of your arm! And twist and bend and now its locked and look! I have your other arm now too! Be glad you're fighting me and not my teacher; Major Friedkin would tie your arms up in a bow for a mistake like that, maybe even use your tail as a ribbon to make the knot look pretty! Tut, tut, snarling won't do you any good, and watch your footing and center of balance, you're over extending; see now this is how you use your hips for something useful, see that! That's how you make somebody fall for you with a hip thrust, and ouch, try not to land on the ground face first, that can't be good for you if you want to make a living off your looks.
Okay so maybe Nadine had gotten to use that hip thrust jibe on him, but in his defense he hadn't been off center, he'd just been distracted; plus he'd gotten her back for that when he'd distracted her with his tail. Nadine was such a cat sometimes. Ralph snickered at the memory; he'd baited her and she hadn't been able to resist the urge to pounce on the twitching fluffy appendage he'd left wide open. The look on her face, mid pounce, when she realized it'd been a trap instead of an easy victory for her had been priceless; he'd even had her wrapped up and pinned before the match had gone a quarter of a minute.
Ralph smirked at the tiger dancer closest to the edge of the stage near them, eye candy they might be, but he knew Nadine and they'd never stand a chance with her, not physically and not if they tried court her either. She'd chew them up and spit them out. Nadine wasn't just pretty, she was elegant; her strength and toned form wasn't just for show and she had a mind every bit as sharp as her claws and a sly humorous wit to go with it. And she was down here holding him, while they were stuck up there shaking their spandexed rears, Ralph though with an admittedly vain amount of self pride. But he let himself have that moment of excess hubris. It helped distract from the wait that was slowly killing him!
Something about his look though seemed to catch the attention of the tiger dancer nearest them and without breaking from the choreographed dance the tiger moved over to the edge of the stage near them.
Side step, twist, hip thrust, hip thrust, tail snap, turn, hip thrust, hip thrust, eye contact, smarmy-overconfident smolderingly handsome smile-that-said-he-knew-exactly-what-was-going-on-with-him-and-his-tigress-and-your-so-screwed-because-you-have-no-idea-what-you're-in-for-and-she's-gonna-have-you-wrapped-around-her-claw-and-lead-you-around-with-her-tail-like-its-your-leash-for-the-rest-of-your-life,-good-luck-pal,-hope-your-happy-with-her-because-you're-doomed, tail snap, wink, side step, spin, arch, hip snap and shake, smirk,…
The smirk so patronizing it was like the tiger had reached out and patted him on the head.
Ralph bristled instantly, his hackles coming up and a low full fang showing snarl aimed right back at the tiger dancer, one that shouted You-couldn't-do-better-in-a-million-years,-nobody-could-do-better!-I've-chased-her,-I've-caught-her,-and-she's-mine!-The-best-tigress-in-the-world,-the-best-mammal-in-the world-and-she's-mine,-she-loves-me!-And-I,-Mr.-Smug-Tiger-on-Top-of-the-World,-I'm-just-a-wolf-you-puffed-up-pretty-boy!-So-take-that-smugness-and-stuff-it!-You-and-the-rest-of-the-world-have-already-lost;-I'll-love-her-so-much,-make-her-so-happy-that-it'll-make-whatever-happiness-you-find-in-life-look-pale-and-bland.-Suck-it-loser!
Nadine, alerted by his suddenly stiff and hostile posture let go of his shoulder, and began quickly looking around with a hint of panic to her movements just like she had earlier when scanning for his parents. She spotted the tiger dancer on stage he was snarling at, and relaxed slightly.
Side step, side step, twirl, fist pump, tail snap, paws on hips and shake, smoldering-know-it-all-grin, another wink,
Nadine huffed, and Ralph snarled.
Hip shake, hip shake and strut walk, quick sly look to the other dancer that said Hey!-check-out-those-two!, (Ralph's lip curled, his snarl deepening) hip shake and twisting turn timed with the other dancers movements. Double fist pump, low arch, tail snap, turn and rise, Oh-that's-so-cute!-Look-at-the-two-of-them! grin, hip shake, returned I-know! smirk from the first tiger as they both spun, lining up on the stage and started moving in unison with the other two dancers on the other side of the stage.
One paw on hip, head tilt up, slow hip snap with a tail flick, reverse paw and head tilt, slow snap in the other direction, Smoldering charming smile sweep across crowd, (Snarl) hip snap, hip snap, Oh-that's-adorable!-look-how-protective-of-her-he-is!-That's-puppy-love-for-you! crowd teasing smirk in their direction, hip snap, hip snap, low spin, grinning almost snicker from the other tiger, Oh-I-think-it's-worse-than-puppy-love,-just-watch-this… slow turn and smoldering half lidded glance in their direction, in Nadine's direction to be precise. A smugly confident look that said Hey-Girl,-what-are-you-doing-tonight?
Ralph's vision might have gone a bit red at that look. He wanted to go up there and wipe that look of that tigers face, then feed it to him! He was going to do that in fact; glance at his Nadine like that?! That tiger was a dead tiger, he just didn't know it yet!
Ralph let out a full snarled that thankfully was covered up by the noise of the crowd and swore he'd teach that tiger a lesson he'd never forget as soon as he could figure out how to get past the arms holding him in place.
There was a chastising nip on Ralph's ear and he stopped struggling long enough to realize it was Nadine holding him tightly.
"Ralphhhhh…" Nadine said in a low growl, then placed her forehead against his and bumped him slightly muttering, "We can't go beat up Gazelle's dancers…"
"But!" Ralph started saying, a deep growl still in his voice.
"It would wreck Judy and Nick's mission, and more importantly Clawhauser and Judy would never forgive us if we beat up Gazelle's dancers, especially during a Gazelle concert!" Nadine replied, then added growlishly, "He was baiting you Ralph." and shot a very unamused glare over her shoulder toward the stage. The tiger only sent a smug wink back her way.
"But!" Ralph tried again his growl growing. It was cut off as Nadine let out an irritated huff at the stage, and then while still glaring at the tiger, let out a long resonating Purr and licked the tip of Ralph's muzzle.
Ralph shut up, his mood suddenly far far better than it had been a few seconds earlier, though while his mouth had decided to stop talking his tail took that as a sign to start wagging madly.
A slight blush rolled across Nadine's cheeks as a goofy grin started spreading across his muzzle and she made a visible effort to tone down her purr while the two tiger dancers on stage actually snickered for a second before falling back into their routine, though there was a whole conversation in the slight glances and grins they shared with each other.
Did-you-see-that?! Smirk, hip snap, side step, tail flick.
Turn, tail flick, grin, Oh-that-was-Priceless!-Absolutely-priceless! The way he got all protective until she told him not to worry!
Paws on hips and shake, that was just…just…adorable! Smug laughing smile, Ohhh, let me try! I want to see how she reacts to this then!
With the next turn the tiger gave a look of such refined confidence that promised a night you'd never forget, in their direction that a few mammals nearby let out fangirl sighs and one even collapsed, fanning themself as if the look had been too much. Nadine on the other hand, went completely stiff; Absolutely utterly still, as the tiger aimed that look at Ralph.
Ralph turned up his nose and stuck out his tongue in a disdainful Not even in your dreams! reply. Then he looked back at Nadine…
"Uh-oh…" Ralph muttered, eyes suddenly going a bit wide, "Nadine, Nadine!" he tightened his grip on her quickly, "You can't! Remember?! Clawhauser would be sad! He might even cry! You don't want to make Clawhauser cry would you? Come on Nadine, you're the only tiger for me, the only mammal I'll ever want." Ralph said quickly, holding onto Nadine tightly as all her muscled seemed to tense in preparation to spring and her frosty, nearly completely savage glare toward the stage focused solely on the two other tigers. "Come on Nadine, that's not fair, why do you get to go wallop them when I not allowed?!" Ralph asked almost desperately and nipped her chin like she had his ear.
The two dancers weren't shooting smug glances their way anymore, instead as they continued the choreographed dance routine their charming smiles now seemed a bit nervous as they glanced at each other
Twist and shake, hip thrust, turn, Too-much?, nervous grin,
Paws out, hip wiggle, tail snap, Yep,-way-too-much,-Must-be-newly-mated-and-she's-in-heat,-come-on,-time-for-an-escape.-Quickly! Head tilt,
Nadine's whiskers twitched at Ralph's bite but she didn't break eye contact with the two dancers as they quickly looked away and turned continuing their hip swaying movements, moving in unison with the two tigers on the other side of the stage back toward the center where Gazelle was.
"Nadine?" Ralph asked nervously, and as a last resort to stop her from dismantling the two tigers, prepared to boop her nose. He was a bit hesitant to do so, considering what had happened last time he'd done that and what he'd learned about what that little action meant to tigers. But if nothing else, it might be enough to distract Nadine away from a murderous rage.
Nadine's glare followed the two until they were back in the center of the stage and no longer anywhere near them. There was one last set of nervous looks back in their direction and Nadine let out a loud dismissive chuff that clearly said, That's right, and stay away! He's Mine!
"Better now?" Ralph asked and Nadine turned her head back to him before letting out a long sigh. Then she leaned her head against his shoulder tiredly.
"You know," Nadine began slowly after a moment, head still resting on him as she made an ambiguous gesture with a paw, "This is all your fault. I about lost it, well lost it again… again again?... Gahh I'm losing track, I can't even remember how many times I've almost lost it today! Your fault, Completely your fault Ralph!"
Ralph couldn't help the silly grin that broke out across his face. Nadine huffed pulling her head back enough to look him in the eyes and raised a paw pointing a claw at his nose.
"That's a rebuke Ralph! Stop grinning like that when I'm trying to be mad at you!" Nadine scolded ineffectually, gesturing at him with her finger, "I'm telling you you're being a bad wolf! A very bad wolf! Stop that!" Nadine's voice was getting a little high, "Bad Wolf!"
Even if he'd wanted to, Ralph wouldn't have been able to stop smiling, not with the shift towards sweet her scent had taken. He growled again, that low deep possessive growl, that had just a bit of challenge in it and he leaned in booping his nose against her outstretched finger.
"I like it when you call me a bad wolf," Ralph mumbled, and her scent spiked hard.
"Ralph! I- Damnit! Ralph!" Nadine stammered, jerking back her now shaking paw, "That's not fair, stop with the wolf eyes… stop using That Look!" Nadine actually backed up a step her whole body shaking, and grabbed him on both shoulders as he took a step forward to follow.
"Oh gods," She muttered quickly breaking eye contact and holding him a step away from her, "oh gods, stupid blasted wolfy look! Damnit Ralph!" She looked up, then down immediately as her breath hitched.
"Ralph, crap, we can't keep doing this! We need to talk!" Nadine's voice was nervous and fearful but completely serious, and the low rumbling possessive growl in Ralph's throat died as he snapped back to the present. "We really need to talk, One of us is going to completely lose it if we don't talk and sort this out… damnit." Nadine muttered and closed her eyes as if wishing really hard that she could have avoided this very moment.
~And I'm on tonight you know my hips don't lie~
~And I am starting to feel you boy~
~Come on lets go, real slow~
~Don't you see baby asi es perfecto!~
Judy, along with half the crowd pitched in on the refrain of the song, as the lights played across the stadium's floor and lit up the stage with all the singers and dancers, Gazelle centered among them.
And Judy danced. She couldn't help it. She wouldn't have been able to stop herself even if she wanted to! Gazelle, the Gazelle, the one and only Gazelle was right there singing one of her favorite songs!
Judy only barely managed to hold back a squeal Clawhauser would have been proud of and she couldn't help but think of how much fun this was going to be to talk with the cheetah the next time she saw him at the precinct.
She let out a giggle.
And if talking to Benji is going to be fun, then I can't wait to tell everyone at home about it! Jessica is going to be sooo jealous! She giggled again thinking of her sister that she loved, but sometimes also hated. For how much they looked alike, they were opposites in just about every other way. Jessica had been the socialite, fashionista, and prom queen while she'd been the overachiever, athlete and somewhat odd bunny out of the popular groups. (though that might have had something to do with her 'police officer obsession'). But her 'obsession' had paid off and now she was living a life she had only ever dreamed of before, complete with seeing Gazelle sing live! Twice now!
Jessica was going to turn purple with envy, Judy thought giggling, she might just have to actually get her sister some tickets to the next concert to make up for it. Only after she'd had a bit of fun tweaking her sisters nose though, Serendipity knew she had it coming.
Judy looked back at the stage as the music continued and the lights flashed, only to be amplified by the pyrotechnics choreographed with the performance.
Feeling too excited to stay in one spot, she tried bouncing even higher and shook her hips in time to the music. Judy looked around at the sheer variety of mammals in the crowd and grinned. Bunnyburrow had its own dance events. There was the Carrots Day Festival and family parties (mostly weddings), but it was nothing like this.
Not to bash her hometown, she enjoyed going home to visit and participate, had even been able to convince Nick to come along with her. (He couldn't live his entire life without leaving zootopia after all, it had been for his own good) But Bunnyburrow dances were more… sedate? No… that wasn't entirely true. A lot of the music there was older and not soup high beat, and square dancing while fun, was far more restrictive than this, but once the night got late and the moonshine started getting passed about, those slow country dances could become quite riotous. It was just more… country. That was the best way she could describe it.
It just had a different flavor. A different tempo, even when the dancing got wild.
The closest she'd ever been to something like this was during her high school dances. It probably had to do with being a younger generation so the music was more varied and the mammals more eager to try something different. But it was more like they'd all been trying to copy something they'd only ever seen in gossip magazines and on TV.
Then there was also the fact that at any Bunnyburrow dance, highschool and otherwise it was almost entirely bunnies. Judy considered how she was dancing right now and knew she was being hypocritical, but bunnies had a tendency to lean toward just a few forms of dancing, even the energetic younger generations barely more willing to try something new.
Over all there was your square dancing, your classic slow dance, and finally, hop around like mad as if the dance floor was a room full of jumping beans.
Judy snickered thinking back to her prom and the mosh pit that had formed. Some of the teachers chaperoning the event had been expecting it and came wearing padded football gear.
Here though, there was just about every mammal she'd ever heard of at this concert, and the variety of ways in which they all were dancing was astounding. Granted for this song, most of that involved a lot hip and tail shaking, but still it was just so different and active and awesome!
And here, her admittedly more standard bunny bouncy dancing was far more unique and different. But maybe she could pick up a few new dance moves to show off the next time she was home.
Judy thought back to her prom and couldn't help but think how this was ten thousand times better.
First, there simply was no comparing recorded music to live.
Especially when its Gazelle! SQUEEEEEEEEEE!
Judy couldn't help herself, it was Gazelle after all.
Second, There were no chaperones.
Granted that really was a necessity for a highschool dance in Bunnyburrow. Best sex ed program around or not, that much excitement mixed with teenage bunnies full to the brim with hormones all packed into a small gym and some of them were bound to start pairing off with their crushes and trying to sneak out to the bleachers or somewhere else private. And while protection worked nearly all the time… that just meant that it was only a matter of time until it didn't. That and… well, bunnies.
They really were good at multiplying.
And while bunnies might be a bit more casual about playing the field while they dated, family was a whole other story. Shotgun weddings might be a bit of a trope in the big city but not so much in Bunnyburrow.
So Judy couldn't really fault the school for chaperoning the dances so heavily, not that she'd have ever needed it of course. She'd never let her hormones push her into something she didn't want. Nor would she ever sleep with someone unless she was sure they might have a chance at something together. And even then, she was carrot picking sure going to take every precaution.
But it wasn't just the school dances and prom (Not that she had even had to worry about that since her date had ended up leaving for the night with Kathrin Shortail… and ended up marrying her right after graduation, her already expecting. Well, they both had failed the sex ed course and that's what you got for deciding to chance it anyway when you hadn't prepared.) but even the town's festival dances had a sort of pseudo chaperones, what with all your neighbors and everyone else watching and the expectations of propriety enforced by the threat of becoming the next piece of small town gossip (which any small town raised mammal rightly knew to fear). And forget about really being able to let your ears up and tail wiggle at a family dance where you had your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and every other family member watching.
No, bunnies had their customs to keep themselves in check, otherwise that sign outside the Bunnyburrow train stop might not be so much of a small town joke and the bunny hoards would have conquered the world.
But none of that applied here! And for once Judy felt free to really let herself loose.
~I know I'm on tonight~
~My hips don't lie and I am starting to feel it's right~
~All the attraction, the tension~
~Don't you see baby, this is perfection~ ~Gazelle! Gazelle!~
The music thundered out from the speakers across the dancing crowd and Judy whooped, grinning in delight and danced away with everything she had, bouncing up and down, swaying her hips and letting her tail shake more than was strictly proper for a young doe to do in public. Not that there were any old croons here to scoff and titter behind upraised paws and gasp, 'oh the impropriety!'.
Just for those little old biddies, Judy perked her little puff tail and flicked it. And not just a little flick. No she cocked her hips as she bounced and flicked it. Strutting her stuff. Not that there was anyone to see, but just because she could. Judy grinned, delighted at the sense of exhilaration and freedom it gave her, then did it again.
Then once more with even more vigor, just because she could.
She felt alive. She felt right. She felt just like the song described. She felt on, and energized, and ready to face the world. Police officer and Bunny and carrot picking proud of it!
Oh yes, this was a million times better than any dance at home or even her prom.
She was part of a crowd the likes of which was the stuff of fairytales to most at her little country home. She was free to dance with all the enthusiasm she wanted with no one to tell her otherwise, and she was here with her best friend.
That above all else made this the best ever.
"Hey Nick, come on! Why aren't you dancing yet?" Judy called back to him, then after a few seconds without a response rolled her eyes and decided that maybe he just need some more encouragement, like maybe another hip bump or two.
She bounced up turning turning her head to see him, intending to hop over and give him a nudge, but only then noticed that Nick's attention seemed to be completely diverted as he stared a bit slack jawed…
Stared right at her…
Right toward were her perked tail was…
Bounce… Bounce… perk!… Bounce… Bounce… flick!... Bounce…
Nick stared at the puff in front of him feeling like his brain was misfiring. There should have been all sorts of sly thoughts and cunning ideas whizzing through his mind like usual. But somewhere between one side of his brain and the other, thoughts stopped and backed up to see what his eyes where showing him.
Bounce… Bounce… flick!... Bounce…
Fox's were supposed to be into long thick luxurious tails. Tails that a vixen might sway in smooth elegant and enticing motions that tods swore could drive any male mad. This… this was not that…
The way her tail bounced with her hopping motion was certainly not 'smooth'. Enthusiastic, energetic, spiritedly? Absolutely. But not smooth.
So that was a no.
Bounce… Bounce… flick!... Bounce…
Some part of him said no; that it technically wasn't. The rest of his mind thought that was utter bullshit and was pulling up his mental dictionary in outrage and confusion to double check the definition of the word
Flip, flip, flip, elected… electric… elegance! There it was.
a. refined grace or dignified propriety : urbanity… Well that was stupid. Mammals could go stuff their stuffy stuck up thoughts about 'urbanity'.
b. dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style… Well… the 'beauty of style part' sure fit… but restrained didn't… her and her tail was more like an explosion of movement. And dignified and graceful… well maybe not so much with dignified. He'd argue graceful though… okay maybe not in the traditional sense but he thought so.
c. tasteful richness of design or ornamentation; scientific precision, neatness, and simplicity
HA! His mind screamed pointing at the last part of the definition.
See?! Take a look at that tail! It's not 'long' but the sheer simplicity of it is what makes it elegant! Look at the perfect precision of it! Look how it curves to that tip. Look at that perfect symmetry and how it's placed perfectly above that butt and those hips! A perfect heart shaped rear like that shouldn't be covered up with some long tail! No! That puff is the perfect tail for her! 'Tasteful richness of design or ornamentation? Well there you are! That's exactly what that is! Hold on a second, need to add a mental picture of that to the dictionary aaaand…there. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the gods got it right when they paired that tail with those legs and that butt. Anyone of them is flawless on their own, but together? Mammals should weep at such a sight! The utter Perfection of that simple tail sitting there! And the shape… why it would fit perfectly into your cupped paw like it was made for it. That is elegance. And the fur! Have you ever seen fur so fine or soft? She already pushes the limits of soft fur… but that tail… that tail is something else… it looks soft enough to float on the clouds. And the color… that pure whiter-than-the-newest-snow color framed by that subtle gray. That tail is a masterpiece. A one of a kind. Something the likes of which the eyes of mammals will never see again. It should be treasured, worshiped. All should grovel before such pure elegance… hummm… okay, panting is also acceptable.
And that flick! *Sigh* I can die happy now… such beauty with such little movement… Nothing… nothing in the world could be so elegant as that…
There was a moment of simple quite appreciation as all of the thoughts in Nick's head focused on watching the tail bouncing in front of him.
Bounce… Bounce… flick!... Bounce…
Still just one part of three on the definition soooo, no?
There was an angry uproar in Nick's mind at whatever part had voiced that.
To be fair though, even if he thought it was the most elegant thing he'd ever seen, it wasn't classically elegant, not to foxes.
And that was part of the problem that was causing the backup in his mind.
It wasn't a tail that any fox would look at.
So why was it so damn enticing?
It called to him. It twitched like a mammal crooking a finger saying, 'Come closer', and he would have if he wasn't too dumbstruck by the sight to move.
Nick was only aware of the concert around him in the vaguest sense, but one thing that seemed to penetrate the background periphery of his thoughts was the music. Her tail moved to the music, bobbing up and down and side to side as she danced swaying her hips with each hop. That puff bounced before him almost like it was bouncing over the words of the song in some karaoke-type subtext, but he was to distracted with the perfection of the fluffy puff before him to care about the actual words to the song.
He wanted to touch that bit of soft perfection, caress it, kiss it, maybe give it the gentlest of nips. But he couldn't. That would be sacrilege. To reach forth and touch a thing of sheer beauty was wrong. It was not his to do so with. He was not allowed. To do otherwise without invitation was taboo…
But he could watch it… he could look at it and marvel at it… couldn't he?
Because he wanted to watch that tail forever…
"Hey Nick, come on! Why aren't you dancing yet?"
All the other foxes were stupid if they didn't think a tail like that was beautiful…
Bounce… Bounce… flick!... Bounce…
He could watch that tail forever… wait! No! It's turning away… I'll lose my view of that perfect tail! NO! Come Back! Please! Noooooooooooooo…
Something in Nick felt like crying as the world's most perfect tail vanished from his sight, but something else in his mind was beating an alarm, screaming at him to get a grip on himself or the world and that tail along with it might end.
His mind felt sluggish as it tried to reorient, focus, start to actually think again.
That perfect little tail was just hiding around the side of that perfectly curved hip turning toward him… maybe he could sneak around to see it again?... but that hip was quite nice too, curvy without being fat and it lead up to a slim lithe waist and a petite chest that gave the hint of two perfectly proportioned small breasts hiding under the shirt and from there, a face with an adorable button nose and long upright ears edged with darker fur at the top.
Something about those ears fascinated him almost as much as the tail… the fur on them seemed almost as soft as her tail and he wanted to leap on them, rub them against his cheek, maybe give them a teasing set of nips right on their edge… and the way they moved, always expressing emotions. Right now seeming to broadcast happiness and excitement except they were stiffening with a sort of surprised shock… why were they doing that?
Nick started to frown as he contemplated that while the elegant mammal in front of him continued to turn mid bounce only to land in front of him.
She stuck the landing but seemed to wobble just slightly. Not one of her best, but he'd seen far worse by others.
8.0, 7.6, 8.2, three judges in his mind raised up scoring cards for the landing while others cheered in the background regardless of the less than perfect score she'd gotten (this time).
Everything around Nick still seemed to be going just as slowly as his sluggish barely functioning thoughts, right up until he saw the two purple eyes looking at him in shock.
Purple was too base a word for the color, lavender was better but still failed to fully express how pretty they were. But for the first time in… Nick wasn't sure how long (since the song had started?), his mind suddenly broke through its blockage and started thinking very very fast.
He'd been ogling Judy. Ogling her openly. Not even with a hint of slyness, certainly not in a way she might not notice. No. He'd been standing there like an idiot, open mouthed, thinking thoughts he absolutely should not have-
Recriminations later! Screamed the hustler in his mind, Act NOW!
Nick's paw flew up to his open muzzle and he coughed violently like he'd inhaled something.
Judy landed a bit off balance, only for Nick to start coughing, quickly turning away from her.
Judy stared for a second, momentarily frozen, wondering if she'd just seen what she'd thought she'd seen.
Was he looking at-
No, you must have imagined that…
His jaw was hanging lose!
His mouth was open because he was about to cough!
But he was staring!
You just want him to have been staring!
Nick looked up for a second and caught her now staring dumbfoundedly at him only to snap his head to the side again and let out a few more coughs.
See that! His ears! The inside of his ears were darker! He was Blushing! That's twice now! He blushed earlier too! Once is coincidence, twice is a pattern!
The sun's going down, of course things look darker! That was just a shadow!
No, that was-
Nick let out one more wracking cough.
Check to make sure Nick's alright first, you Dumb Bunny! Then you can keep arguing with yourself about what you may or may not have seen!
"You all right there, Slick?" Judy stepped next to Nick and put her paw on his back as he coughed, only to feel him tense as she touched her.
"Yep, fine, just a second…" he said as he coughed again, looking over at her. "Just…" his nose flared a bit, and his eyes seemed to start to drift downwards before then jerking to the side, "Just… swallowed a fly that's all!"
"A fly?" Judy asked. That seemed… unlikely…
Nick was acting a bit odd, granted he'd been a little off his game since winter had started but this was odder than normal.
Judy's eyes narrowed ever so slightly…
I think he WAS staring!
Nick looked back at her and if her paw had not still been on his back and felt him tense, she might have missed the alarm that shot through him as his eyes met hers briefly.
"Right, a fly. Swallowed a fly!" Nick repeated his eyes darting to the side, seeming to look for something before stopping. "See, group of Yaks over there," he pointed. "Probably a fly that was hanging out in their hair. Don't know why yaks think being 'naturalists' means you shouldn't bath often."
Judy spared the group a he was pointing at a quick look. It was a group of yaks, but they didn't have the same frumpy look or tangle of hair Yax did. Granted the light here wasn't great and Nick could see better than her… but…
He's trying to cover! Her cop instincts insisted. Master Hustler Nick might be, but she'd been around him long enough to start seeing through his deceptions. That and it helped that he wasn't at the peak of his game.
He was staring at my tail and I caught him, and he's trying to cover!
Even the pessimistic wary side of her stopped to consider it.
Maybe… maybe not though…
Holy jumping jalapeno flavored Carrot sticks! Nick was staring at me?! At my tail! That she-wolf was right?!
Judy felt a thrill go through her. If Nick had been sneaking a look at her… that meant he really did find something about her attractive…
Nick was her friend, her best friend, but she'd never imagined he'd ever consider her anything but that. Didn't think that there'd ever even be a possibility of it. Why would he, a fox, be interested in her, a bunny?!
Sure she liked him, but she wasn't a normal bunny. That had been made abundantly clear to her all her life, but Nick… Nick wasn't odd like her, he was… he was, Nick. The cool, suave, sometimes sarcastic fox that had a hidden heart of gold; the fox that made his way through the city with an ease that still seemed to baffle her sometimes.
He's been staring…
If he did, did that mean he might…
And if he does…
Well, that opened a whole new set of possibilities…
Though there was still that stupid Foxy Lady, part of Judy growled internally. Just the thought of how someone could reject Nick ate at her, not to even mention all the other emotions it made her feel that she tried hard to ignore.
Envy wasn't a pleasant emotion, but she couldn't help feeling it whenever she thought about Nick's vixen. About the fact that he was in love with someone else.
Although… was it really love? How did Wolfords mother put it? Was it True Love? Was it true love if Nick had been eyeing other girls?
That didn't seem like the Nick she knew. Yes he'd been a hustler, but Nick had class. His ideas of right and wrong might be a little more flexible than hers, certainly more flexible than a strict reading of the ZPD rules, but for all his 'flexibility' there were parts of him that wouldn't give at all. Bend the rules, yes; break them, no. Prank and tease his friends; yes, hurt them, no. Flirt shamelessly in his charming good natured way, Serendipity yes. Go around eyeing up mammals when he'd promised himself to someone? she couldn't see him doing it. It just wasn't Nick.
He might not be truly in love with her…
Though that didn't seem quite right either.
She could remember how he looked when she'd questioned him about his feelings and how he'd been acting this winter. She'd seen how much pain that vixen's rejection was costing him. She would have bet everything she had seen that in him. That Nick had really truly loved his Foxy Lady.
The two points seemed like a paradox, both contradicting the other. But there was no way both could be true. One of them had to be wrong.
If Nick truly loved, not just liked, that vixen, he wouldn't have been sneaking glances at her.
But Nick did love that Foxy Lady. She was sure of that too.
There was a seed of doubt there now. She was questioning what she remembered, wondering if just maybe she'd interpreted his emotions wrong. She didn't think so… but it might be possible. And she wanted it to be possible…
Plus she was certain she'd caught him staring.
Well there is a way I could find out… Judy thought, thinking through the situation with the precision she applied to her job.
Oh no, No! That is not a good idea! Some other part of her thought with a bit of alarm, This is the kind of half cocked plan that makes Bogo want to rip off his horns!
Hey! My plans usually work!
Usually is the key word! You know the Chief would be against some risky, half thought through plan like this!
Well… The Chief isn't here right now, is he? Judy thought a bit petulantly to herself, a nervous thrill of rebellious excitement flashing through her.
"Can you see them? What are they doing? They haven't kissed yet have they?! I don't want to miss it when they do!" Bess said from beside Bogo, having stopped dancing to stand on her toes to see over the crowd.
"Blast that group of yaks, they've blocked my view! I can't see where they went! Dear, how by Ferdinand, do you keep track of mammals that small at work?!" Bess whined, shifting again to try and get a view on his charges.
Bogo, mood much improved now that they were at the concert, shrugged.
"Bess, that, is just one of the reasons those two cause me such headaches."
"But what if we lose them in the crowd?!" Bess asked worriedly and he snorted.
"Dear, just watch for a commotion. Wherever the chaos seems worst is where those two always are."
Just because The Chief isn't here, doesn't mean you should do it!
This is Nick! How am I supposed to find out if not by hustling him?! Judy thought in return trying to assuage her worries.
Ya… But what if it backfires?
Backfires how? Judy defended. It was a good plan, a logical plan, a plan she'd never ever try in Bunnyburrow. The excitement was mixing with her worries and if she didn't do something and soon she was going to burst, If it doesn't work, then I'm no worse off than I am now! If it fails, it'll go right over his head and I'll know he wasn't looking!
Wait! Think this through! Don't leap before you look!
But Judy had already nodded to herself, mind made up, and was moving.
"Well Nick," Judy said poking him in the side and actually making him jump in surprise. "We're not here to stand around and choke on flies. Come on, it's still a bit crowded here and there's a better spot over there where you won't choke on any flies, plus we need to keep an eye on Ralph and Nadine like the chief said."
Judy took his paw and turned leaving him no option but to follow her as she zigged their way past a few mammals to be closer to the tiger and wolf.
Okay… okay… deep breaths Judy, you can do this, she reassured herself.
She had no trouble throwing herself into fights with mammals far larger than herself, but doing what she was about to do, on purpose, was something else entirely.
Come on! You've seen Jessica do this a thousand times before to bucks, it can't be that hard! He's following right behind you, Just one little…
Judy shoved all her worries aside and Flicked her tail, giving it a nice little shake. Something that she might just be able to play off as a natural twitch and not a clear pass at the mammal behind her.
O M G… I did it, I did it! Now one more… *Flick* and casually look over your shoulder to see how he reacts…"
Nick wasn't looking at her.
Disappointment flooded Judy like a tidal wave, only to suddenly retreat as she took a second, more careful glance at him.
He was pointedly not looking at her…
Her free falling hopes for the impossible suddenly caught an updraft, though whether that was lifting them or just slowing their descent she wasn't sure.
Is he not looking or 'Not looking'?
I mean he's really not looking, not even a sly not looking or a 'I don't care' not looking. Not looking could actually mean he was looking, right? Like a False Negative rather than a true negative or was I just imagining a false positive before? Carrot sticks, this is complicated! Why does it have to be so complicated! I aced the academy's forensic statistics class, I should be able to figure out if it was a false negative of not! Wait, Ralph and Nadine are in the direction he's looking! Maybe he's just doing what the Chief told us to do?! That was so stupid of me to think that he might- might… Judy's hopes started pluminting again and she shook her head trying to stop her plummeting mode, Ralph and Nadine, right, I shouldn't be daydreaming! I should be watching them too-
You should watch where you're going! Shouted some warning in her mind.
Judy turned around just in time to see the leg of a giraffe before she walked right into it.
A jolt of pain shot through her from her nose as it smacked into the leg only to be joined a second later from a jolt as she fell back onto her tail.
"Judy!" Nick shouted worriedly, head snapping back toward her, "What happened? Are you- uh-oh!"
Nick grabbed her under her arm, yanking her up to her feet and back a step right as the mammals hoof moved, coming down right were she'd been.
Judy let out a startled meep, too shocked and caught up with her thoughts to react with her normal speed.
"Carrots! Sheesh you haven't been this clumsy since you almost got trampled when we first met!" Nick bit out, worry tingeing his tone.
"Hey! That wasn't my fault!" Judy blushed remembering the rhino that almost stepped on her on her first day on the force. "You'd distra- Nick! Move!"
Judy pulled Nick forward as a long hoof almost hit him from behind, as the far larger mammals, completely oblivious to them, continued to dance with the crowd.
Nick's stumbled forward into her then glanced back at the leg that had almost clobbered him, his eyes going a little wide.
"I thought we were going somewhere less crowded!" Nick said looking up at the two giraffes above them that were watching the concert stage with a clear view above the rest of the crowd.
"Hey there's only two other mammals here! It is technically 'less' crowded!" Judy replied indignantly in a futile attempt to cover up her blunder.
Nick started to give her a look like she was trying to sell him snow insurance in Sahara square, but then pulled her close to him, half spinning her just as another hoof swished past them.
"Yes, but those two mammals are big and are literally right Here!" Nick said, spinning her again before pointing to the spot she'd just been standing in, which now was occupied by a rather big hoof.
Judy was trying to think up some rebuttal to that when her mind froze and she acted on instinct, casually reached around Nick's waist and grabbed his tail.
Nick's eyes, already a bit wide with distress, went even wider with shock as she grabbed hold of his sinfully fluffy tail and pulled it around to her side.
"Sorry!" Judy blurted out, her cheeks burning a sudden crimson red as the feel of Nick's fluffy tail seemed to almost seep between her paws and wrap around her leg with its warmth.
There was a thwump! As a hoof came down right were Nick's tail had been and the oh so fluffy fur spiked like a bottle brush in her paw.
"I only grabbed your tail for its own safety!" Judy spluttered, then realized she was still holding his tail and tried to let go.
Then had to try again in order to actually get her paw to obey her mind.
For a moment she thought she still hadn't released it but when she looked down, she found that his tail, even puffed out as it was, was firmly wrapped around her legs.
"I um… sorry. I'll just um…" Judy took a step back afraid that if she stayed there a moment longer with his tail wrapping her leg like that she might do something dumb like grab it and never let go.
Nick's arms shot out grabbing hold of her with predatory swiftness. He pulled her back nearly crushing her against his chest, his strong arms wrapping tightly around her.
Judy's flush flared at the sudden contact, her heartbeat quickening as she heard his own, pressed up against him as she was. Then meeped as she the unmistakable sound of another hoof clomping down behind her.
The hoof though wasn't what had made her meep, in fact in that instant it was almost irrelevant to her. Nor was it the feel of Nick's chest pressed against her or how his arms (and his tail?) seemed to almost protectively clutch her.
She meeped, feeling a sudden hot flush of searing heat start in her belly and scald her cheeks because one of Nick's large strong paws had settled completely over her tail, almost as if he were holding it. Not gripping it harshly but more just cupping it, his paw pads pressed against the sensitive underside of her perked appendage while the rest of his paw completely surrounded it in a way that almost felt like a caress.
Nick moved again, his paw pressing more firmly against her tail as he pulled her with him, moving out of the way of another hoof.
Judy nearly let out a gasp at the sensation, and looked up quickly trying to see if he was doing that intentionally as the feeling in her stomach turned into a flame and her whole body seemed to catch fire.
Nick though, was intently watching the legs around them as the two giraffes continued to excitedly cheer on Gazelle's performance, and with another slight tug on her tail and back, he pulled her along in an almost elegant spin out of the way of another leg.
Judy's paws gripped Nick's shirt as she bit her lip, fighting back against the sensations flooding her. The feel of him so close, of his paw caressing her tail, was sending sparks bursting inside of her and making any sort of coherent thoughts difficult.
"I…um… Nick… I…" Judy started, not even sure of what she was going to say next when Nick interrupted her.
"If you don't mind Carrots, I'd rather not get my tail or you for that matter, stepped on. So how about I pick a spot?" His tone was so normal and relaxed that it all but screamed stress and alarm, and she just nodded dumbly as Nick still held her tight to him and continued to move.
It all seemed like a dream to Judy.
She followed Nick's lead as he seemed to flow smoothly through the crowd, pulling her along amid the stamping, jostling, forest of limbs and hooves like they were at some grand ball. Judy usually took point when things got hairy. She should have taken charge of the situation, moved like it was an obstacle course at the academy, but her mind wasn't working properly amid the conflicting signals of the situation. She was used to how Nick only became more calm as things became more dangerous, a talent she credited as something he'd learned in his hustling days, but then there was his flowing dance like movements amid the fast pace beat of Gazelle's music, the dangerous stomping hooves and paws of the larger mammals above them that moved to the energetic music, unaware of the two smaller mammals weaving their way below them. The way Nick guided her, held her, cupped her tail with his paw, all while every ounce of his attention was focused on their surroundings.
Part of her mind was still analyzing the danger of the mammals over them, telling her to move, to jump, bounce here and then there to get to safety, but it was disconnected. The information visible but undecipherable to her mind as Nick's paws tugged ever so slightly on her and she followed before her mind had even noticed.
First left, then left again before taking a step forward as Nick moved back, only to spin slowly around another hoof. Then a step to the right and dip under a hoof that swished over Nick's head as he leaned forward, his muzzle almost touching her nose as she bent back, Nick holding her off the ground with one paw on her tail and the other on her back. A fleeting moment where she thought he might kiss her as his muzzle brushed her cheek and then they were standing again, spinning again, stepping to the side and out from the forest of yellow and brown splotched legs.
Everything around them seemed to have gone quiet as they stood there now out of immediate danger, Judy's breath coming in deep slow gasps while the tension slowly drained out of the fox she was pressed up against.
"I, that… um… I guess this is a better spot…" Judy murmured almost incoherently, even to herself though the noise of the crowd had quieted while waiting for Gazelle to start her next song.
She felt dazed, confused, too hot, like the arms holding her were emanating a warmth that muddled her mind…
There was an almost growling huff from Nick, something that sounded like an understated agreement, maybe one that should be accompanied by an eye role and maybe a reprimand too. But then Nick looked down at her and Judy froze at the sight of his green eyes. There was something primarily feral that seemed to peak out from behind those brilliant emerald orbs and some instinct deep inside her screamed Predator! It sent shivers through her that scared her on a visceral level even as she felt inexplicably drawn to that menacing danger. Part of her wanted to run, flee, escape from this stronger predatory mammal. Part of her wanted to be caught, wanted to melt into him and let this bigger, agile, and cunning male catch her, to let him have her so long as she could be near him.
She felt paralyzed by her feelings, by those arms holding her. Paralyzed from those two savagely green eyes that seemed to drag her closer to him. Slivers of instinctual terror and adrenaline shot through her, from where his paw had her tail so delicately trapped, to her stomach where it pressed against his front and exploded into a hot furnace.
Judy's breath caught as the heat spread out through her like a firestorm, only to freeze her body in place, the heat surging even more as Nick's nose twitched and his huffish, almost irritated growl turned into a low nearly inaudible vibration that emanated directly from his chest into hers. A sound more felt than heard, utterly feral and predatory and foreign to her, making her feel like prey caught by a predator all too pleased to see what had wandered into his den.
The paws on her back and tail twitched, seeming to press her flush against the firm, leanly muscled stomach and torso of fox before her. The fox with pure green eyes that in that second seemed to turn savage and wild. Judy gasped, her tail giving an involuntary twitch of fear (or something else) against his paw trapping it.
The vibrations seemed to deepen just for a fraction of a second, taking on a very pleased note, even as something else grew, pressing hard against the heat between her legs.
The jolt of that contact was like being struck by a bolt of lightning and before she could clear her mind from the aching thunder that echoed up to the tips of her ears, Nick was standing a step away from her casually examining their surrounds as if nothing had happened.
Judy stared at him, feeling a bit shaky on her feet, now so suddenly unsupported by her fox.
His stance was sooo cool and collected that it made her wonder if what had just happened was real or just something from her fevered wishes and overly energetic imagination.
"Well, it might not have the best view of the stage," Nick said waving a paw around. "But at least we aren't likely to end up in the hospital now. As 'awesome' as these gazelle concerts might be," Nick air quoted with his claws, "I think even you and Clawhauser would probably agree it's not worth that."
Judy didn't reply, only stared at Nick, uncertainty and disbelief vying for supremacy in her.
Nick after a moment of waiting for a reply, turned to her with a quizzical expression, only for a fleeting look of something to flash across his face as she just continued to gawk at him.
"What?!" he nearly yipped, his tail puffing slightly in alarm, "I didn't spill part of my blueberry pie on my shirt or something, did I?" he asked, checking his shirt for stains before looking back at her.
His eyes were their same brilliant emerald green, that feral wildness she thought she'd seen hidden away like it had never been there…
Judy wasn't buying it this time; he was too go at hiding things. She ignored the conversational diversion and just stared harder at him.
Nick's fur puffed a bit like a ruffled chicken, and though it was too dark for her to be sure, she thought the fur over his cheeks looked slightly darker.
"Carrots? What's the matter?" Nick asked a bit of fluster breaking through his calm. "Look, I wasn't really mad about you leading us under those giraffes I… I… just got worried! But hey, look!" he gestured pulling at his shirt, "We're fine! Made it through it without even a scratch. Now we can enjoy the rest of the concert! Well enjoy it and make sure Nadine doesn't lose it again." His said pointing a thumb over his shoulder at where the tiger was leaning heavily on the wolf near them.
Judy didn't bother looking at them; Ralph and Nadine seemed calm enough. No, she stared at her partner, who she could have sworn had been on the verge of going savage, maybe even for just that fraction of a moment had.
Despite his efforts, Nick seemed to be getting more flustered as she continued to stay quiet and examine him with a discerning eye.
"Hey look," Nick said shifting tactics, and taking on a slightly hurt and indignant air as he crossed his arms, though Judy was sure it was mostly show. "You already know that all my dance moves are old. There's nothing wrong with knowing how to dance properly. A hundred years from now this'll be just fleeting pop music, but mammals will still know traditional dances!"
It was a good performance, Judy had to admit, though the slightly haughty uptilt of his nose at the end of his little melodrama performance might have been overkill.
She only raised an eyebrow questioningly (one ear accompanying it), and was sure she had his attention, letting her sharp deciphering gaze drop down to a slight but noticeable bulge in his pants.
Pretty sure that's not my imagination. Judy couldn't help but think.
Nick let out a quick cough, shifting with the movement in a way that hid the little telltale sign and continued as if she hadn't spotted that.
"I mean, sorry Carrots. As fun as your 'hippity hop' dancing might be, it's got nothing on the classics!" Nick said obstinately, his expression even taking on a slightly demeaning tone that made her want to tell him just how much fun her 'hippty hopping' was and not stop arguing till she'd managed to get him to agree (and maybe try it himself)
But she was sure that was exactly why he'd used that tone.
Nick had slipped up. Not much. But he had and she wasn't going to let him sidetrack her. She was going to dig and dig until she got to the bottom of what he was feeling and found out exactly what thoughts he had secreting away.
She might not be as good as Delgato with police interrogations, what with his 'secret' questioning technique he'd been using so effectively (and had flatly refused to tell her when she'd asked what it was). But she wasn't so bad at it herself. Bogo had given her a few tips after all.
Nick had slipped up and she was going to bring down a hammer on that chink in his suave 'Never let them see that they get to you' attitude till she broke through and found out what all that had just been about.
Planning, theorizing, debating, and deducing was all part of detective work in solving a case, but once you had the suspect before you, all that was irrelevant and it was time to throw down and see who won.
Judy let her other eyebrow and ear join her upraised ones and gave Nick a cop look like she had when she'd confronted him about his pawpsicle hustle.
Then again, that hadn't gone so well, hustler that he was. But she could fight fire with fire. That sure had worked before.
"Right, well, Slick," she narrowed her gaze at Nick and crossed her arms, then watched as his adams apple bobbed slightly like he might have silently gulped. "If you think your 'classics'," she used her ears to air quote, "are so good, let's see it. I think you've got nothing on my dance moves."
She gave him a dismissive glance to match his haughty one insulting her dancing and turned as Gazelle started in on another song.
The stage shifted as Gazelle took her spot, her support dancers taking station as the center portion of the stage rose up in tiered levels. And this time, instead of pyrotechnics accompanying the start of the song, it was water jets that burst upwards around the edge of the stage, set in troughs that separated it from the crowds .
Nick looked almost relieved for a second, like he might have escaped getting a speeding ticket after getting pulled over.
Oh no you don't, I'm not letting all that go so easily! I want some answers!
Judy grinned back at Nick, and his relieved expression morphed to one of distinct worry right before she join in with the crowd dancing to the music, giving her tail a subtle little flick.
~Lucky you were born that far away so~
~We could both make fun of distance~
~Lucky that I love a foreign land for~
~The lucky fact of your existence~
Subtle or not, Nick's eyes glanced downward for just the briefest moment.
Well pickle me like a cucumber, Judy thought, grinning almost evilly to herself. Maybe Ralph's mother did notice something I'd missed. I might have to go talk to her to find out more about canines… carefully though. She's one scarily devious she-wolf…
~Baby I would climb the Andes solely~
~To count the fur on your body~
~Never could imagine there were only~
~Ten million ways to love somebody~
Nick gulped visibly as Judy sashayed her hips and flicked her tail several more times. Then, glanced back at the stage, then at Judy, then over at Ralph and Nadine as if afraid they might have seen.
Judy used his moment of distraction to hop over and bump him.
"Come on, I thought you said I had nothing on you," she taunted, turning and bouncing up in front of him so that for a moment she was eye level with her fox, and in that brief moment, gave him a penetrating stare clearly warning that he wasn't going to slip anything by her.
Nick's mask cracked as he swallowed hard, and she bounced over to his other side and bumped him again.
What are you hiding Nick? Judy thought as he almost jumped at the contact, You've been in a mood all winter over this foxy lady of yours, so why are you glancing...no...STARING...at me? I've known you for well over a year now and you don't have wandering eyes.
"For all the bragging about your dancing skills I'm not seeing much," Judy said circling him to try bumping his other hip again. Something was up with Nick. Judy could sense it; had been sensing it all day. For much longer than that actually, but it had been much more noticeable today. Nick had been on edge since they met up this morning where she'd had that run in with Leaps. He'd been covering well, had truly enjoyed being at the park with her today, but even still, whatever it was he was hiding away from her, it had been dogging him like a shadow.
Nick had opened up to her just enough that she knew it had to do with the vixen he'd been pinning after, but she couldn't help wondering now how she might fit into that whole mess of his emotions.
The thought both terrified and exhilarated her.
He was a fox, she was a bunny… but she was also his best friend.
There were times when the best thing a friend could do was leave something be, but then there were also times when the best thing was for a friend to push, to make it clear that there were other people that cared for them too.
Judy love Nick. She couldn't help how she felt about him. Even if he ended up with some stupid vixen, she'd still love him, still strive to be his best friend. She'd always want more than that, but she wanted him to be happy most of all. And this moody Nick was not a happy Nick. It had gone on long enough. She didn't like seeing how one moment he could be having a good time, how he'd be smiling, actually truly smiling, and then some thought he was hiding away would slip out and his smile would fade, only to be replaced by the hustler smile he showed to the rest of the world.
It was time to push.
Way past time.
And anyway, he'd glanced at her. That gave her a right to dig into his business.
And bunnies were good at burrowing.
Judy took careful aim at Nick and gave him her best shot.
"Come on Nick," she bounced over, hip checking him lightly again, and right when he glanced at her she give just the barest flick of her tail, just to try throwing him a bit off his guard. "Forget about what Clawhauser is going to do when he finds out you just stood around at a gazelle concert. If you can't even impress your best friend with your 'slick' dance moves, how are we ever going to get you to impress your foxy lady?" she said pointedly, trying her best to keep any resentment at the vixen out of her voice. "Maybe the issue you've been having with her isn't so much with you being a red fox, but that you've been holding back and she isn't very impressed." Judy gave him a quick glance, looking him up and down, before snorting dismissively.
"As good looking as you are Nick, you're not going to catch your girl if you can't impress her. It's going to take more than a fluffy tail and a charming smirk." Judy smirked back at Nick who'd gone stiff at the mention of his, 'Foxy Lady'. "I might be a doe, not a vixen, but I'd suggest taking my advice." She turned away from him, moving forward a few steps to dance along with the crowd. This time she didn't flick her tail but just kept it perked, wondering how much more pressure she would need to put on Nick before she finally broke through his mask and got a real response. "I'm still a female after all...and I think you can do a lot better than you are now."
She flicked her tail once more, this time the motion matching her disappointed almost dismissive tone.
Well, if that doesn't get something from him, I'm not sure what will... Judy thought to herself. I need him to really open up if I'm going to figure out what's going on in my dumb fox's head. Pushing every button I could, should probably do it. One of them has to work after all.
She was half expecting Nick to be mad that she'd brought up his love life issues again, that she was pushing him when it was pretty clear he hadn't wanted to talk about it. But she was completely unprepared for the glare she received when she glanced back over her shoulder.
Nick wasn't glaring at her precisely, and he wasn't staring at her tail. No, his eyes had narrowed, a bit of that savage presence she'd sensed before sending tingles up her spine once more as he stared with enough intensity to make her fidget right at the center of her back, as if he was mad he'd ever told her he'd been in love with a Foxy Lady. Then his eyes traveled up and met hers.
"Oh, so you think all I need to do to win over the girl I love is to dance for her? That its as simple as that, Judy?" Nick said, his voice growlish. His normal expression masking his emotions was gone and for once Judy could see a slew of emotions clearly crossing over his face. Frayed restraint, irritation, anger, hurt, longing, frustration. Almost too many coming too fast for her to pick out.
Nick's eyes seemed to pin her in place with their intensity, but as clearly pricked by her remarks as he was, he didn't seem to be directing that slew of angry hurt emotions directly at her per se, more like at himself or maybe the world in general.
"I… well… you never know…" Judy said backpedaling a bit and trying to regain her balance. "It… it might help…" She'd wanted to get Nick to open up, but she hadn't quite been prepared for him to open up this much. Nick was displaying so much emotion that it nearly radiated from the usually reserved, in control fox. This was not how she had expected things to go.
Judy almost squeaked as Nick's focus narrowed on her, feeling for once like actual prey spotted by a predator.
"Okay Judy. If you think it might help, then how about I show you just what I can do? I'll let you be the judge of whether or not my Foxy Lady might be impressed." He let out a snort and stared pointedly at her tail. "You after all, are a female. That's abundantly clear."
Judy flushed badly.
Okay, so maybe she'd been a bit heavy handed with her tail flicks. She wasn't nearly as practiced at such things as Jessica was.
She swallowed hard trying to think up a way to explain why she'd been teasing him like that only to look up and find that Nick apparently had no intention of giving her a chance to collect herself.
The fox that was before her wasn't the reserved Nick she saw everyday at work, nor was it the emotional fox he kept hidden from the world that had peaked out a moment ago. No, this fox infront of her was something more in the middle. A Nick still in full control of himself but that was letting his emotions show openly. And not just show them, but use them. He hit her with a look that made her flush and her breath catch as he moved toward her, not dancing, just walking with a supple vulpine grace she would never be capable of.
Nick smirked at her, a smirk that held more than his usual teasing. No, this smirk had all the charm and loving teases she was used too from Nick, but underneath that was something more… more… primordial, sexual. Something that made Judy's breath catch as he moved fluidly next to her and whispered into her long ear so that the only thing she could see was that smirk at the edge of his muzzle.
"Think I can't dance do you? Think that I'm not being impressive enough to catch my ladies eye?"
Judy meeped, turning toward Nick but he was already gone, his tail brushing sensually against her legs before his breath caressed her other ear.
"Well, we'll just see about that, bunny. I'll show you everything I have, and you can tell me afterwards if you think it's enough to 'impress' her."
Judy's heart started pounded away in her chest as she tried to draw in air. Every warning she'd ever heard about foxes during her childhood surfaced in her mind. About how cunning and dangerous they were and how they'd snatch young bunnies away and snack on them. And while she'd never believed any of that, she started wondering if there might be a grain of truth hidden in there. Not in the way her father probably thought about it though, considering how Nick's voice made her knees tremble and weak.
Maybe it hadn't been the brightest idea to prod Nick like that, Judy thought belatedly as she whipped around the other way only to bump into the fox infront of her as Gazelle continued to sing in the background.
~Lucky that my lips not only mumble~
~They spill kisses like a fountain~
~Lucky that my breasts are small and humble~
~So you don't confuse them with mountains~
Nick made an amused growling sound that vibrated against Judy as he looked down at her all the while not quite moving to the music as he moved.
"Foxes don't like mountainous frames, leave that to the hippos and elephants. And I rather like small and humble… I think it's far more pretty, not to mention cute." Nick grinned openly admiring his view while looking downward.
"Nick!" Judy meeped, her face and ears flaming as Nick's not to subtle compliment paired with that ridiculously sexy smirk, wrecked every thought she had going in her mind all at once.
"Yes? That's my name," Nick said, moving around her again, his tail still trailing against her legs like he was binding her in place with chain made of pure fluff. "Oh that's right, you wanted me to show you how I might win my Lady love by dancing. Well Carrots, you see, I don't like to dance alone, so if I'm going to show you, you're going to need to help."
Judy tried to turn to follow Nick but a tug on her paw from her other side stopped her. She looked down in shock to see that her paw was in a larger one. A dark, russet furred one. One that looked exactly like Nick's.
"So, care to dance with me?" Nick asked, his muzzle brushing against her ear from behind again, surprising her and making her squeak.
"No! I Mean Yes! I mean… I mean… Carrot Sticks! That's not what I meant!" Judy squeaked out, her thoughts too jumbled to think properly and her body feeling like Nick had dipped it in lava.
"Hummm…" Nick's voice rumbled from behind her, closer now. "That's answers a bit hard to decipher… but I'm pretty sure I heard a yes in there." She was still staring at her paw in his and missed how Nick slipped his other paw around her waist. She sure as crickets-come-spring noticed when Nick's whole lean strong frame pressed up against her back though.
It all either happened too fast for her to react, or Judy's mind was in even worse shape than she thought it was because seemingly out of nowhere she found herself trapped by a fox, his arms wrapped around her front, holding one of her paws at her waist as he pressed up behind her, nearly blanketing her as he nestled his muzzle between her ears.
And that was all before he starting to move, gently pulling her with him to a beat following the music.
~We're meant to be together~
Judy tried to speak and failed. She was trapped. Trapped. Trapped in the arms of a fox. Trapped by her fox.
~I'll be there and you'll be near~
~And that's the deal my dear~
She could feel him pressed against her back. feel his chest rumbling in that almost savage manner. His arms around her waist and his muzzle pressed against her ears. She could feel his thumb making lazy, circular movements while exploring her padless paw. She could feel him everywhere. Feel him pressed up against her tail.
~You'll never have to wonder~
~We can always play by ear~
~But that's the deal my dear~
The feeling of Nick so close to her was overwhelming, suffocating...burning. It was too much too fast and she wasn't breathing and then Nick nibbled on her ear. That sure got her breathing! Almost hyperventilating actually, as tingles ran up and down her and she tried not to squeak in surprise or worse, moan in pleasure.
"N-Nick!" Judy's voice was more than a little shaky as she tried to look up at Nick. Tried to figure out what game he was playing at. Tried to-
Her nose bumped his chin, and Nick looked down, his mouth just over hers and she thought he was going to kiss her. She wanted him to kiss her. His lips moved toward hers but hesitated just before touching.
Judy stopped breathing, her heart thumping once, twice, then…
Then he did kiss her.
Kissed her nose.
It was too much. Nick was too much. The way he was holding her was to much. And that stupidly Nickish smirk at her shocked dumb bunny expression and currently half melted mind sloshing around in her heart as he placed that chaste little peck on her nose was too carrot blasted much!
She wanted to shout at Nick, rail at him, ask him what the hell? Turn and jump up and plant her feet on his legs, grab that stupid tie of his, pull him down and force him to kiss her. Kiss her right. Kiss her like she dreamed of every night.
Except he was holding her, his arms keeping her back pressed against him. Not that it would have stopped her, except... her body seemed to have melted into him; refused to move away from that warmth.
So her explosion was more of a fizzle.
"Nick! What- Why- My Nose?! What are you doing, you dumb Fox!?"
Nick, curse him, only smirked leaning his head against hers as she twisted trying to see his face which he deftly kept just out of sight of hers, all the while continuing to move to the music with her still held in his arms.
"I'm dancing. Being 'impressive' and flirtatious just like you said I needed to be," he replied, his breath ruffling the fur on her neck and making her want to groan and lean into him, which she firmly decided she wouldn't do. She was too mad at him at the moment. Too flustered, too worried she'd melt into an incoherent puddle nuzzling against him and make a fool of herself.
"Why?" Nick continued, his breath still tickling her neck, "Do you think this still isn't good enough to catch the attention of the girl I like?"
"I… uh… no… this is…" Gods the way his muzzle was pressed against her neck almost like he wanted to nibble and kiss it was making it hard to think, "this… would work… I…'" Judy's eyes, against her will, shut for a second as she leaned her head backwards into his chest while his muzzle brushed her neck, his breathing ruffling her fur. She didn't want him to stop, she wanted him to keep holding her like this, she wanted to be the girl he always wanted to hold like this… his girl.
Judy's eyes flew open, "I… Nick! What? If your girl see us- you- right now… What? What hustle are you playing at Nick?!" she spluttered in alarm and confusion.
Nick, though, let out a low almost amused snort as if that didn't matter.
"What hustle am I playing at Carrots?" Nick asked wryly before pressing his nose into her neck and letting out another snort of air. "Why don't you answer first and tell me what hustle you're playing at?"
"Me?" Judy squeaked.
"Yes. You," Nick snickered into her neck.
"I- I'm not- I-"
"Oh yes you were, Carrots," Nick snickered again, still moving back and forth to the music with her clutched in his arms. "Were doing a good job of it too, throwing me off balance like you were, but subtle you are not." This time his snort was almost a laugh. "That and you've tried hustling the wrong fox one too many times, Carrots. So what hustle are you running?
Well Carrot sticks! Judy cursed to herself amid her roiling confused feelings and thoughts. Nothing made sense at the moment to her. Her feelings where yo-yoing all over the place. From contented bliss at how Nick felt pressed against her, to irritation at the same fox, to worry she was screwing everything up. It certainly didn't help that she didn't understand what the heck Nick was doing except that he'd somehow turned her hustle on her.
"I- Nick, I just…" Judy's voice cracked and she felt like she might cry for a second. "Darnit Nick! Why were you looking at my tail?"
"Why'd you shake it at me?" He replied casually, almost trivially.
Judy flushed, feeling both irate at his blithe response and flustered at the same time.
"I- That's not important!" she shouted in an almost squeak, then feeling irrationally vexed continued. "I wanted to get you to open up to me! I want to understand what's really going on with you Nick! I want to know why you, confident Nick Wilde, first fox ZPD officer!, seems to have given up on this girl he supposedly loves. I want to stop seeing my best friend hurt! I- I want…" Judy choked up, her irritation and anger fleeing, leaving her feeling like she wanted to cry again, leaving her feeling like she had a hole in her heart. "I want… want to know what I can do to make you happy…" Judy trailed off her throat tightening as she stood there still, her back pressed to Nick as he held her though he was no longer moving to the music. She closed her eyes and then mouthed silently.
'I want to make you happy.'
"Damnit." Nadine muttered as she held Ralph a step away from her and lowered her head as if she was exhausted from a long, long run.
"Sorry… I just started wolfing out again, didn't I?" Ralph mumbled embarrassedly as he stopped trying to move closer to her and eyed the space she'd put between them.
"Yes, Rajah save me, Yes, you did! Complete with My what big teeth you have, look… stupid sexy wolfish look… you losing it shouldn't be such a turn on…" Nadine muttered, then blushed as if she hadn't meant to say that.
"Look? What look?" Ralph asked, head snapping up, suddenly very interested in figuring out what 'look' he'd been giving her. He thought back to a few moments ago and her 'Bad wolf' comment and the smell of her scent…
"Do you mean this look?" he said and let all his feelings for Nadine, all his wants and desire show in his eyes and smiled as he gazed at her.
Nadine's eyes went wide and she let out squeak before her paw snapped up and clamped over his muzzle, smothering his smile.
She took in a shaky breath, her fur settling a bit from its momentarily frizzed state. Then she narrowed her gaze and growled threateningly.
"Do that again Ralph and I'll Bite you!"
It was a very menacing growl, Ralph thought as a shiver rolled through him; very menacing, and also very husky too.
"And stop wagging your tail so much!" Nadine commanded.
Ralph tried to restrain his smile as he reached back and grabbed his fanning tail to stop it. The appendage continued to try to wag despite all his orders not to, but his effort seemed to mollify Nadine and her grip on his muzzle loosened.
Ralph wondered for a second if she would actually follow through on that threat and bite him if he smiled again, but then she was a tiger…
Don't! Don't say it! Some part of the rational side of Ralph's mind shouted at him. Your tiger's going to break if you push her buttons too much! Just looked what happened the last time you booped her!
"I thought you said biting meant something different to tigers?" Ralph couldn't resist from asking as soon as her grip on his muzzle loosened,
Stupid Wolf! You are such a Stupid Wolf! His mind shouted at him even as he said it.
Nadine's settling fur frizzed up again around her neck.
Yep. Replied the giddy love sick and clearly not rational side of himself, But I'm her stupid wolf *Grin*
"I -that's- well yes!" Nadine started stammering, then stopped and growled out, "-but that's not-"
She didn't make it any further than that as her eyes met his and her growl died as she flushed. The gold flecks in her hazel orbs seemed to flare wildly as everything around them slowed to a crawl while their gazes locked.
She stared into his eyes, and he stared back.
Breathing abruptly felt hard and difficult as the air between them seemed to still and nearly crackle with an invisible current, like the calm on a dry day just before a winter storm.
All sorts of emotions roiling behind Nadine's eyes; desire, fear, longing, nervousness, a thousand other emotions whipping into a primal fire as she stared at him on verge of violent movement and he stared back, his mind fogging with all his own emotions and worries and primal wants. Ralph's thoughts slipped from reasoning to something more instinctive as they held each others gaze, neither moving while the tension between them built to unbearable levels.
If she jumps forward, I'll dodge, sucker her into making a mistake as she chases me. If she moves to the side, charge and chase; better watch for a faint, Nadine's tricky like that. Her whiskers will twitch just before she acts, it's her tell, be ready; don't break eye contact, do that and you lose. She already won this morning, lose twice in a row like that and she'll tease you to death with it. Can't have that now, She'd be impossible to live with; Can't lose. Need to show her I'm strong enough to be with her, need to show her I care, need to show her how much I love her…
Something in Nadine's stare shifted, some bit of recognition, some bit of understanding that flashed through her eyes and caused the heated almost violent look to soften, deepen.
Her paw, seemingly by itself, came up and touched the spot where he'd marked her cheek.
A moment that seemed to drag on forever.
Nadine's jaw quivered as she bit her lip and then of all things, she broke eye contact and looked down, her eyes seemed to shimmer with what might have been the start of tears.
Ralph stood there, stunned for a second at the sudden end to the inadvertent challenge, then Nadine spoke, a nervous, almost tremulous note to her voice.
"It's more than just being playful or a bit flirty… Nips and bites mean more to felines, just like giving food means more for wolves…"
There was a pause as Nadine seemed to try and figure out how to go on.
'Wolves," Ralph interjected hesitantly, after the moment stretched and threatened to become awkward, "See giving and accepting food as a sign of giving and accepting the care and protection of another," he started to move forward, closer to Nadine, then stopped himself, terrified that it was the wrong thing to do. Nadine had sounded almost… scared; she seemed more vulnerable right now than he'd ever seen her or could have even imagined her being. Nadine simply didn't do vulnerable.
Ralph swallowed hard; this was something he hadn't expected. A part of Nadine he hadn't known about before. Something she was opening up to him about.
Things between them were changing and he knew deep down in his bones that it was monumentally important he didn't screw this up.
"It's why when wolves start courting and go out to dinner, they split the bill." He said past the lump in his throat. "You know things between a courting pair are getting really serious when one lets the other pay for the meal."
"I know," Nadine said, not looking at him. There was still the gap between them and she was almost perfectly motionless except for her tail. It was making sharp erratic jerks behind her.
"And I took the food you gave me this morning."
Ohhhh crap… I'd almost forgotten about that… Ralph thought with sudden worry at how she might have viewed that.
"Nadine, I- Megan just asked me to hold that bowl for her this morning while she knocked on the door, I didn't think- I didn't mean to-"
"Then," Nadine cut in slowly, almost like she hadn't heard him, and Ralph snapped his mouth shut, "back at the food court I was irritated and told you you'd be paying for dinner…"
"Ya, but you gave me the money from Wilde's prank, so it's not exactly like I'd be paying," Ralph started rationalizing desperately, "well I would be, but it's almost like you're paying since it's your money, well money we got from that… kiss…" Ralph's reasoning seemed to cave in on itself and he shut his mouth before he made things worse.
Crap! Double Crap! I'm screwing this up! I'm screwing-
Nadine glanced up at him almost timidly, then flushed just a bit and glanced back down, her tail snapping even more erratically than before.
"Ralph, did you know Booping to felines is foreplay?" she asked
"Um… no…" Ralph swallowed, "I, ah sort of started to guess it was something like that after what the other tiger said at the food court…"
This time, Nadine blushed more than just a bit when she glanced at him.
"Yes… well, it is. It's a sort of 'come and get me' signal. Nipping and biting is similar but it's more possessive. You wolves might nip each other while making out, no different than if it was a kiss, but for us, well…" Nadine seemed to be getting a bit more flustered and started talking faster, "biting, especially if you leave a hickey is closer to leaving a mark than it is to kissing; If you saw two tigers nip each other, you can be pretty sure their together, I mean more than just dating, just starting to date that is. Past the fooling around stage. That is, that their… intimate… very intimate… sexually…" Nadine petered out cheeks burning and looking anywhere but at him.
Ohhhhhhh Crap… Ralph thought, Talk about interspecies dating faux pas… How many times have I nipped her today? Ralph blushed and looked down at his paws as if to try counting on his fingers, then figured that wouldn't be nearly enough; his tail would only give him one more so that wouldn't help either, and if he started waving it around Nadine was liable to bite it and maybe his rear again…
Ralph's spiraling thoughts hit a speed bump and he snapped his head around to look at his own tail and butt. He could still feel the bite she'd put on it this morning. He snapped his head back only for Nadine who'd been watching him, to quickly look down at her now fiddling paws, only to then glanced back up at him.
Ralph pointed at his backside, "Then this means…"
"That was an impulse!" Nadine blurted out, blushing fit to burst, "I wasn't thinking when I did that!"
Ralph's ears dropped, suddenly deflated, "Then you don't want to-"
"NO! That's not what I meant!" Nadine burst out angrily and grabbed her ears as if she wanted to yank them off in frustration. "Damnit Ralph! I absolutely want to have sex with you! I want to drag you home and screw your brains out! I-" Nadine stopped yelling as a few of the nearby mammals, even above the blasting music and roaring crowd turned to look at them.
Nadine, paws still on her ears, froze, looking utterly mortified under gaze of the spectators. A few of the hippos started whispering together and giggling and Ralph rounded on them.
"This is a private conversation!" he snarled, and pointed back at the stage, "Turn around and butt out!"
They did so, but he snarled again adding, "And keep your Shrek ears pointed that way!"
Almost as one, about half the group of younger hippos who'd swiveled their ears back toward them, flipped them back around to face the stage.
Satisfied that they wouldn't try eavesdropping now, Ralph turned back to Nadine.
She looked away from him, still mortified and looking like she wanted to hide. He tried to catch her eye, but couldn't. Finally, he stepped closer to her and reached up pulling her paws away from her head where they still clutched at her ears. He didn't let go of them once he had them in his. Then, slowly, he shifted his grip, and his heart thrilled as her fingers intertwining with his and she squeezed ever so slightly.
"You know, I didn't want to presume or anything," Ralph started soft, just loud enough for the two of them to hear, "I didn't want you to think that's all I care about, But I'd sort of guessed, well hoped really you might feel something like that toward me."
Nadine still wasn't looking at him, still looked scared and rather miserable now, and generally very un-Nadine like.
"And when did you guess that?" she asked while examining her toes.
"Hummm… sometime this morning in your apartment." Ralph couldn't help the small grin that appeared or how his tail started wagging, "I have to admit, That seemed like something right out of my dreams, I was almost afraid that might have been a fluke, but you've seemed to enjoy me being close to you all day."
"Ralph, we spend most days stuck together," Nadine interjected as if that invalidated his reason.
"Sure, but at work we're on the job, and off work it's always been just friends hanging out together. We got to spend today brushing up against each other and sneaking kisses, I really like the kisses, and when you purr too…" Ralph was grinning now, "and there was the boat ride too. I wasn't sure how far I should go but you were pretty insistent."
"Stupid Gods damned phone call." Nadine snapped in a dark mutter, "I swear my parents have the absolute worst timing in the universe." That, Ralph thought, sounded a bit more like his normal Nadine as some of her lingering anger and frustration from that event re-emerging and dispelling a bit of her hesitant frightened mood.
Ralph's tail kicked up a few gears. He felt a bit better seeing his feisty Nadine return and a bit giddy too from the implications of her responses.
Nadine noticed and her face heated up but she didn't move away.
This time when she looked at him, she didn't glance away.
Ralph smiled, feeling about as boyishly excited as the first time he ever kissed a girl.
"So, you want to have sex with me." he stated more than asked, unavoidable happy goofiness filling his tone.
He watched the blush as it worked its way across the patterning of Nadine's fur while she bit her lip and stared back at him.
Ralph could feel his smile straining is muzzle and couldn't help how his chest puffed up with pride.
"Tonight." Nadine added, still biting her lip, "I don't think I can wait longer than that. Not with how you left me hanging on the boat."
Ralph's tail just about broke itself.
She wants Me! ME! Part of him was shouting in jubilation and singing in his mind, ME, Nadine wants MEEEE! As far as lyrics went it wasn't very good, but he thought it was the best song he'd ever heard (Clawhauser could keep his Gazelle music, Nadine wanted Him!)
Nadine looked like she was having some sort of internal conflict all the while sucking on a lemon, but Ralph was far too happy and excited to care about pretty much anything else so he kissed her, sucking lemon look and everything.
There was a second of surprise, then a second were Nadine seemed to hold herself back hesitatingly; a second where she was caving, melting into the kiss, her muzzle turning slightly to fit with his, and that second turned into another and another as he kissed her and she kissed him back.
Ralph found himself grinning too much to properly kiss Nadine even as she pressed and he finally broke off, only to find that at some point during the kiss his paws had ended up around Nadine's hips and hers were around his back.
"I'd really like that too, Nadine." Ralph said and hugged her to him, well maybe more of the reverse since she was a bit bigger, but he didn't care as he pressed his face into the fur just above her shirt collar smelling her scent. He could feel Nadine's arms holding him back and her chin on his head and growled happily. He just needed to be near her right at that second, just needed to…
Ralph stopped suddenly, and with an effort of will that cost him, pulled back before he tried to mark her.
"N-Nadine," Ralph gasped, taking a few breaths to trying to steady himself, "You um, k-know that… that tonight we can do all sorts of things but ah, we can't um… I mean I'm a wolf and, well with sex there's sex and then there's sex and…" He looked up onto to find Nadine staring at him with a blank expression.
"Nadine, if we have sex tonight I'll knot you." He blurted out, then cringed. That had come out wrong, far to blunt, he hadn't explained it right, he needed to… His mind hit a wall as Nadine shifted slightly, and her suddenly very aroused scent smacked him in the face.
Ohhh… um… I didn't expect that…
He looked up only to find Nadine biting her lip again.
"Okay." was Nadine's only response as she not quite looked at him and fidgeted again, another blast of her scent hitting him.
"Nadine…" Ralph whined, "It's not that simple!"
Nadine eyes glanced downward in the direction of his pants, and then clamped her muzzle shut as a giggle escaped.
"I'm pretty sure it is…" Nadine mumbled, another giggle escaping.
"Nadine!" Ralph flushed hard as her shoulders shook slightly and her eyes despite an apparent effort to stop them, started drifting downward.
"If we tie, then I'll end up marking you!" Ralph spluttered and Nadine's distracted giggling broke off like it had been shot.
"What?" She asked and shook her head as if clearing it, before staring back at him, a now completely serious expression on her face.
This time it was Ralph who look away and mumbled, "If I knot you while we're having sex I'll mark you… I won't be able to stop myself. He glanced up at her cheek and flushed with embarrassment and more than a little shame. Nadine's paw followed his motion, touching the spot briefly.
She swallowed hard. "You can't just… um…"
"Nadine, how many stereotypes have you heard about wolves and canines?" Ralph asked, and Nadine's ears flattened, "and how many snickered expressions have you heard whispered around about us and knotting?" Nadine's cheeks flushed.
"It's not like everyone actually believes all that stuff Ralph!" Nadine said defensively, "I know better than to believe stupid stereotypes about other species, I wouldn't-"
"Come again?" Nadine asked, and Ralph looked down from the confusion on her face.
"In that one particular case, the rumors and stereotypes are right." he shuffled his foot, "Why do you think wolves call marrying 'tying the knot'?
"But… but… Ralph, are you saying that wolves don't have sex until their married?!" Nadine asked sounding increasingly alarmed, "That we can't have sex until we marry!?"
"Ummm…" Ralph glanced up at the almost desperate look on Nadine's face, then got hit out of left field as part of what she said hit him, "Did you say 'until we marry'?" he repeated stupidly. Nadine flushed, then threw her paws up.
"Until, Unless, it doesn't matter!" Nadine said, and then jabbed him in the chest, "I don't know about you wolves but we felines definitely have sex before we marry! And I seriously doubt that all you wolves stay like celibate monks before you choose your mates too!"
"No…" Ralph said slowly, "most young wolves fool around a bit," He glanced at up at his tiger, "But knotting is different, that's not just sex, that's mating. Canines mate for life, Nadine! I mean like seriously mate for life. They say 'it's all fun and games until someone gets their knot stuck' because after that wolves find it almost impossible to have sex with anyone but their mate! We can't really separate the feelings associated with it! Think like erectile dysfunction on steroids. When canines knot they almost always mark each other too, you mark your mate, its instinct, it's why we mate for life, its why the pack and my parents were able to get a court order subpoenaing us to get married!"
Nadine's flush faded, leaving her looking a little pale, like she just realized something.
"Because they think we've already had sex…" Nadine said touching her cheek again, "that we're already mated…"
Ralph blushed, looked down.
"But we haven't yet!"
"Right…" Ralph couldn't help but glance at her paw on her cheek too. Nadine's eyebrows had furrowed like they always did when she was thinking hard and fast.
"So if we have sex then…"
"Technically, only if we tie the knot." Ralph replied seeing where her thoughts were headed.
"Then we can have sex." Nadine looked relieved.
"Umm…" Ralph looked at her and his voice came out a bit squeaky, "technically… yes…"
Nadine's shoulders slumped.
"There's a problem, isn't there?"
"There's a problem…"
"What problem?" Nadine's eyebrows furrowed dangerously, as if ready to tear apart whatever problem dared get in her way.
Ralph didn't respond, but glanced at her cheek.
Nadine's shoulders slumped again.
"That problem…" she swallowed. "I don't suppose there's any way we can postpone dealing with that until we've actually had a chance to start dating for real?"
Ralph glanced back down at his feet gloomily, not responding.
"dating for at least a little while?" Nadine sounded a little desperate, like she was clutching at straws.
"a few days?... A day? What about until after we have sex?"
Ralph shook his head miserably.
"Nadine… I… I'm sorry I did that without asking, I really didn't mean too, it just… happened…" Ralph swallowed, "It's my fault because I've been holding onto my feelings without telling you for so long now. I'd have a hard enough time not Knotting if we slept together, but its winter… and I already marked you once… if I did that without thinking…" Ralph shook his head again, "I just don't trust myself to be able to hold back if we start doing anything more than fooling around just a little."
Ralph looked up at Nadine as she started absentmindedly gnawing on one of her paws as she thought, a look of trepidation and confliction on her face. She started pacing back and forth in front of him.
Step, step, turn. Step, step, turn. And with every step her tail twitched agitated behind her, almost snapping like a whip as she turned.
"I'm sorry Nadine. I don't want to pressure you like this." Ralph said feeling awful at the mess he'd made of things, then steeled himself. "You…" His throat seemed to clench up before he managed to get the rest out, "you could always just say no…"
Nadine Froze. Not even her tail moved though it was in mid snap.
"you could always just say no…"
That was an option, one of the two answer she could give.
The thought ran through her Nadine's mind like a sloth in a race car. The rest of her mind felt more like a sloth on foot, and there was a sensation like someone had reached into her chest and was squeezing her heart.
She didn't even notice Ralph clear his throat nervously before he started speaking.
"Nadine, it's a bit unreasonable to expect an answer from a proposal I didn't even realize I'd made. If… If you did… did say no…"
She could say no…
"We could, um… start again? Properly this time? If… if you'd wanted too… I mean it would just be because things had moved to fast, because I goofed up, we could go out to a movie and dinner, it wouldn't have to be like… like…"
Like I'd be rejecting him, crushing his heart, telling him he wasn't good enough for me? Because that is exactly want it would mean.
The painful gripping sensation in her chest was getting worse.
It didn't matter what reasoning they put on it. Marking didn't have anything to do with reason. Rings and weddings and Marriage licenses had to do with reason and thought. Marking a mate didn't. Marking was based in instinct and desire and only gave a passing nod to reason.
Ralph marked me. He marked me. He thinks of me as his mate. If I say no…
It would hurt him. It doesn't matter why, it would still hurt him…
The pain in her chest had become a searing burning sensation and Nadine realized she hadn't been breathing.
GASP. Nadine took in a lung full of air, then another and the burning sensation faded leaving only a throbbing ache in her heart.
Ralph was looking at her a bit worriedly as she tried to get her breathing back to normal.
Okay. A plan. I need a plan. Hide the mark didn't work. So come up with a new plan.
"Ralph, um… what if… what if you, ah pretended you hadn't found out about your mark."
Oh that was really smart, some part of her mind noted sarcastically, Why don't you just click your heels three times and wish for your fairy godmother to appear?
Because I'd be more likely to get Ralph's Mother than a fairy godmother!
Humm… yes I could see your mother-in-law appearing like that. Have you pissed of any fox deities lately because Karma really seems out to get you.
No, I have not!- wait, what do you mean mother-in-law?!
Umm… right, your partner, *ehem* police partner/ best friend/ sort of boyfriend/ quasi lover/ future mate depending on your overdue answer's mother. Is that better?
Shut up! And No! And if it's overdue, what does it matter if I make it a little more overdue?
There's a price for it being overdue…
Fine! I'll pay that price!
Ralph was looking at her with a bit of an odd expression. He opened his mouth, then shut it as if rethinking how to respond.
"Ralph, it's just an itsy-bitsy mark," Nadine said holding up her paw, thumb and forefinger just barely apart, a pleading note to her voice like she was asking him to tell her Santa Claws really wasn't made up, "I mean you didn't even know you'd done it till a little while ago. Could we just go back to how things were progressing right before that? Just ignore it for a while? Things between us were going great and nobody knew about the mark."
"My parents know about it now." Ralph said with more than a little trepidation and Nadine winced.
Price check on overdue answer! Lets see… that would be one soon to be mother-in-law with a straight jacked disguised as a wedding dress. That little sarcastic part of her mind quipped and she shuddered.
Oh and don't forget about the interest on that, because there's no doubt that his parents are going to tell your parents and as free spirited as they might be, they certainly won't put up with you trying to delay an answer.
Well Shit… but…
But? How is there a but in there? Your bill's come due!
But… they aren't here right now and can't collect. So long as we can keep a bit of distance… Lets see about paying with a different form. Do you take credit?
"Ralph, let's just forget about everyone but us for a second!" Nadine said desperation seeping into her voice, and she gestured franticly between them, "This… this…"
Relationship? Was it a relationship? Wasn't there some minimum amount of time dating needed before you could say you were in a relationship?
"This whatever this is that we've started between us. This is between you and me, not them. Can't, can't we hold off on making any permanent life altering decisions before we have a chance to figure out exactly what this is we have?"
This relationship, or connection or bond or love…
Nadine's heart gave a jerk.
or whatever it was…
"I… I guess… we could, ah, try that." Ralph looked uncomfortable, as if he were straining against himself… which Nadine guess he probably was.
Everything in tradition and custom and instinct went against what she was proposing. It simply wasn't done. A mark was either returned or it wasn't. It was a yes or a no. It wasn't like a ring where she could say she wanted some more time to consider. It's why any smart modern mammal proposed with a ring before giving a mark. She was already wearing his mark and trying to hide it and ask him to wait for an answer.
"I can- I can wait Nadine… If you need time… I'll, I'll do my best to give it to you." Ralph said slowly then gave a nervous glance at her shoulder worriedly.
She had a moment of relief that he was on board with her clearly nuts plan, then frowned and followed Ralph's increasingly worried look to her shoulder.
There wasn't anything wrong with it as far as she could see. Her shirt was a little rumpled from everything they'd been through today, but it wasn't that badly rumpled and it didn't smell bad or anything, in fact it smelled rather nice, a lot like Ralph… no, more like Ralph's mark… she sniffed her shoulder… exactly like Ralph's mark in fact…
When the hell did he mark my shirt?! I should have noticed something like that!
Nadine looked back at Ralph with what, she was sure, must have been the world's stupidest look on her face. He on the other hand had a rather embarrassed expression and the gray fur over his cheeks darkened before he looked down. Only to then glanced at her shoulder a second later and give her a pleadingly apologetic look. A look that somewhere behind the puppy eyes 'sorry', was something more base and primal in his gold eyes, something that looked at her with a near savage desperation.
Credit might work with your parents… until they find you, but it's not going to work with him. Warned that little voice in her mind.
Sooner or later, and sooner would be my guess, He's gonna lose it and chase you down and start marking you until you respond or chase him away…
Hey! Stop fantasizing about Ralph chasing you, this isn't the time for that! And anyway, unlike your little daydream Mrs. Fantasies gone wild, even half savage he'd wouldn't do anything more than mark you until you responded… probably wouldn't… hum, well, you didn't when you lost it, you just marked the bejeezus out of his shirt, but then again that episode got interrupted so who knows how far you might have gone.
Shut up! Shut Up! SHUT UP! I did not! I am not! SHUT UP!
You clearly did mark his shirt, denying the facts is idiotic, and you're clearly getting very aroused by something, and oh my! Your wolf's getting that glassy eyed 'savage wolf smells something he wants' look you like so much.
SHUT- oh crap!
"Ralph!" Nadine grabbed both his shoulders and shook him quickly.
A low deep growl that made the heat she was trying to ignore kick up a few notches, emanated from Ralph at her touch and she shook him a bit harder.
He blinked, and his eyes cleared as he seemed to come back to himself.
"I um- I didn't just…" Ralph asked sounding a bit confused, then rather worried. Then, after glancing at her panicked expression as she held his shoulders, looked downright frightened.
"Nadine, it ah, might be better if you just-" his voice cracked painfully, "just told me no…"
She could say no…
A simple no. Just…
The painful burning sensation was coming back to her chest before she remembered to breathe again.
Ralph was looking at her with concern again, still embarrassed and determined and downcast but most of all concerned, and Nadine was pretty sure that's what did it.
Something deep inside her chest cracked painfully.
"I can't!" Nadine choked back a sob, "I- I just Can't… I can't tell you that!"
"Nadine, you, anyone, can always say no." Ralph's ears had flattened, and he was looking at her with a partially confused but overwhelmingly distraught expression, like he didn't know what to do as she started to shake her head wildly and tremble.
"No, I can't! Anyone else Ralph, Anyone else and I could but I can't tell you no like that!" She felt something wet track down her cheek and closed her eyes while her whole body shook, "I can't. I can't do that to you, I can't do that to the mammal I love! I can't!" She couldn't say anything more because her throat had constricted, feeling hot and soar as more tears leaked past her tightly shut eyes. She squeezed her eyelids closed even harder, and tried to hold in the sobs that racked her chest. She didn't want Ralph to see her like this. She was supposed to be strong, fearless, brave; a real tigress, fierce and independent, not a crying mess because she couldn't handle how she felt for her partner. How much she'd grown to depend on him, need him without even knowing she had.
"You… you said…" Ralph's voice was low and a bit hoarse, like he wasn't sure he'd heard right, "You said you… you love me."
Her heart gave another jerk, and Nadine wasn't able to hold back the sob this time.
Something touched her cheek, soft and careful as it brushed past her whiskers, and she felt the pad of Ralph's paw rest against her muzzle as he wiped away a tear.
"Nadine…" he tilted her muzzle up slightly and the tone in his voice made her open her eyes even as she choked back another set of sobs. He was looking right at her, his eyes locking hers as he spoke. His voice soft, yet more serious than she'd ever heard him, like it was the most important thing in the world that she understood.
"I. love. you."
Whatever had cracked before deep in her chest broke. She wasn't sure if Ralph moved to hold her or if she had grabbed him, but she found herself burying her face in his shoulder as she began to cry in earnest.
"I wanted to get you to open up to me! I want to understand what's really going on with you Nick! I want to know why you, confident Nick Wilde, first fox ZPD officer! Seems to have given up on this girl he supposedly loves. I want to stop seeing my best friend hurt! I- I want… want to know what I can do to make you happy…"
Nick stopped swaying to the beat of the music as Judy let it all out.
A second before he'd almost been enjoying himself, had been enjoying flipping Judy's little game back on her like it had been a chess match between hustlers where he'd deftly outmaneuvered her. Certainly had enjoyed the excuse he'd given himself to get so close to her, hold her, smell her, feel her against him… probably enjoyed that too much…
In fact, he might have gone a bit too far… but her comments had stung, had hit him too close to the mark and had roused that desperate primal part of him he was trying to keep in check.
That last, deliberate, dismissive shake of her tail at him had snapped something in him, broken some part of his restraint. He'd known she'd been working some angle with her looks and comments, but it hadn't mattered. It was like at that first press conference all over again, Judy might not have meant to hurt him, in fact this time she was probably trying her best to help him, but having others, anyone, even himself prying into the thoughts and emotions he kept locked away, hurt.
And like the dumb fox he was he'd reacted on instinct.
She wanted to pry into his feelings?! Well then he'd show her a bit of his feelings! He'd push, let out a bit of that desperate longing and pain and frustration he hid under their friendship. He'd show her just enough of his unbridled feelings that it might scare her. He was a fox after all, a predator. There was a quite literal savageness to the depth of emotion and unfettered need he felt for her, something that would scare any prey mammal. That would certainly give even Judy pause, something that quite frankly even scared him.
It was only after he'd already turned the tables on her, flustered her enough that he could move in on her like he really was stalking some prey, that he thought what he was doing might be stupid. That he might be acting just as idiotically as he had been back at that first press conference when he'd lashed out at her.
By then though, he wasn't thinking clearly.
He had his bunny in his arms, had her pressed up to him against him without even a hint of struggle as her scent took on that flavor it did whenever he managed to fluster her a bit… except that this time the scent seemed stronger… even more enticing than usually.
And he was closer, oh so much closer to her than he should be… holding her to him, pressing his nose into her neck, smelling that entrancing scent all while the other barely functioning portions of his mind kept up his hustle…
Part of him was sure Karma was going to curse him to the deepest pits of hell for the way he was reveling in the guilty pleasure of so inappropriately flirting with her like this, but he didn't have the spare thoughts to care.
He'd flipped Judy's hustle on her, would figure out what game she'd been playing at and most importantly, sate some of that need to be close to her, even if it was just for these few secret moments. He had his bunny, was able to hold her, nuzzle her, kiss her… (even if it was just her nose).
And then he'd finally gotten her to spill.
'I want to stop seeing my best friend hurt! I- I want… want to know what I can do to make you happy…'
Her response froze him, his arms going slack around her as all amusement fled.
She wanted to make him happy…
The constant ache in his heart he tried to keep buried throbbed painfully.
Of course she just wanted to see him happy.
Wanted to help him. Would pull some stupid hustle to try and figure out how she might make him feel better when he tried hiding his pain away.
This was Judy. The dumb country bumpkin bunny with a heart of gold. The bunny that was too kind for her own good. The bunny who despite it being blatantly impossible went and became a police officer so she could help others. The bunny that had gone and befriended some shady fox hustler that had given up on the world and convinced him to try again. The dumb bunny who had hopped into his life and made it better, despite his best efforts to resist and then went and stole his heart without even realizing it.
Of course she was just trying to help, to make him happy. It's what she did. It's what Judy always did.
Just being around her made him happy. Didn't she understand that? Working with her at the ZPD, hanging out with her in their free time, teasing back and forth with her, seeing her smile or pout with that adorable cuteness or get her just a bit flustered; hearing her laugh or make fun of his bad jokes. Helping her do the impossible and make Zootopia better, one day at a time. That's what made him happy. Being with her made him happy. Being her friend made him happy. Trying to make her happy made him happy.
There was nothing more in the world he wanted than to be with her, to do for her what she'd done for him. To make her happy in every possible way. To share how much he loved her and make her as happy as she made him.
The ache was unbearable. Every time he thought he'd gotten a handle on it Judy would do something to make it worse. Every time he thought he couldn't possibly fall more in love with her, that dumb bunny proved him wrong.
'I want to make you happy.'
The self-admission made Judy choke up. It took all her effort to hold back her whipsawing emotions so she didn't attentively fly off the handle at Nick for him being so… so… just so Nickish, or just melt into him or Serendipity help her, start bawling like… like… like Nadine was to Ralph actually.
Judy sniffled to herself as she watched her two friends from the ZPD and worked to regain some semblance of control, though seeing the tiger and the wolf hold each other, if anything actually made it harder for her.
It was just…she couldn't help being a bit jealous. Jealous of the female that had caught Nick's heart. Jealous of the way Ralph was holding Nadine so tenderly. Jealous of how Nadine, one of the strongest most stalwart mammals she knew, could open up so freely to Ralph. Jealous of how they could comfort each other most of all, jealous of how much she wanted to be like that with Nick, to have the way he'd been holding her just a few moments ago be because of something more than just part of a hustle.
Jealous because she wanted to be able to be the one who made Nick happy in life.
She sniffled again and whipped her eyes as Gazelle's song came to an end, hoping to forestall the water works she'd inherited from her father before they started up.
~We're meant to be together~
~I'll be there and you'll be near~
~And that's the deal my dear~
~There over, hereunder~
~You've got me head over heels~
~There's nothing left to fear~
~If you really feel the way I feel…~
The irony of the lyrics almost made Judy laugh. It almost made her cry too.
Gahh! Stop being such a dumb emotional bunny! She scolded herself and with a force of will grabbed her unruly emotions and tamped them all back down.
It was that dumb fox's fault anyway that her emotions were all over the place. She'd gotten so used to sharing everything with him that not being able to open up about how she really felt toward him was driving her around the bend and into the creek.
Stupid 'Foxy Lady'! she growled to herself, wiping harder.
Nor did it help that even while Nick had opened up to her about most things, he'd only gotten more reserved and moody about his own feelings since the start of winter!
And he still hadn't answered any of her questions! That dumb, stupid, sneaky, fox! Why did she have to fall for such an aggravating mammal anyway?!
Nick standing up to the Chief in her defense when he'd wanted her badge
Nick on the sky tram showing her a bit of himself he kept hidden from the rest of the world.
Nick forgiving her after she'd been the world's dumbest bunny.
Nick making her laugh instead of cry even as she stood on his tail.
Nick refusing to leave her in the museum when her leg was injured, though it was the stupid thing to do.
Nick in his dress blues looking too handsome and smiling, really truly smiling at her as she pinned his badge on his uniform for the first time.
Nick always by her side, always there whenever she needed him, whether on the job, or with a horrible joke to cheer her up, or just there as the friend she could always rely on.
"Stupid, dumb, lovable, fox," Judy muttered to herself, giving her eyes one last rub just to be safe.
Everything from her emotions to her friendship with Nick seemed to be muddled at the moment, and one way or another she was going to fix it. She would get some answers to Nick's moodiness and make him smile one way or another and then she might be able to sort out her frazzled, conflicted, lovesick feelings for him.
"Nick, you didn't answer my questions…" Judy started to ask, then stopped, as the oddness of just how still Nick was being struck her. His arms still wrapped around her, but they were loose. In fact, he was entirely still except for his breathing, which sounded… off, too shallow and quick, almost pained.
She twisted her head around so that she could look up at him. Then blinked at what she saw.
He looked almost… broken.
"Nick?" she asked a bit worriedly.
He looked down at her, his eyes seeming to shimmer in the dim light almost as if he was about to cry.
Before she could react he shook his head, then with an almost audible thump, pulled her into a tight embrace.
"Nick?!" Judy squeaked, startled and now very confused.
But instead of answering he just pressed his face down between her ears, placing his forehead against the back of hers as if he were trying to hide.
His hold on her was different too, nothing like it had been before with that ridiculous flirty charm he'd pulled out of thin air. No, this was more like he was holding onto her for dear life. It was a desperate needy embrace, no flirtatious overtones, just… raw need. A frantic, desperate need, like holding her was the only thing stopping the world from ending.
His chest pressed against her back as he took in large, ragged breaths, and his arms tightening around her waist as if he were afraid she'd run away.
"Nick? What's the matter?" Judy asked again, seriously worried by his desperate hold even as it sent warm, tingly, content feelings spreading throughout every fiber of her being.
"You…" Nick muttered hoarsely into the back of her neck, his hold on her becoming, if anything more desperate, "You… are such a dumb bunny."
"What?!" Judy spluttered, peaked at his comment, even as those warm tingles caused a flush to start heating her cheeks
"You… you just want to see me… happy." Nick let out a laugh though it sounded more miserable than amused.
"I… well, yes," Judy fumbled, confused, then repeated more firmly, "Yes, yes I do." She felt conversationally lost, but on that point she was certain.
"Why?" Nick croaked, his head pressing harder against the back of hers. Judy tried to wiggle around to get a look at him, hoping that might clue her in to what the heck was going on with her fox.
Winter moods or not, this was odd, even for moody Nick, and it was worrying her. Worrying her most of all because she didn't know how to help him.
Nick though, just moved his head with hers, keeping his temple pressed between her ears so his face was out of sight.
"Why? Why what?" Judy asked flummoxed by his question and trying not to pout in frustration as she failed to get a look at her darned slippery fox. He was right there; he was bigger than her and right there, not even an inch away from her. How could she not be able to get a look at him?!
"Why?" Nick repeated even more hoarsely. "Why are you so intent on trying to make me happy?"
Well that was a stupid question if she'd ever heard one.
Judy let out an irritated huff, more out of frustrated worry than anything else.
"And you call me a dumb bunny?!" Judy said gruffly, then sniffed. "For being such a smart, cunning mammal, you can be a real dumb fox sometimes, Nick! I want to see you happy because you're my friend!" She tried to elbow him to drive home her point but he was too close, she wiggled for a second, managing to reached around awkwardly and poked him in his side instead, "My best friend, you dumb fox. Why wouldn't I want to see a mammal I love be happy?"
Nick twitched at her poke, but his arms only tightened around her before his chest shuddered and he made the oddest low noise in his throat; a sound somewhere between a broken whine and mewling sob.
Even with her ears that soft sound seemed like it should have been drowned out by the noise around them.
But it wasn't.
It cut right through the tumult of the crowd and jabbed Judy right in that part of her heart that hurt whenever she thought about Nick being with someone else. It resonated there, echoing, hurting.
"Nick?" Judy's breath caught in her throat as her heart ache flared, mixing with her worry and confusion and she just wanted to turn and hug Nick. Make him understand that everything would be okay even if she had no idea what was wrong. She wanted to hold him, comfort him...comfort herself. Wanted to press her face into his ruff and smell his musk and let it make that aching pain go away.
She tried actually. Tried to do just that, but Nick's hold on her was too strong and when she started struggling, trying to twist around to hug him he made that sound again, that low, desperate, hoarse whine of a noise that cut right through her and made her heart feel like it was going to shatter into a thousand pieces.
She stopped immediately, then for lack of anything better to do, and because she needed, needed, needed, to do something, anything, to try and comfort her fox, she grabbed his paws with hers, laying her arms over his where they wrapped around her stomach and squeezed reassuringly, trying by her very actions to tell him she was there for him.
It didn't work.
Actually, it seemed to make things worse. That low almost inaudible whine doubled in intensity, ripping at her heart even as his paws shifted to hold hers back.
The contradiction in painful and comforting feelings and her confusion as to what she was doing wrong and why Nick seemed so hurt mixed into a near frantic worry in Judy as she clutched his paws, not sure what else she could do.
"Nick, what's wrong?!" she asked, her voice nearly breaking, tears welling up in her eyes as she tried looking up at him. "How can I help?!"
He just shook his head, scooting it down further so she couldn't see him as she tried looked up.
Her frantic worry was turning toward panicked desperation, so she blurted out the first thing she thought of.
"Is… Is it," Judy's voice cracked, "me? Am I doing something wrong Nick?"
He shook his head violently against the back of hers, his paws gripping hers so hard his knuckles seemed to pale under his dark russet fur. Judy took a breath, relieved in part, but still on the edge of panic since she still had no clue as to what was affecting Nick like this…
But then again it was winter. Everyone had told her that winter mating season could be rough on predators, and she'd just been trying to get him to open up about…
Judy's throat tightened, and she tried again.
"Nick… does this… does this have anything to do with… with the girl you like?"
Nick let out a pained croaking laugh, as if her question had been the funniest saddest thing he'd ever heard.
"Can I hide anything from you Judy?" Nick asked after his laugh, his voice somewhere between heartbroken and sarcastic. Judy's heart seemed to freeze then slowly break, all the sharp little pieces grinding together as it started to crumble.
NO! Hold it together! Judy chastised herself. Nick needs you! You might just be his friend, but he still needs you right now. Bunny up and deal with your heartbreak later!
Judy shut her eyes for a second letting go with one paw to wipe at some moisture that had collected there, then grabbed Nick's paw back with hers and squeezed.
"No. No you can't, Nick,"she said firmly, holding all her other feelings at bay for the moment and hoping he got the message she was trying to send by gripping his paw.
She'd failed him once before when he needed her support back at the press briefing when they'd first met and she'd sworn she'd never fail him again. If Nick needed her to be strong, then she would be just that. She would be someone he could always confide in, always trust. She squeezed his paw hard.
She could go bawl to herself later about her breaking heart, for the moment Nick needed someone and she wasn't going to let him down. Wasn't going to let him hide because he had no one who cared.
Nick laughed again, this time some bit of actual amusement showing through the melancholy of the sound.
"You sure about that, Fluff?" He asked almost teasingly though his voice was still hoarse, "I'm pretty damned good at hiding things. Been doing that and hustling mammals since I was a kid; hustled you a few times too."
Judy huffed, her resolve firming.
"You might be able to hustle me, for a while at least, Nick, but I always figure out your hustle in the end. Now what's wrong?" Despite her resolve, her voice turned almost pleading.
She squeezed his paw again, feeling the way Nick's chest moved in a ragged trembling motion against her back as he breathed.
Again, he shook his head against hers and she was about to press again when he spoke.
"Judy… you… I…" Nick's voice cracked, and he took in an uneven breath, his arms around her squeezing her to him briefly. "Sorry, It's just… dancing… holding yo- holding… someone…"
His voice broke again.
He took in another breath as if to try steadying himself, the air ruffling the fur at her neck as he breathed. Then with a low whine and resigned heave of his chest, he continued. "Judy… have I told you about this girl I've fallen in love with?"
Nadine didn't know how long she stood there crying as Ralph held her, but eventually her crying slowed to the occasional sniffle and her body stopped shaking and trembling.
"You okay now?" Ralph asked a little while later.
She whipped her eyes and nodded, pulling back from the close embrace.
Then she looked at him and saw the way he was looking at her, a look she couldn't describe except that it made her feel warm and loved and her heart started to hurt again even though he was right there. She shook her head quickly before crouching down almost like she wanted to clutch her knees to herself while her tail wrapped around her legs. Instead, she clutched his shirt and pulled him closer so she could bury her face in his stomach before she started crying again.
Her shoulders started shaking despite her best efforts to prevent them from doing so, but then Ralph's arms wrapped around them, like a comforting blanket, and they stopped.
That's not fair! Nadine thought, her grip on his shirt tightening, How can he do that when even I can't?
She felt Ralph lean forward and kiss the top of her head, right between her two round ears. Nadine's body untensed slightly, her ears pinned back lifted slightly and even without saying anything his simple kiss made her feel like everything might, just might, turn out alright.
NOT… FAIR… Nadine growled to herself.
That's not fair! Not at all!
"How do you do that?" Nadine finally asked.
"Um… do what?" Ralph sounded confused. Happy, very happy, but still confused.
"That!" she said waving a paw without even looking, her head still pressed against him.
"Um… could I get another hint?"
"That!" Nadine gesticulated more wildly, "That thing you do were you just make me feel better or calm down when I, Can't!"
"Ohh…" Ralph sounded surprised but like he finally understood what she was asking about, "Ya… I got to figure out how I do that too."
Nadine groaned and thumped her head against him.
He kissed the top of her head again, and her ears twitched. Then he kissed one ear, right where the white spot on the back was and the ear unfolded from its laid back alarmed position and popped forward. Ralph snickered lightly then did the same to her other ear.
Nadine, ears back to their normal positions, growled into his belly but even then, her ears refused to pin back down.
"Maybe it's just because I love you." Ralph said so happily that it bordered on smug.
Nadine's heart gave a lurching throb.
She risked looking up at Ralph to give him a bit of a glare.
"I thought I said you can't use the L word!" she bit out, trying to hold the glare even as her lip quivered.
I will not start crying like some ninny! …again. I will Not! She told herself adamantly, then told herself it again with even more force as Ralph smiled at her.
"No." Ralph moved his paw to boop her nose, then stopped at the last second as he seemed to realized what he was about to do. Nadine went cross-eyed as she stared in alarm at his finger just above her nose (even as her heart started beating faster in anything but an alarmed way) Ralph hesitated a second then tapped her forehead lightly.
"No. you said I couldn't say it till you said it first. Remember?"
Nadine just gaped at him, eyes still crossed as they watched his paw.
"and you, Nadine," Tap, "said it."
She was so preoccupied watching his paw, she didn't see him lean down to kiss the side of her muzzle, right next to her nose.
Her whiskers twitched…
She stared at him…
He stared back, nearly bubbling with happiness.
Her heart throbbed.
Then her whiskers twitched violently.
Oh crap, I did say that! Ssssshhhhhhiiiiiiiiittttttt… I didn't mean to say that yet! Frikken, Flippety, Frakity, Fuck! Rajah save me!
Meh... I don't think he can help you, some part of her mind answered, You've gone and spilled the milk and there's no cleaning that one up.
No buts. You said it, you meant it! He heard it, he'll know! And that, after everything else that's happened? Not even Bogo is going to be able to pry him away from you now. You just shot any chance at delaying this. You be screwwwwweeeeddd!
"I love you Nadine," Ralph kissed her muzzle lightly, and 'Throb' seemed like an insufficient explanation for what her heart did, "I know things are all messed up between us, but I love you and you love me and that's all I care about." He kissed her again, and she wasn't sure if he kissed the spot he'd marked on purpose or not. She was pretty sure she was about to cry if she didn't do something to prevent it.
Her paw was back up touching his mark, not that the fur felt any different there, but it was his mark.
"And what about this?" she asked, and bit of Ralph's bubbling happiness subsided.
He swallowed and looked at her seeming unsure. Then their eyes met and in the moment before he looked down she say his gold eyes shimmer as if he were about to go full winter savage.
He didn't look at her, didn't respond, didn't move. In fact, the only thing he did was breathe, and do so in a very controlled and steady manner like it was at that moment, the entirety of his focus.
Ask a stupid question… some part of her mind warned.
Nadine swallowed hard.
"Ralph, this… this isn't just us going home together…" he was still looking down but his ears had cocked forward listening as he focused on his controlled breathing.
"This isn't just about us having sex. This" She gestured at her cheek, her voice not very steady, "is a whole lot more than just sex!"
Ralph nodded, then seemed to risk looking up at her, as she breathed hard.
Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods… we're actually having this conversation… oh gods, Some part of her mind screamed hysterical as it ran in circles.
"This" She gestured wildly again, the motions reflecting a bit of her thoughts, "is us being together permanently! This is about us making a den together! This is us mating for life! Life! About us being a couple, not just a dating couple, a couple couple, a starting a family type of couple! This is rings, and vows, and weddings, and marriage licenses, and joint taxes, and shared bank accounts! Its you and me being stuck together for everything, for the good, the bad, and the ugly for as long as we live! Ralph, there's no going back from this!"
"I know." Ralph nodded once, his voice was flat, serious, devoid of his usually happy playfulness.
"Ralph, we've known each other for a few years, we're close, really close, but this is a whole other magnitude of close. We just started really exploring how we feel about each other! We're not ready for this!"
He nodded again.
"Then how are you so calm about it?!" Nadine nearly shouted.
Ralph reached out and took her paw, and some of the hysteria that she was starting to feel faded. She looked at their paws and was surprised to see that she'd laced her fingers with his.
"Your right." Ralph said slowly, "We aren't ready." He squeezed her paw lightly. "But…"
He looked up at her and she bit her lip as her heart did inexplicable things in her chest and her jaw started to quaver again.
I Will not start crying again! I won't! Nadine tried telling herself as she clamped down hard on the tremble.
"But…" he continued, "if I had to take that chance with anyone, I'd take it with you." Ralph was looking at her so seriously, yet almost timidly, "I love you. I can't stop how I feel for you Nadine. I've known you too long, felt this way for too long. I can't promise everything will work out perfectly, that there might not be problems. All I can promise is that I'll love you, that I will always love you, no matter what happens."
Will not cry, Will not cry, Will not cry…
"And what about cubs Ralph!" Nadine said, feeling about ready to collapse emotionally again. "I can't see you not wanting to have children! Forget that I'm not ready to be a mother, I don't think we even can have children together! I'd be a mate who couldn't give you cubs! How could you want that?!"
Nadine felt herself starting to tear up again as this time her heart throbbed in a very unpleasant way. She was pretty sure the prospect of being cubless would make him stop and reconsider. Some part of her desperately didn't want him to stop and think about it… but she knew herself too well and she simply couldn't go forward with something like this without knowing what he thought.
And Ralph did pause, but not in the sudden surprised, downcast or even contemplative way she thought he might. No, he paused and then, squeezing her paw, gave her a shy smile, just a hint of his happy goofiness showing through.
"First," he said raising a finger, "its pups, not cubs or kits."
"Wolves have pups. We don't call our children cubs." Ralph repeated as if it should be obvious.
"Ralph…" Nadine said staring at him not sure if he was actually joking at a moment like this, "If you haven't noticed… I'm NOT a wolf!" She grabbed her tail pointing at the stripes for emphasis, "Tigers, call their children cubs!"
"Sure," Ralph shrugged, "but you'd be mating a wolf."
"And you'd be mating a tiger!" She all but growled back.
Ralph crossed his arms, though that stupid goofy grin was playing around the edges of his muzzle and made her want to pounce on him and roar.
"I can see this is going to be a problem point for us. Next thing you know, during soccer season you'll want to raise our children to root for your team and dress them up in Prowlers jerseys instead of Pack apparel."
"And what's wrong with having them root for the winning team?!" Nadine snapped back before shaking her head and squinting at him, "And that's not the point! Ralph, there's no hypothetical cubs of ours, we-"
"Pups." Ralph insisted, his shoulders setting in determination, and giving her a look that dared her, almost teasingly so, to try arguing.
Nadine almost did. Then growled low, showing him her teeth.
"Yes, very pretty. Their still pups."
"Cubs, pups, kits, children, rugrats, whatever you want to call them, we couldn't have them!" She snarled.
"Rodents don't like that last term," Ralph said then shrugged, dismissing the point before she could bite him, "But Second, there's always the option of adopting."
Nadine paused, snarl half formed, her brow furrowing as she considered that. She'd wondered why that hadn't occurred to her, which was stupid. It hadn't occurred to her because she'd never given the whole topic of family and children much thought at all, ever. It was just one of those sometime maybe later in the future things she'd assumed she'd get to eventually, but certainly not right now. Adopting… they could adopt… maybe, she wasn't sure how being an interspecies couple would effect that… it could, probably would cause all sorts of problems for them… society might be becoming more accepting of that but it was hard to overcome the inertia of so much cultural baggage… and how did she even feel about the idea?
Nadine's free paw unconsciously moved over her belly.
I don't want cubs right now! I'm too young to handle being a parent!
And there was her job, and Ralph's too. How difficult would that be try raising cubs with both of them working as police officers? It wasn't exactly the easiest or safest profession. Would one of them have to stop working? She didn't want to quit her job, she didn't think Ralph would either.
Sure, the idea of having a happy little family like some perfect sitcom had its appeal, the idea of cubs was nice, the idea of raising cubs with Ralph was even nicer. But there were so many problems that would cause too. Cubs would change their lives even more than them becoming mates. And the idea that she couldn't give Ralph cubs of his own… It was something she'd never ever worried about before today, something she'd never even thought about! And she suddenly found that it mattered to her. She might not want cubs right now, but she found that she very much wanted to be able to have Ralph's cubs… or pups, whatever the right term was… not right now, of course… but someday…
Nadine's paw gripped at her shirt, and she frowned deeply, fighting through the warm, far too gooey feelings the idea of having a potential family with Ralph was giving her. The little part of her mind that had been running in circles screaming hysterically was looking at the mess of slushy soppy motherly feelings she'd never had before with a look of absolute terror like the world might be ending.
How could something like that come out of nowhere and suddenly be so important to her? It never had before, and she sure as hell wasn't ready for something like that yet. Not for maybe like a million years. Then she might be ready for those kinds of feelings.
Nadine looked at Ralph who was waiting patiently for her to finish with her suddenly racing gooy terrifying thoughts and feelings, and her traitorous body started doing all sorts of things she didn't approve of. She could feel her eyes start to water, and there was a tight feeling in her chest, plus a sudden desire to be closer to Ralph mixed with a warmth from her stomach and a sudden urgent need be more than just close with him.
The little figure in her mind took one look at the flaring heat coming from the mess of her emotions, screamed and ran for the hills.
Moments before she broke and started crying or did something ever more stupid, Nadine shoved the whole pile of newly discovered feelings into the farthest corner of her mind and locked it there. Then quarantine the site, twice, then snared that screaming panicked voice and quarantine it took, just for good measure.
Those feelings were something she could examine later… with extreme caution. Maybe with a biohazard suit too.
Right now she should just stick to the facts. Facts were nice and neutral and didn't have all sorts of terrifyingly sneaky and slippery emotions attached to them.
"Ralph… I'm not so sure that adopting would be possible…" she finally said her face blank.
Right. That was a good start. Completely rational. No need for us to go getting are hopes up for something that we aren't likely to get anyway. Stick with the facts…
"Sure it is." Ralph said raising both eyebrows, "Why wouldn't it be?"
"Because…" Nadine stared at him before slowly and deliberately looking at herself and then him and then their intertwined paw, "Who would ever let us adopt? A canid, feline interspecies couple? To be frank, it's already harder for predators to adopt, we're a ten percent minority and if there's one area that's riddled with outdated conservative beliefs, it's going to be with adopting. Then add in the interspecies part…"
She shook her head. "You know I'm not sure who would have more trouble adopting, Judy and Nick, being a predator his traditional prey, or us being two predators and traditional adversaries at that."
Ralph nodded wisely, like he'd already considered all of that.
Nadine, dumbfounded, just stared at him.
"Oh, I won't argue that it would be hard," Ralph waving a paw at her, "But it's not impossible, and if there's one good thing that comes with being part of a pack its that they have influence."
"Wolves don't stay part of packs just because its tradition or instinct, Nadine." he added, "Sure back when, it was all about physical strength and security that comes with being a group." Ralph waved that away, "That doesn't matter so much in the modern world; today it's all about influence and money and political power. My pack is old, Nadine. We've been around a long time. We own all of the pack neighborhood grounds so no one can evict us, or make neighborhood noise ordinances, or anything else like that; Our pack has its investments and other holdings so that when trouble does crop up we can hire out the best lawyers, hell our pack maintains some very good lawyers on retainer just in case. We even have Ramsons and Goat's on retainer, though they don't like to go brandishing that fact around too much, image and all and how some of the herds might take it. And then the Alpha's are always working to make and maintain political connections. Wolves might not make up a lot of the total percent of the population but even a small portion of that population is a lot of mammals, and when you can get all of them to organize and strike or protest at once… well it gives them a bit of political capital when you can throw a wrench like that into the city's normal functioning."
"Your kidding…" Nadine said flabbergasted.
"Nope," Ralph grinned, "Why do you think Bellwether had to resort to such extremes to try and push her Prey-First agenda forward? And then, even with the nighthowler uproar, she still wasn't able to pass any of the laws she really wanted like that idiotic collar idea."
"No, that's…" Nadine started and Ralph waved and rolled his eyes.
"Okay so it wasn't all the wolves, there were a whole lot of other groups throwing up roadblocks for her too, but The Packs played a big role in it. Sheesh, you should hear the stories of what my mother and some of the other Alpha's were doing in the political backscene. There's at least one creditable story where her political maneuvering cause Bellwether to go into a frothing rage at the city council for denying her proposed changes.
Nadine shivered thinking back to Ralph's mother… That sure would explain how she'd gotten that subpoena so damned fast. The courts were about the only department mammals complained worked slower than the DMV. She shook her head. That she could believe, very much so in fact, she'd met the wolf in question, what she couldn't believe was…
"Ramson's and Goat's work for the Packs?!" Nadine blurted out completely utterly stunned.
Ralph grinned, very very wolfishly.
"Sure, their lawyers, Nadine. They work for whoever can pay them. And having a sheep defending a wolf in court is a great way to help even the prejudices of a mostly prey jury."
It still just wasn't computing for Nadine. The idea of the city's most famous herd law firm working for the wolves…
"Anyway, I wouldn't worry about not being able to adopt if we want to. Though… it might take a while with how slow the courts usually are. But we could if we want to." Ralph continued as Nadine tried to bend her mind around paradox of sheep defending the wolves. "My pack would back us if we wanted to. We could certainly get past any trouble obstinate parties tried to make for us." Ralph grinned, "With that kind of legal support you have a decent chance at winning most cases, but give them a case where your clearly in the right and they'll tear apart the opposition more thoroughly than any pack of wolves could." He snickered, "Lawyers are absolutely ruthless, its why we like to keep them on our side."
"But… But… the cost…" Nadine stammered, still caught up with her sheep/wolf conundrum.
"The pack would back us. They'd cover the cost, and the pack can afford it, easily. As I said our pack is an old pack."
Nadine stared at Ralph some more, before he mind decided that it wasn't going to be able to get through that contradiction any time soon and decided it might be best to just go around it.
"How long have you been thinking about all of this?" She finally asked while her mind was still detouring.
"Umm… a while…"
She stared harder.
"What?! We have a lot of time for thinking when we're on stake outs or traffic patrols or parking duty!" Ralph said shifting under her stare and blushing more, "I mean what do you think about when we're sitting in the cruiser waiting for some speeder on a slow day?"
Nadine's gaze dropped a little further down Ralph's front as she stared, then noticed were her eyes were going and quickly turned the motion into looking away before her cheeks started to burn to visibly.
"Nothing!" She blurted out, then immediately tried to change her story to something more believable, "I mean, I just think about… I don't know! Gossip. How the prowlers are going t beat the Pack, normal stuff! I don't think about youuuuaaabout possibly starting a family!" Nadine finished after skidding her sentence like Judy in a car chase.
Ralph was grinning again, clearly not believing her and she snapped her mouth shut.
"I don't have to answer that!" She snapped.
"A good lawyer would have told you that before you spoke." Ralph quipped looking far to smuggishly happy.
Nadine covered her face with her paw and growled into it.
"Ralph…" she finally got out, even managing not to rein in her growl a little, "Fine. I'll concede that we could adopt… but Ralph…" She swallowed hard again, looking at him earnestly, a whole slew of riotous and conflicting emotions roiling in her. "Don't… don't you," each word felt like she was chewing glass, "want children of your own?
Ralph sighed a bit of the smugness leaving him as he looked down, and nodded his head.
"I do… I know the chances are a bit long for us, but Nadine, I wouldn't want to have pups with anyone, but you. If that means when you're ready we have to adopt, then I can live with that. They'd still be our children, biologically or not."
Wait, hold on a second! No crying yet! Wait damnit! What did he say?! Something in her mind was shouting, but it was muffled.
Oh crap I'm going to cry! Nadine wailed to herself as her throat started tightening.
She sniffled and felt at sob rising only for the voice being drowned out by her emotions shout desperately one last time as it was washed away.
Nadine choked on her sob as her eyes felt like they popped.
What did he mean by Chances?!
"Ralph!" Nadine hacked and spluttered almost like she was spitting up a hairball, then finally got her throat clear, spluttering, "What, did you mean by 'Chances'?!"
Ralph was giving her a bit of a worried look as she coughed a few more times.
"You okay? You sounded like you might be choking for a second, I thought I was going to have to perform the Heimlich-"
Nadine threw up both her arms, "RALPH! What did you mean by 'Chances'!?"
"Oh, umm… well that was my third point," Ralph said looking relieved now that she was snarling again.
Since that seemed to be reassuring to him and he hadn't answered her question to her satisfaction, she simply growled at him.
"Right, Well I um, was talking to this coywolf from a smaller pack from the meadowlands district at an interpack meeting and I ah, got curious about um…" he gestured randomly for a second then sort of at himself and then at her, "You know, about the possibilities. I mean, she was a hybrid so…"
Nadine's eyes narrowed to slits.
"She?" Her voice came out with an artic chill before she even knew she was speaking.
"ahhh…" Ralph paused, ears snapping up, sensing danger, "She… was the niece of the Greyfur's Pack alpha… Denise Greyfur… My mother umm…" Ralph winced, rubbing the back of his head nervously "Sort of tricked me into going and tried to um… set me up with her while I was there… I mean she was nice and all but…"
Ralph's eyes got a little wide, and Nadine realized the air vibrating growl she was hearing was coming from her and stopped.
"I um… just for the record, all we did was talk. That once." Ralph said holding up a finger and watching her carefully, "I didn't even have to tell her I didn't want to court her because after the meeting was over she went and told my mother that there was no point in trying to get us together." Ralph frowned, looking contemplative for a second, "Actually she laughed at my mother then told her there wasn't any point because 'I wasn't interested since she was the wrong species'. I don't know why she said that, I don't have anything against coyotes!" Ralph huffed crossing his arms, "And she's so close to looking like a full wolf that most mammals wouldn't know the difference! I caught hell from my mother for apparently being an 'insensitive speciest ass' and hurting her feelings." Ralph finished muttering.
"Wait! what did you say to her? And when was this?!" Nadine asked her mind buzzing as she processed what he'd said. Her female intuition and police training was started to guess at what might have happened at his meeting.
This is Ralph, my goofy happy smart and sometimes oh so dumb partner, especially when it comes to females. *Huff* He's got the dating sense of a blind rhino... well except when he gets things right, he's spectacular when he gets it right…
Nadine shook her head slightly.
Denise Greyfur huh… I might have to talk to her… If she really laughed at Wolford's mom I might even shake her paw…
"Umm… last summer?" Ralph said scratching his head as he thought, before shrugging, "I mean all we did really was talk about hybrids. She was kind of peaked at first when I asked about it. Snapped that just cause she wasn't a full wolf didn't mean she couldn't mate with a wolf. But I explained that I didn't care two cents about that, that I was just asking because I was curious about wolves being able to have pups if they took a mate outside our species. She was kind enough after that, downright pleasant actually. Helpful too. I was just talking about generalities, you know like say hypothetically if a canine and a feline were mated… but well, though she didn't really know all that much but she mentioned this new clinic that specializes in interspecies couples and genetics, Honeywells was the name, said I should talk to them if I was really that curious. So afterwards I went and- hey why are you shaking your head?"
Nadine had her face in both her paws
Ohhh Ralph… my poor foolish lovable Ralph… you told your blind date you couldn't care less about her, then start talking with her about your possibilities with someone else? Nadine snorted into her paws, I'm not sure if is should be horrified about how oblivious you are or happy you shut her down with sledgehammer… scratch that, *snicker* I like it. I'll have to go apologies to her, but I like it.
"Nothing Ralph," Nadine snickered again, "I- just, Ralph… don't ever change, okay?"
"ssssssure?" Ralph answered slowly, sounding completely confused.
"Go on…" Nadine waved a paw at him in a continue gesture, still snickering into her other, "what were you saying?"
"Right, um… well I took her advice," Ralph was still giving her a baffled look. "Interspecies couples are still rare, but its apparently common enough nowadays that there's a clinic that specializes in helping them have children."
"And what did they have to say?" Nadine said her momentary amusement dying out, "I mean we arn't two different canine species, Ralph, I doubt a clinic can overcome that."
"Ya, the way they explained it, there are limits that nothing they can do will help get past."
I knew it… Nadine thought.
She let out a breath her shoulders slumping just a bit.
"So it's lucky that we don't fall in that group-"
"WHAT?!" Nadine's head snapped up.
Ralph gave her a shy sort of happy smile, his tail wagging just a bit.
"We everyone knows that there some common links in mammal evolution, I mean we all walk and talk and have opposable thumbs and the same number of chromosomes, how likely would that have been to happen with thousands of different species all at the same time if there aren't some fundamental similarities."
"Ralph." Nadine growled warningly.
"Right. Well the point is that the chances all depend on how much two species have drifted apart and just how many differences in their biology have devolved, such as size. Nearly all canines could interbreed without much difficulty, something like a mouse and an elephant or most horned and hoofed mammals with those without, well those would be practically impossible. A canine and a feline of similar size…" Ralph wavered his paw, Nadine practically staring holes through it, "Meh."
"Meh?... MEH!?.. MEH!? What The HELL does 'Meh'' Mean?!" Nadine roared at him.
"Meh." Ralph said unphased, "Maybe. We're in a bit of a middle ground. Its possible, probably, but conception for us would probably also be difficult. We'd both have to go in if we want to get a better idea of just how possible. The doctor I spoke with kinda went on for a while about genetics and cell division, but what they could do to help skew the odds in our favor, but it is possible. They even gave me a few examples."
"This can't have happened before…" Nadine said her voice a bit dull and distant in her own ears, "I'd have heard about it."
"Ehhh… not so much…" Ralph winced, "Nadine, Raising a family of our own is not going to be easy. We're going to catch a whole lot of flak for it, and so would our pups."
The snarling noise Nadine made didn't contain any words, but it very clearly expressed what would happen if someone ever messed with her cubs… if she had them… someday… maybe…
"Me too." Ralph said, "But that's in todays society. Back in the day mammals went to great lengths to hide any, um… oddities in their heritage. You know of the Napoleonic Wars?"
"Sure, everyone does, But that was more between the wolves and herds, felines mostly kept out of it." Nadine said still trying to tamp down the white hot rage that had flared in her.
"Ya… well, seems the rumors of why that cocky little general was so short for a wolf were true. Apparently tests showed he was half Eurasian lynx."
"Bloody hell." Nadine muttered her mind spinning as she thought of what that might mean for her.
"Um… ya that could probably be said about those he snickered about his size." Ralph said nodding his head though Nadine wasn't paying attention. The her eyes snapped back into focus.
"Wait, You looked into this a year ago?!" she stared open jawed at Ralph.
"Ummm… yesss… right about the time WildeHopps started hitting the rumor mills, They'd just done a preliminary study on Rabbits and foxes since they didn't have anything or any examples on that combo; turns out actually that for being predator and prey, the two are surprisingly similar in many ways, still would be tough for them, even more so than it might be for us, but not impossible…" Ralph petered out as he looked at Nadine. She was still staring at him slack jawed, and a slight blush started traveling from his cheeks and up the inside of his ears. "I ah, I did say I've um, been attracted to you for a long time now, right?" He said looked like he was trying to decide if he was in trouble.
"Looking into if we could have cubs?!" Nadine said flabbergasted. "Pups" muttered Ralph, his ears turning bright red on the insides, though he might have smiled. She ignored that. "Ralph, That's… That's… a whole lot more than just normal 'attracted'!" Nadine spluttered.
"Okay, so I've been very attracted to you." Ralph said with a nervous shrug, "I thought once I asked you out, the topic might come up and I wanted to know beforehand so I could figure out how to best handle it if it wasn't possible."
"I- I- you said you were going to ask me out this spring?" Nadine said stunned.
Ralph shifted, "I was… that was latest plan at least."
Nadine stared at him.
He looked up and gave her a small sheepish smile, his tail slowly wagging behind him.
"My um… plan sort of fell apart yesterday…" Ralph said, then took a small halfstep closer to her, his arms behind his back, his tail wagging a bit more as he looked up with her, his happy smile growling just a bit.
Tha-Thump…. Tha-Thump… Tha-Thump… Nadine tried looking away but couldn't. Her heart was starting to hammer so loud she could hear it ringing in her ears. He was soooo close to her. Just a tiny space between them.
"But honestly, I'm fine with that." Ralph looked happy, just… completely happy. Like he couldn't be more content with life. Seeming him like that was killing her, she didn't think she'd ever seen him that happy, she loved seeing him that happy. She wished she could always see him that happy. "However much my plans have fallen apart, I'm here, right now, with you." his goofy happy grin was back. And he was watching her like she was the sole cause of it. "You. And I know how you feel. And you know how I feel. Andddd…" Ralph's goofy smile was almost to large for his face, and his ears were doing that thing were they were perked up, but ever so slightly cocked to the side that it made him look just a bit silly and playful.
"You're still here with me."
Things were starting to come apart within Nadine. She couldn't help it. She'd been trying to. Trying so damned hard. She was so used to being in control of herself, of her life, of where she was and what she was going to do next.
I'm trapped! I'm trapped! I'm trapped! I'm trapped! The panicked voice she'd thought she'd secured screamed as it broke out and started bouncing around inside her head.
"There's no way out of this is there…" Nadine said her voice a bit choked.
She was terrified. She wasn't sure if she cared about that.
"Not if it's what you want." Ralph replied, but didn't move any closer to her, leaving that oh so small gap between them.
Thump! Nadine's could feel the last hope for an escape slam shut before her, or that might have just been a quite choked sob. She was trapped. She knew it.
"That's not fair Ralph!" Nadine choked out, raising her paws to wipe at her eyes, trying to stop the tears that were forming. "Not fair at all! Not when I love you!"
"I love you too." Ralph said quietly, his soft voice gentle, and this time she really did choke back a sob.
"Ralph…" She couldn't take it anymore.
Nadine closed the gap, needing some contact between them. She felt his arms go around her, holding her and she held him back tightly, maybe too tightly.
Ralph started to wheeze.
"Sorry! Sorry! I-" Agast, Nadine let go feeling tears starting to fall.
Ralph nipped her, silencing her apology then practically tackled her, hugged her back hard enough she was momentarily left gasping for breath.
This time she was a bit more careful with the way she held him back and took a few moments to simply enjoy how it felt to have someone she knew loved her hold her like this. She also took the time to dam up the leaks she'd sprung so she wasn't crying like a fool.
There was no denying now that she was trapped. That she wasn't going to be letting go of Ralph now. Not before her life had changed fundamentally, for better or for worse.
Still, as they stood there holding each other while the world with its music and other mammals seemed to move around the little bubble of privacy they had in the darkened concert, some part of her refused to give in. Even as she looked around her thoroughly doomed single mammal ship that was sinking out from right under her feet.
After a few sniffles, she rested her head against his and took in a deep breath.
One last shot, she was a tiger after all; she'd go down fighting, tooth and claw.
And hey, it might even work.
She could feel his cheek against hers, his gray fur pressed against her orange and black, warm, pleasant, and for the moment still.
"Ralph." Nadine found her voice surprisingly steady, almost like having him so close, soothed the agitation inside her; That with him there she didn't have to worry. "After… after this… can we hold off everything else for a while and just pretend to date? No courthouse visit to deal with the legal paperwork and fallout, no officially moving into a new den, No wedding. Not yet… Just… just us going home together for the night. Spending tomorrow lounging around together before going out to that dinner you promised me. Going to work the next day, then maybe a movie or a picnic before we go home together again; maybe spend a day on the beach in Sahara Square or the hot springs in Tundratown." She let out a content sigh imagining doing all that with the wolf in her arms. Especially the hotsprings; at the beach she'd be happy enough to lounge on the warm sand with her wolf but forget that cold water, no way, she wanted to get in a nice big pool of steamy hot water and chase her wolf around and dunk him like she was a cub again, maybe even let him chase her a bit if he dared, then do some stuff that certainly wasn't for cubs.
She could feel Ralph smiling in turn as the muscles in his muzzle moved against hers, and she couldn't resist nipping him just below his ear. She felt a slight jerk on her tail, then another, and glanced down without removing her cheek from Ralph's, only to find that she'd unconsciously wrapped her tail around the tip of his, and his tail's attempting to wag was jerking it to and fro at their side. Ralph, grinning goofishly, made an attempt to stop his undisciplined appendage but only succeeded in reducing the wagging motion so their tails (hers was refusing to untwine itself from Ralph's bushier tail) thumped lightly against their legs.
She nipped him again, and still grinning like a goof, he nipped her back.
"I want a chance to date you Ralph. I don't care if we've already made our choices and it's all make believe!"
Her little one mammal ship she'd been sailing along so happily in life was truly sunk. It was gasping out a few last burbles of air as it started falling below the surface, but maybe just maybe… Nadine thought as she pressed her cheek against Ralph's, she'd succeed in delaying any christening ceremony for the new ship she had. One big enough for two. It was a small victory. A pointless victory. But she'd have her fur and whiskers be damned victory, pyrrhic or not. And to hell with it all if she had to turn pirate and steal it to win. Screw whatever the port authorities said.
She'd have her cake and eat it too.
"You know even without going to the courthouse to formalize it, it's still binding under the law."
"I don't care if a minute from now my name isn't legally Fangmeyer anymore, I can still pretend I'm Nadine Fangmeyer, ZPD officer, and tigress excitedly waiting to see what date her boyfriend is going to take her on next. And you can still pretend you're Ralph Wolford, single, cluelessly trying to figure out how woe me. It might make things harder for you since you'll have to figure out how to surprise me and bring me flowers when were going to be living together as well as working together but I'm sure you can figure something out.
"Woo you?" Ralph snickered happily, "That sounds so old fashioned."
"Damnit Ralph," Nadine blushed hard, "A girl has dreams! I want my shining knight in wolfish armor to come and sweep me off my feet! I want to play hard to get, I want you to come knocking on my bedroom window with sweet words before sneaking off with you late at night. I want to make the experience last! That's hard to do when you've already managed to catch me before I even knew we'd started. Work with me here!"
"Okay that does sound fun," Ralph chuckled lightly, leaning his head some more against hers. He didn't rub, not yet, just made the contact stronger. "I'm gonna have to work really hard on the sweeping you off your feet part since I'm already behind, what with how many times you've thrown me over your shoulder today." Nadine's blush became a burn and she pressed back a little more against Ralph, hoping that it might hide the raging blush on her cheeks if they were pressed to his.
"As for the window, I'm not so sure…" Ralph said melodramatically, "I'd certainly like to come tempt you away for a rematch from this morning, but… I have a feeling your landlady might not appreciate me howling up at your window, it being an apartment and all. Other tenants might get annoyed and I'd rather not get on her bad side, she scares the crap out of me."
Nadine chuffed lightly, feeling warm and happy with her wolf in her arms and amused at the thought of the little old ewe with her cane chasing Ralph around as he howled at her window.
"Okay, we can try that over at your house then. No terrifying little landladies to chase you away and ambush me when I try sneaking down the stairs after you. Plus it's a pack neighborhood so nobody should care if you howl."
"Ummmm…" Ralph tensed slightly but didn't move away, "That might not be a good idea… not until we have a chance to settle things with my pack and my mother calms down…"
Nadine groaned, and leaned heavily on Ralph.
"Can't we just tell her it's done? 'Sorry about all the confusion but set the date for 6 months or a year from now for all your hullabaloo'?"
Nadines fur started to stand on end. There was a hell of a lot he'd managed to convey in that 'Ummmm…'
"Ralph…" she said closing her eyes.
"Okay, so our situation with my pack might be a bit more serious than just my mother being upset…"
"Ya…. That's maybe an… understatement…"
Nadine groaned again.
"Well… basically it's you."
"Explain… just slightly less Briefly." Nadine would have thumper her head against his chest if it didn't involve moving away from him.
"Well… lets just say the conservative factions of the pack are going to have kittens when they find out who I'm taking as my mate. You know, someone not from some 'respected' pack, oh and on top of that there's the itsy bitsy detail you're a feline. The idea of you joining the pack is going to put a real burr up under their tails."
"Do I have too?" Nadine whined, and Ralph frowned.
"Do you have to do what?" he asked bewilderedly.
"Join the pack?" She moaned, "It sounds like a headache."
Ralph went rigid.
He did respond and she could feel his growling alarm.
"Ralph?" Nadine, grudgingly, pulled her cheek away from Ralph just enough so that she could look him square in the face,
"I never thought to ask… It never occurred to me…"
"Ralph! What never occurred to you?" Nadine nearly snapped now getting worried herself.
His eyes focused on her.
"I never asked if you wanted to join the pack!" He said voice sounding conflicted. "I assumed you would because of course any wolf I took as a mate would join my pack! It's the oldest pack in zootopia and my parents are the Alpha's so I wouldn't be joining my mates pack! Which doesn't matter since you don't have a pack, so there wouldn't even be that! But you're not a wolf!"
"Ralph…" Nadine asked wanting to pinch her brow but unwilling to let go of her almost mate while he was panicking, "Did you just figure out that I'm not a wolf?"
"I- No, that's not… well, ugh! Nadine!" Ralph said exasperated and alarmed, "You are not a Wolf!"
"Huh, I never knew that." Nadine said rolling her eyes.
Ralph stared at her, then spoke slowly fidgeting in nervous agitation.
"It never occurred to me that you wouldn't join my pack Nadine. Any wolf would, so I assumed. I didn't ask you! I Don't know if you want to join my pack!"
Nadine mulled that over for a second. The whole thing still seemed a bit silly to her. Granted that bonus about the lawyers seemed nice, but she couldn't help the instinctual exasperated thought of, wolves, with its accompanying mental eye roll. At the same time though, the pack seemed like such a large part of Ralph's life. She couldn't really imagine him without it. Then again she'd never really imagined being his mate either, daydreamed, fantasized, sure. But never really thought about it in all its details.
She'd been around Ralph enough to pick up this and that about packs, but not really enough to fully understand them. The only thing she did get about them was that they seemed like a real pain to deal with, particularly 'pack politics'.
"Sooo… what if I'm not too keen on the idea of joining?" Nadine asked.
Ralph locked up and his eyes started getting wide.
"I have to tell the pack I'm leaving…" Murmured Ralph, his eyes a bit distant.
"Ralph!" Nadine said trying to snap him back. "Why can't you just stay part of the pack, while I'm just… not."
Ralphs distant stare focused back on her and his jaw dropped, swinging for a moment, a look of complete and total incomprehension on his face.
For a moment she thought she'd broken him. Then Ralph shook his head in a violent negation.
"NO. A split like that would tear the pack apart, it might hurt us. If my mate doesn't want to be pack, then I'll leave the pack." Ralph's tone left no room for argument or debate. He looked at her and trembled slightly before his arms gripped her so tightly it almost hurt.
"I'll call my parents as soon as we leave here. They need to know right away."
"Ralph." Nadine tried interjecting as Ralph trembled again, but he didn't seem to hear her.
"-we can get my things out of my house tonight. It's best if we get this over with before-
"-word spreads around the pack about me leaving. Having to go back after might-"
"Ralph, Damnit!" Nadine bit his nose. "Stop!"
Ralph yipped in surprise, his ears snapping back before his mouth closed.
Nadine sighed at the almost lost, confusion look on her wolf and tapped her forehead against his in defeat.
"I'll join the damned pack."
"But, Nadine! I'm not going to make you do something-"
"Ralph, shut up and don't argue with me on this!" Nadine snarled and bumped his head with hers, "It's too important to you. I'm not jumping with joy about it, but I'm not going to make you leave just to be with me."
She tilted her head so that their eyes met. His agitated and hers stern and for a few moments there was a struggle. Then Ralph looked down and she gave a small weak smile and short kiss.
The kiss, at least, seemed to cheer him up a bit, judging by how his ears perked up.
"If joining the pack is the price I have to pay for us then fine, I'll try to play nice with the wolves." Nadine said sternly, a bit grumpily, be definitely sternly.
Her tail, still wrapped up with his started thumping against her leg again, and she tried to scowl only to fail.
"Umm… okay." Ralph said looking at her almost bashfully, "You do know that means… um… we're going to have to deal with my… mother…"
And a streak of terror ran through her like a lightning bolt and spiked her fur frizzly. She could see her last ditch effort, her last shot starting to drift off course and fall.
No. No. No. NO! We just got away from her!
Nadine pulled her arms from Ralphs back and gripped both of his shoulders before pushing her nose into his.
"Ralph. Look here." She said met his eyes again, challengingly, more serious then than she'd ever been in her life, "This is where I'm drawing my line! You want me to be your mate. Fine, I'll be yours on one condition. We are not going to let your parents drag us home! Not, by all the gods, Tonight. We can deal with them and the pack and whatever hellspawned issue this city throws at us tomorrow, But. Not. Tonight! If you want me that's my price." She growled, "Take it or leave it!"
She put everything she had into her near glare, as she stared into his eyes from across their muzzles, her nose still pushing hard into his.
Take it, take it, take it, damnit Ralph! I can't budge further than that. I'm not bluffing… I don't think I'm bluffing… Don't call my bluff, just take it damnit!
Something sparked behind his gold eyes, and Nadine shivered. It was something primal, yet almost playful, like he knew exactly what she was thinking. She threw everything she had into her glare, narrowing her eyes, meeting his eyes, her lip curling showing her fangs as a low snarl built in her throat and her tail curled tightly pinning his against their bodies.
A slow smile built on Ralph's muzzle. A goofy predatory wolfish smile, And without breaking eye contact, he slid his muzzle the side, then up along hers. Nadine gasped in surprise, her hard glare disintegrating.
"I'll take that, but then that would make you mine, Nadine." Ralph growled happily after the long rub against her cheek and pulled back so that their noses where touching again, "My mate."
Oh crap, oh crap. I promised, and he just asked. Deliberately, undeniably, I won't be able to hide that one. Wait… did I win or lose that?
Nadine broke eye contact, trying to look down at her cheek, and failed, bobbing her head up and down trying again, went a bit crosseyed this time, then snapped her head up to look back at Ralph her jaw open and speechless.
He didn't say anything just waited, goofy happy smile on his face as he watched her.
She gapped some more, but he only smiled, still waiting patiently, not even a trace of agitation or trepidation at what her response might be now.
Crap and why would he be worried now? It's not like he hasn't been able to pull out and see every little last feeling I have.
Nadine blushed hard watching him watch her, and without thinking her head moved forward. She stopped, hesitating, her nose just past his now.
She breathed hard, her heart feeling like it was going to break out of her chest with every beat; just a tiny gap between her muzzle and Ralph's.
Still… he just waited... watching her happy.
Nadine closed her eyes, thinking about what this meant, thinking about Ralph, and everything they'd been through these past years, thinking about her dreams, thinking about him, his goofy smile, his kindness, the resolve and strength that usually hid behind his easy going attitude. Thinking about how just being around him made her happy, about all the other things that being around him did to her and ignored for so long, thinking about being able to always be with him. About him being hers.
Her muzzle touched his, the fur of her cheek sliding throw his course grey hairs while he stood waiting.
Nadine's eyes snapped up and she pulled her head back with a small strangled gasp, staring at the spot on his cheek her muzzle had just marked.
I didn't- I was only thinking about- oh crap, I did it. I marked Ralph back. I just claimed him. Nadine thought in a panic, while heat seemed to suffuse her body.
Ralph raised a paw up to touch his cheek, his happy look giving way to one of wonder and awe.
His eyes traveled up to meet hers and a searing blush rolled over her face, the likes of which she'd never felt before.
Ralph's smile seemed to practically explode, and he moved forward past her numb paws still on his shoulders.
He stood on his toes and ran his muzzle back against her other cheek marking that side too. Nadine felt like her world was crumbling under the pounding of her heart. Her footing was giving away out from under her and she didn't know what to think.
She was falling, caving, breaking under the onslaught of feelings spilling out inside her. She was leaning her head back against his and marking him as he marked her.
"This song drives me nuts!" Cassy growled and Greg held back a snicker as he held her paw in his and her waist with his other while they danced, "I want to go up there and bite her! Show her what a real she-wolf is like when you slur our reputation. I can't believe mammals think that we act like-"
"Cassy… It's just a song." Greg said soothingly, pulling her into a slow spin as they danced a bit out of tune to the music while the songs hit the refrain again.
~There's a she wolf in the closet~
~Open up and set her free (ahoo)~
~There's a she wolf in the closet~
~Let it out so it can breath~
"It's a very popular song, sung by a very popular singer, which plays on that idiotic myth of lycanthropy of all things, which might I remind you got almost as many mammals killed back in medieval times as witch burnings did! And if that wasn't bad enough they make it sound like a she-wolves are sex craved predators even more so than they do vixens! I mean just listen to this!"
~Sitting across the bar, staring right at her prey~
~It's going well so far, she's gonna get her way~
~Nocturnal creatures are not so prudent,~
~The moon's my teacher, and I'm her student~
Greg did snicker this time as his she-wolf seemed to quite literally fume in his arms.
"I don't know…" Greg Wolford murmured, then grinned wickedly at his wife, "sounds an awful lot like how we first met."
"Greg!" Cassandra squawked, then seemed to ignite as her cheeks turned dark with a deep blush, "That's not! We did court formally! I- we might have started courting… unexpected… But there was nothing improper about it!" Cassy tried to rally and meet his grinning eyes, then blushed harder and muttered, "So it was winter and we both were a bit drunk, we still courted properly…"
~To locate the single man~
~I've got on me a special radar,~
~And the fire department's hot line~
~in case I get in trouble later~
~Not looking for cute little divas~
~Or rich city guys that just want to enjoy~
~I'm having a very good time~
~and behave very bad in the arms of a boy~
"Oh I think the songs got it at least a bit right, you were a bit of a bad wolf that night." Greg chuckled remembering the night he'd met his then future mate with relish as the song's refrain came again.
~There's a she wolf in the closet~
~Open up and set her free (ahoo)~
"I remember drinking at the bar with my pack mates when this pretty little she wolf who'd been eying me-"
"Oh no, not this story! Greg come on!" Cassy whined.
Grinning, he just continued. Cassy groaned, knowing she wasn't going to be able to stop him and thumped her head against his chest.
"-came up and demanded I dance with her out of the blue. Quite the feisty little she-wolf she was, practically dragged me away from my pals and then…"
"Greg!" She huffed obstinately, "I- I wasn't thinking my best that night! My friends were talking about your friends and I'd just been listening you talk and you seemed like a nice enough wolf and I just wanted the one dance! I didn't mean to- I'd had a little too much and-"
"and you punched out the daughter of my clan alphas when she tried to interrupt our dance,"
"Then kissed me right there in front of her and everyone and dragged me out of the bar before we even knew each others names."
"Greg!" Cassy whined embarrassedly.
"and upset not only my arranged marriage in my old pack, but the alliance between your pack and the Sahara's biggest pack's-"
"Hey! Things worked out!" Cassandra spluttered, finally looking up at him, her face flushed with embarrassment and defiance.
"I was never going to marry that pompous little stuck up prick even if he was going to inherit their pack! I'd made that perfectly clear to everyone! And I had no idea about that arrangement your family had with your packs alphas! Anyway, she certainly hadn't staked her claim on you, hell she'd been flirting with that other wolf! I thought they were together. She only seemed to care one wit about you after I started dancing with you! I just- damn it Greg!"
Cassy let out a loud huff and poked him.
"Even just having met you I knew you were too nice for that bitchy bitch and she acted like she owned you! She deserved that punch after what she said!"
Greg snickered and kissed his wife.
"That she did. But that was still one hell of an uproar we caused. My old pack upset you laid out 'the pack princess' and then 'stole' me away. The Sahara pack upset over me having cut in and messed things up for their wolf…" He laughed again, and Cassy groaned, "your parents walking in on us asleep in your room the next morning…"
"So I made a bit of a scene!" Cassy said, then glared up at him, "Things would have worked out fine if it weren't for you, you know! After that chewing out we managed to convince our parents to play it off as a temporary infatuation and you agreed. We were supposed to court for a few weeks to sooth ruffled feathers and make it look all prim and proper and then call it off! Meanwhile you got the chance to ditch Miss Entitled and I got out of having to even try courting that other pack's wolf! For a spur of the moment plan after waking up in bed with a wolf I barely knew it was great! An awesome plan! A perfect plan." She glared at him, "Then you screwed it up!"
Greg tried to keep a smirk off his face as he smiled down at her glare.
"Oh, and how did I do that?"
She reached up and flicked his ear.
"You Gregory, were supposed to be my fake boyfriend for a few weeks after we had winter run in at the bar! You weren't supposed to then go and actually fall in love with me. You certainly weren't supposed to make me fall for you! That was not part of my plan!"
Trying not to snicker, Gregory leaned forward and nuzzled Cassy.
"It might not have been your plan, but are you sure that it wasn't all part of my plan?" He said teasingly into her ear.
He got a huff and a nip for that before she nuzzled him back.
"I wouldn't put it past you." She turned her head and kissed him briefly as they danced slowly to their own beat among the faster pace of the music.
"It's always the nice unassuming ones you have to watch out for, isn't it?" She mumbled, though her irritation now seemed forced, especially given how she was leaning into him.
Greg didn't answer but just kissed her back, swayed with her as the song started coming to an end.
He'd maybe been hoping he'd caught her eye way back when after his pack-mate pointed out the pretty she-wolf with her friends poking and prodding her as she sneaked glances at him, but he was pretty sure that they been dancing to someone else's plan. After all, they both had only been at the bar that night because their friends dragged them there; and something about the way her parents had caught then cuddling in the morning… about how the uproar and sudden shift in arrangements between the pacts and the way their scowling parents seemed to so easily accept their panicked and hurriedly put together idea to play off the scandal with a short courtship was too clean. Hell, they'd only come up with that idea because of something their parents said while berating them.
Cassy was good when it came to dealing with pack politics, but she'd had to learn from someone and their parents had seemed just a bit too pleased with themselves when their short 'fake' courtship for proprieties sake lengthen… then turned into something not so fake.
~S-O-S she is in disguise~
~S-O-S she is in disguise~
~There's a she wolf in the closet~
~Open up and set her free (ahoo)~
"I still don't like that song," Cassy pouted, though it seemed more for form than anything considering how relaxed against him she now seemed, "It stereotypes wolves, plus they don't have any idea how to howl properly."
"It's just a pop song dear," Greg said softly nuzzling her, smiling as his fiery feisty mate seemed to calm and all but melt against him. He kissed her forehead.
"If anything Cassy, it shows how perceptions are changing since, stereotypical or not, there's a song out all about wolves that's very popular among the younger generation of prey mammals. I think it shows hope for the future."
"still don't like it…" she murmured, snuggling against him.
"Hummm… yet you're still dancing to it." He replied feeling stupidly happy.
"No… I'm dancing with you. That's different."
She nipped his shoulder lightly, more of a kiss and nuzzle really.
"All part of the plan." Greg replied contentedly and took a few moments to simply enjoy holding his wife. He didn't really care who's plan it had been, he just cared that he ended up with someone he loved and that loved him back.
He smiled feeling his tail wag, then snickered.
"And speaking of plans, how did your little scheming session with the Bogo's go?"
She snorted into his shoulder.
"They could run a pack of their own if they wanted to." She let out another amused snort, "Though, the fact that their buffalo sure does seem to show; their plan isn't all that subtle."
"You think it will work?"
"Oh I'm sure it will work. It could do a cleaner job of getting them together at the wedding tomorrow, but their plan will do the job." She snickered. "And Bess is having too much fun with it anyway, have you seen how much of a tizzy she has her husband in over 'his' little cupid scheme?"
"So you're on board with it?"
Cassandra's lips narrowed for an instant as she looked over his shoulder, but then she nodded.
"It's going to mess with our time table. I'd rather go grab our pups now… but we can make it work. Anyway, that just means that we have time to pick up the Fangmeyer's at the train station and bring them along too." She grinned wickedly. "Lets see her try to escape from us and them."
Greg took a look over Cassy's shoulder as they continued to spin slowly in the small circle they were making and spotted Ralph and Nadine where they'd tried to hide and smiled.
Seeing a tiger and a wolf together certainly looked a bit odd, but then again they just seemed… right.
It was something about the way they reacted to each other, the way they held each other. How Ralph comforted her when she'd started crying and how she'd brought him back to his senses when Ralph seemed like he was panicking.
Granted they didn't seem to have quite the magnetic pull to each other their friends did. But then again that was probably a good thing, his son might be a bit of a love sick idiot, but he at least seemed to have retained some of his wits.
He watched both couples or not quite couples for a second then let out an amused snicker.
That bunny and fox seemed like they were tied together, maybe with a Bungiecord given how she waggled her tail and he seemed to plaster himself to her. And yet unlike his son, Greg couldn't help but think with a bit of pride for his boy, those two still hadn't even begun to figure- out what they were yet.
"Foxes…" He muttered with an amused shake of his head before the slow circle they were dancing took them out of his view.
Cassy took a quick look over her shoulder before rolling her eyes.
"He's not really that dense is he? I mean from what Ralph has told us about them I'd think he'd have figured it out by now."
Greg shook his head.
"Foxes, Cass. They have their own rules. He probably suspects, or hopes at least… but until she makes her position clear he's a bit stuck."
Cassy let out muffled snort.
"Right. Stuck. Sure he is." She turned her muzzle into his should and let out another muffled laugh.
"Really?" Greg said grinning, "Knot jokes Cassy? I though stuff like that was beneath you."
"Oh Shush, It's just you and me here and you have no room to talk after intentionally starting a howl earlier." She tried to reach up to flick his ear but he playfully nipped her finger before she could.
That got a nip in return, so he stole a kiss, and that led to some other juvenile behavior that Cassy only indulged in when they weren't in view of their pups or any others of their pack.
"Mmhhmmm… " Cassy sighed contentedly after, resting her head on his shoulder, though the fur on her muzzle was a bit ruffled. "You really couldn't do anything about his stuck *snicker* problem when he was holding you hostage with his mighty *snicker* Carrot?"
"And you call me a perpetual teenager." Greg said with a mock harrumph, and Cassy grinned against his shoulder.
"I just hide it better than you." She replied and nuzzled his neck.
"Well, I'll just take that as a compliment" Greg grinned goofily, "But as for that mighty carrot wielding fox, all my efforts were for naught." Cassy snickered into his neck and he smiled and rubbed his cheek between her ears. "Really though, I tried, but he's a bit… um… touchy about the subject…"
"You mean she's got him wound tighter than a frustrated pup chasing their own tail?"
"That and he's still a male fox, they're weird when it comes to professing love, plus, well… even if he weren't a fox, he'd probably have a hard time telling her. I don't think he's much of one to share how he really feels…"
"Ugh… one of those?"
"Ya… one of those. He needs to work through that issue himself."
Cassandra huffed exasperatedly.
"Then he really does need someone like that bunny as a mate. She'll even him out. She was practically bursting with how she felt."
"I think so too, they'll be good for each other. Out of curiosity though," Greg asked looking down at his mate, "Why didn't you just knock some sense into that bunny when you had her?"
Cassy growled frustratedly into his shoulder.
"I can't tell you how close I came to doing just that. Dumb bunny, I practically did tell her."
Greg looked over toward where the two were, just past his son and soon to be daughter-in-law, or he assumed that's where both of them were since at a quick glance their silhouette looked more like a lone fox with bunny ears. A closer glance in the darken stadium though revealed the bunny in the arms of the fox, though there was still that hesitant vibe that told him neither had told the other yet.
"hummm, still I kind of expected you to clue her in…"
"I did 'clue' her in! Multiple times!"
"By 'clue her in', I mean more like Hammer it in." Greg clarified
"Ugh," He didn't even need to look at her to know she was rolling her eyes, "Well first I was trying to get her to help corner Ralph and his mate, though I think we have that covered now" Cassy's eye roll was followed by a wolfish grin, only for her to roll her eyes again, "but also, well, the only reason she hasn't told him is because she thinks he's in love with someone else!"
Greg's brow furrowed. "How on earth did she come to that conclusion?"
"Remember these?" Cassy tapped the heart shaped stickers they had on their cloths, one saying 'Papa Wolf' and the other 'Mama Wolf'.
"Ya?" Greg said, grinning as he looked at her sticker.
"Well…" Cassy took the lead in their little dance and turned them before pushing his muzzle with her so that he was looking at the small duo.
"Apparently, He's told her that he's in love with a 'Foxy Lady'."
Greg squinted at the two small mammals for a second before it struck him.
"oh… Oh!" He let out an amused snort followed by an exasperated groan.
"Really, he couldn't have just… I mean how can she not… That's just…"
Greg stopped his spluttering and let out another groan.
"Foxes." Cassy snickered and agreed, then kissed his cheek.
"But don't worry, Fox or not, Bogo's plan will work. As soon as the concert starts to end they'll get the message and then we help herd them out the door. With them running in a blind panic with our son's mate, they'll never see the trap coming and then their gonna be really… Stuck!"
Cassy snickered again.
"Then we pick up the Fangmeyer's from the train station and go extract the bride and groom and their best mammals and then, off to the wedding. Simple as that."
Greg shook his head.
"You, Cassy, are a devious alpha, you know that?" he kissed her nose, then grinned adding, "I think your parents would be proud."
"Well…" she was grinning a bit goofishly now too, "I did learn from the best."
There was a commotion on stage that had both of them looking over there shoulders as the crowd roared its approval. But Cassy let out a startled gasp and grabbed his shoulder and excitedly pointed over to the side.
"Greg, Greg! Look! I think they're going to- oh darn it!" Cassy quickly wiped at her eyes, though she had the biggest grin on her muzzle that he'd ever seen and her tail was waving furiously.
Greg just held her close, feeling a welter of emotions as he watched too. Watched as his son slowly and very deliberately rub his cheek on the tigress's.
He might have chuckled at the shocked look that ran across her face as she tried futilely to look at the spot on her muzzle Ralph had just marked but he was feeling a bit choked up as well, and instead just grabbed his wife's paw as they watched.
The tigress looked up, looked down, looked up, gapped, blushed, moved forward, hesitated… then…
Cassy let out a small stifled noise before squeezing his paw.
"Oh Greg… they… they're…" she cut off with a choked back happy sob as Ralph moved forward and marked her other cheek in return.
'Yes, yes they have." He replied, his voice a bit husky with emotion to as he squeezed her paw back and laid his head against hers, watching as his son and daughter-in-law exchanged marks, then did it again…
Ralph nuzzling and rubbing against the side of her muzzle, then against her neck and under her chin while she moved her cheek over his nose and up his snout to mark his ears and then move down his cheek to his neck.
They didn't stop to kiss or talk, only marked each other with a single minded intensity.
Greg took a moment as the sound of a song, a very familiar old song started, to look at Cassy and smile with pride.
"looks like our boy's well and truly caught his happiness."
Cassy nodded with a sniffled before holding him close, both of them watching the two young mammals, his and Cassy's tails fanning the air behind them.
"I can't believe we actually got to see them actually claim each other, that's… that's…"
"Ugh…" Bogo reached up and rubbed his brow with his hoof.
"That's just adorable!" Bess squealed excitedly, pressing up next to him while Bogo worked hard not to blush.
Though of course, he was only working not to blush because of the way as his wife was squeezing him as she practically bounced in place, her chest pressed up against his arm. He certainly wasn't blushing for any other reason Bogo assured himself.
"Isn't that just the most wonderful thing?" Bess asked deftly hooking her horn with his and turning so he had no choice but to look at the tiger and wolf, then gave him a peck on the cheek.
Bogo lost his battle not to blush.
Trying to rally for an orderly retreat, Bogo harrumphed.
"Yes dear, its very nice that Fangmeyer and Wolford have worked out their relationship. I at least won't have to deal with a tiger going savage now… but they weren't the ones I was worrying about!"
He tried to scowl for emphasis, but another peck on his cheek from Bess made it go all crocked and start to turn up at the edges before he beat it back down. His blush got worse though.
Bess giggled again, before smothering the sound with her hoof.
"Well," She coughed and then put on a serious expression… or tried putting on a serious expression, the result was rather comical with how eager and excited she still seemed, "Your small officers do seem to be quite stubborn now don't they?" she looked over toward where they'd finally caught a glimpse of the two still holding each other while they'd been dancing, then unable to hold her melodramatic serious expression any longer grinned and peck the side of his muzzle.
"But don't worry dear, You'll have that problem fixed soon enough." Bess all but giggled, "Clawhauser sent word a few minutes ago that all the preparations are ready for that little contingency plan of yours and that the messenger is on the way." She did giggle this time, almost evilly so, "Let's see if they can keep from spilling how they feel to each other after that."
Bogo blushed badly, feeling ever so slightly uncomfortable now that things were well and truly out of his control.
"Bess… you don't think that this might be trying to push them too much, do you?" He asked, confiding his niggling worry to his wife.
"Oh absolutely not!" She huffed indignantly, "Those two need all the help they can get! They're just lucky they have you watching out for them! Not every Boss cares so much."
"Right… well," Bogo coughed into his hoof embarrassedly, "It was turning into a morale issue…"
"Of course! And you couldn't let that happen now could you?" Bess said with a coy smile that made Bogo's cheeks heat.
Still grinning she moved forward taking his hoof and turning him back toward the stage.
"Now why we wait, why don't we work on raising your morale a bit dear? There about to start the next song and I know someone you might want to dance a bit more with!" She said teasingly, scooting closer to him and Bogo nearly jumped as her tail smacked his rear.
His eyes popped a little and he glanced at the stage, then over toward his officers, blushed, looked at his wife who was giggling at him, blushed more, then harrumphing, focused his attention firmly (if not completely considering how his hoof's held his wife's) back on the stage were Gazelle was taking the center spotlight, microphone in hoof to cheers of the crowd.
"Thank you Zootopia!" Gazelle's voice boomed over the loudspeakers as his wife giggled again and scooted in front of him so they could dance together.
"In honor of Valentine's day we have a special song for the occasion, But as I can't sing it alone I'd like you all to welcome our special guest singer!"
Bess bumped her hips back against him as the lights on stage flashed and an elk wearing a white blazer and orange tinted glasses strode on stage. Bogo, momentarily distracted from the stage, snorted, his hoofs holding his wife's tightening a bit. She just giggled.
"Please give a Zootopia Welcome toooo…
Elkton John!" Gazelle called out and the crowd cheered again as the elk gave a wave and a small bow before shaking Gazelle's hoof, then exchanging a friendly hug with the other singer.
"Oh, this should be good!" Bess half giggled half squeaked from within Bogo's arms as all the lights dimmed down.
Nothing on stage except for the two large screens to either side could be seen for a few seconds, and even those only showed a camera's panning view of the excited crowd beyond the darkened stage.
Then a single spot light illuminated the center stage, showing the elk now sitting at large grand piano as he started playing.
~I can see what's happening,~
~What?!~ One of the tiger dancers came skidding into the spotlight at the edge of the piano asking.
~And they don't have a clue!~ The elk continued waving out at the crowd
~Who?!~ the other three dancers chorused questioningly as they also came hurriedly into view, paws on the piano top.
Bess giggled in Bogo's arms and nudged him, pointing over to a gap in the crowd as she whispered into his ear.
"Now isn't that true?"
Bogo had to squint a bit, but then he let out an amused snort as he spotted the two small shapes, one with his arms wrapped around the other just like Bogo was doing with his wife.
~They'll fall in love and here's the bottom line,~
~Our trio's down to two.~
~Oh.~ the tiger dancers all said at once as if suddenly understanding. The large screens to the side of the stage showed a close up of them and the piano as the tiger dancers looks of sudden comprehension turned to confusion, and they comically glanced around at each other. One even going so far as to look at the others and counting off the four of them on his fingers with a baffled expression.
"No, don't you see?" The elk at the piano bench said, grinned at the tigers as he gave an amused shake of his antlers before waving out over the crowd, the camera's view of them on the screams following his motion to pan over the audience as he continued.
~The sweet caress of twilight,~
~There's magic everywhere.~
~And with all this romantic atmosphere…~
~Disaster's in the air!~
A shiver ran up Bogo's spine that wiped his half formed smile away and for a moment he could have sworn he heard someone whispering Dooooomed! in the back of his mind.
Bess must have felt it, or sensed him tense, because she turned her head and gave him a reassuring smile and quick kiss just as the spotlight on the stage brightened and Gazelle entered singing on the other side of the piano nearer to the elk.
~Can you feel the love tonight?~
~The peace the evening brings?~
~The world, for once, in perfect harmony,~
~With all its living things!~
Bogo smiled back at Bess and gave her a quick kiss in return which had her beaming. Then her smile got even larger, dangerously large.
"Dear I think you might be able to do a better job than that little kiss." Bess said wickedly, glancing over toward the stage. As he looked toward were she'd glanced, she added with a giggle, "We're on camera!"
Bogo's eyes felt like they might pop as he saw that the two screens behind the stage were now showing views of the crowd, specifically close up shots of couples in the crowd dancing or kissing each other and one of those views was of a cape buffalo couple, one of which was staring wide eyed at the camera while the other smirked.
Then, the female buffalo on the camera hooked her horn with the males and yanked his head down into a spectacular kiss. Though… Bogo didn't really see that last part since his view was suddenly obstructed and he was abruptly preoccupied with other things, but he could certainly vouch for the spectacularness of the kiss.
It even made up for his sudden mortifying embarrassment.
Judy… have I told you about this girl I've fallen in love with?
The words seemed to echo around in Judy's head as she stood there frozen in place, not even her heart seeming to move. All reason and thoughts seemed to have fled and those repeating words were all she could think of.
Part of her didn't want to know, feared knowing because once she knew… once she knew…
Her frozen heart seemed to shake dangerously, painfully, hinting at what was probably about to come.
But she had to know. Had to. Knowing might destroy her, but this not knowing was slowly eating away at her and she just had to know!
Judy tried to speak but the sound caught in her throat. She tried again, and managed to squeak out a "No," along with a shake of her head.
That seemed to break the impasse and she blurted out, "Nick, who is she?"
Nick let out a resigned sigh and seemed to slump against her, his muzzle resting tiredly between her ears as if to use her to prop himself up.
Normally when Nick did something like that or used her as an armrest it drove her crazy and got him an elbow for his trouble, but for the moment, irritating or not, she just wanted him close to her as she might just be about to lose even the fantasy of ever having him. Really, she wanted to clutch onto him and not let go… but she couldn't… not if it wasn't what he... not if he was already in love with someone else…
"Judy… have you ever met someone that completely turned your life upside down? Made you rethink everything you'd ever thought, or believed, or even wanted?"
Judy's mouth went dry, and she nodded.
"Yes… when-" when I meet you… she wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come out so she just croaked out another, "Yes."
She felt Nick's head on hers nod slightly.
"Ya, it's something isn't it? I mean, you came bouncing into my life, into the nice easy little hustle routine I'd set up and toppled everything. Had me giving up hustling and signing up to become a police officer, a fox police officer of all things! Who would have ever thought something like that was even possible?! I never imagined that something like that could happen!" Nick let out a defeated sigh, his breath ruffling her long ears. "Never really thought I'd end up falling ears over tail for someone either…"
"Ears over tail…" Judy repeated a bit numbly, her mind briefly thinking back to feeling of holding Nick's luxurious tail; of what long vixen's tail had caught his eye… He might have glanced at her when she'd all but shaken it in his face, but how could her little puff really compare to a sexy vixen's…
Judy tried to rally her thoughts without much success, mumbling, "Over tail… did… do you mean you fell for her at first glance?... like storybook love at first sight…"
"Oh Karma no!" Nick's derisive snort ruffled her ears. "I thought she was a 'doe'y eyed rube with delusions of grandeur when I first meet her!" Nick shook his head. "Turns out though, that she was more right than me. Personally I think what I've managed to do with my life since I meet you is pretty amazing, but it pales in comparison to her." He let out a long sigh, "Judy, she's really something special…"
Then he chuckled softly. "Though she can still be a bit of a rube sometimes. Even though we got off to a bad start, she ended up stealing my heart, hustled it away before I knew what had happened and she did it without even knowing she had!" Nick huffed indignantly.
"Really, I think I have you, Judy Hopps," Nick tapped her head mockingly with his muzzle, "to blame for having my heart stolen away like that!"
"W-W-WHAT?!" Judy spluttered, her ears snapping up.
This was HER fault?! How?! Why?! That made no sense! She certainly hadn't done anything to help set him up with anyone! If anything she might have tried to monopolize his attention!
Nick actually snickered, then lightly flicked one of her upright ears.
"Carrots, when I was being a crusty old shrew of a hustler, and don't you dare tell Fru Fru I ever said anything like that, I never let anyone get so close to me that they could do something like steal my heart." Nick sighed, slumping against her again. "Since meeting you Judy, I've… well…" he stopped, seeming to consider for a second then continued, "I used to keep to myself Judy, trusted only myself. I kept myself emotionally shut off from the world and everyone else; even my family, and friends I've known all my life, like Finnick." Nick exhaled slowly again contemplatively, and flicked her other ear. "You changed that, Judy. You made me start to open up."
Judy opened her mouth about to speak but he snickered and cut her off.
"Okay, maybe not all that much, it's a work in progress, Fluff, but you have. And I really have to thank you for that." Nick said and then hugged her.
Really, really, hugged her. Not a charming hug or a desperate hug... just a hug. A real, caring hug that made her feel warm and fuzzy all the way to her core. A tender hug that with all the other conflicting emotions pinging around inside, made her want to grin stupidly…
...and also want to break down and cry.
So it was probably a good thing that he was hugging her, because that was all that prevented her from doing just that. Except that then, after a second (or was it a minute? longer?) his hug stopped, his arms holding her loosening.
Judy, still in a state of shock over her inner turmoil, none the less recognized an opening and jumped on it, turning around so that she could finally look directly at him, see what emotions he'd hadn't let her see before.
Nick though, damn the sly fox, seemed prepared and as his arms slipped down he took a small step back so that they ended up facing each other, his paws on her hips with a small but respectful gap between them as if they were politely dancing at the carrot day festival, his normal polite mask fully back in place.
Judy's ears snapped down in sudden frustration at being out-foxed again.
Nick grinned and then tapped her nose.
Her ears snapped back up like he'd pushed a spring release button and Judy clenched her jaw, feeling about ready to fume.
"So, you see, Judy, it really is all your fault that I ended up falling in love." His grin became a smirk and he snickered. "I'd apologize for how off I've been this winter… but… it's just easier to blame it all on you."
Nick's return to his usually teasing and smirkishness and blasé-hustler manner was the carrot that broke the barrel for Judy.
"ME? My Fault?! It's all MY Fault?!" Judy burst out, all her frustrations and worries bursting into irrational anger. She was going to clobber that fox! She'd turn his tail into her own personal pillow and joyfully snuggle into it each and every night! She'd drag him to the boxing ring and knock some answers out of him! She'd-
"Yep," Nick said casually and daintily tapped her nose.
Judy's ears angled backwards with each tap till they were facing the ground at a stiff, forty five degree angle so sharp it she could have used it as a protractor.
"Huh…I didn't know bunny's could growl." Nick commented with a grin. "Then again…" he added sweetly, "It is the cutest growl I've ever heard. I mean like seriously cute. But then again you are a bunny, a very, very CUTE bunny, so it only makes sense that your growl would be-"
"Be very careful with what you say next Nick…" Judy cut him off warningly, trying to stop her molars from grinding. "Because you might regret what happens if you say 'cute' again."
He would. She swore he would. She'd beat him to a pulp… or maybe just kidnap him… forever… it would be the case of the 'cute' wisecracking fox that was never found and too bad for whoever his stupid Foxy Lady because she'd never find him since he'd be locked-
"But Judy, I'm only telling you what's true!" Nick said melodramatically, "I really do think you and your growl are oh so c-"
"NNNnnnick…" Judy ground out, fuming so much smoke should have been coming from her ears. "You know bunnies don't like when other mammals call us cute, and you are well beyond even your special exception on that! It's demeaning and it means something entirely different for bunnies. And I Will, By Serendipity, I Swear, make you pay if you say it again."
"I'm almost tempted to see that actually…" Nick grinned looking at her, his eyes taking on a dangerous, almost feral gleeful glimmer.
Some part of Judy's brain was throwing up warning flags at that look, but her frustrated temper was burning out her mental fuses left and right. Instead stopping to take even a moment to consider what she was doing, she glared back at him, stared right back at the fox smiling at her in what should have been an exceptionally alarmingly toothy fashion to any sane doe.
Her eyes narrowed as she saw his lips curving, like he was preparing to say the forbidden C word, and then something in his eyes shifted, that almost feral edge receding, though there seemed to be plenty of glee left behind.
"Oh right," Nick snapped his fingers as if remembering. "Sorry, almost forgot that word is a bunny hot button."
He said that so earnestly Judy could have almost believe him… if his grin didn't say exactly the opposite.
Her glare intensified, but Nick just bit his lip as if to prevent himself from saying anything else, or… maybe, to prevent himself from laughing.
Judy decided to ignore that last option for his own sake.
"It's not just a hot button, It's… it's…" also the bunny equivalent of calling someone sexy you DUMB Fox! Even despite being hopping angry mad Judy's face flushed with a massive blush. "Darn it Nick! It's a bunny thing!"
She fumed… and blushed.
Nick blinked at her innocently for a second, then guffawed.
"Ohhhhhh… right it's also a bunny 'hot' button!" Nick wiped a tear away from the corner of his eye, "Sorry Judy, I didn't mean to proposition you! I wouldn't!" her heart seemed to suddenly crack painfully, "I am a respectable fox," Nick added putting his paw on his chest, then gave her a wicked smirk. "I'd at the very least want to take you to dinner first!"
Annnnnnnd… Judy forgot about that painful twinge in her chest as her face spontaneously lit on fire.
Her paw reached out, grabbed a very convenient tie and yanked Nick's face down till that smirk was nose to nose with her. Then in her best growl, (she had had a very good instructor at the Police academy after all) growled, "NOT… FUNNY… NICK."
"Right. Right. Sorry Carrots, took that joke a little too far," he said a bit quickly, though his smirk didn't quite disappear. And it might have been her imagination but she could have almost sworn she heard his heart beating at a faster than normal pace as she glared (still blushing) back at him.
"I really am a respectable fox, Judy," Nick said, giving her a more genuine smile that mollified some of her anger (and yet made her blush that much worse.) "And courting is actually a really big deal for us foxes, even I'm not an exception to that. Courting has to be done right." Nick looked down almost shamefacedly and Judy realized he was blushing under his russet fur.
HuhzaHe'saWhat?! Judy thought, thrown off by that realization.
"So… sorry… for teasing you like that. Really." Nick apologized looking up into her eye and then down again, his blush worsening. "I shouldn't have joked like that, not about asking… well," Judy's jaw dropped in shock at Nick being completely serious for once. Carrot sticks, He'd even managed to keep joking when they were running for their lives from Bellwether!
"It was a bit much and a little tactless of me, especially considering who I lo-" Nick snapped his mouth shut, biting his lip hard while Judy watched in astonishment as a look of conflicted confusion rolled across Nick's face.
He slowly took a step back, his tie sliding through her suddenly numb paws, then not looking at her simply added, "That wasn't right of me, tods don't… not for foxes…"
Some niggling thoughts at the back of Judy's mind were vying for her attention. Something Skye had been telling her, something of foxes… about vulpine courting about tods specifically… or was it vixens? Something important…
Judy tried to think but she felt like a popped balloon, all her frustrated anger whistling away to leave her feeling empty, alone, standing there so close to Nick, yet so far away that even the tip of his tie now hanging loose in her paw was about to slip away too.
"Judy… I, um… is that, um, apology accepted?... Are we good?"
Nick's worried voice snapped her out of her muddled thoughts and her paw fisted over the end of his tie as her head snapped up.
"I-ah, what?" she stammered, disoriented for a second. She lost her train of thought amid the sudden rush of concert noise all around them in the darkened stadium that was hammering back down on her awareness.
Nick was looking at her worriedly, and he ran a paw nervously over his ears, looking to the side.
"Um… we're still good right, I ah… wasn't being too-"
"You're a real Dumb Fox!" She blurted out, then hugged him because she desperately needed to feel some contact with Nick, no matter how slight.
"You can irritate the carrot picking hell out of me sometimes, Nick! And you seriously need to cut back on the 'cute' teasing because while I know you mean it all in good fun, you really don't know how that affects me!" She almost growled again and thumped her head against the surprised fox's chest, then glared up at him, really glared up at him. "Dumb Fox! Of course we're still good. No matter what happens Nick I'm always your friend. Even when your being a Dumb fox!"
Nick wrapped his arms around her, then lowered his head to press it next to hers as he hugged her back.
"Thanks Judy, you really are too good for me, even if every now and then you can be a bit of a dumb bunny too."
"You're a dumb fox first!" Judy sniffled and squeezed him tight.
"Heh, takes one to know one." Nick chuckled against her neck.
Nick's fur was warm against her cheek, and holding him like she was she could feel his heartbeat; so strong and reassuring that Judy couldn't help the sudden upwelling of emotions. So she shut her eyes tight, because no matter what happened she knew she'd never be able to stop thinking of him as hers.
"Dumb fox or not," she muttered, "you know I'll always love you right?"
Nick's heart beat made an odd thump before his arms closed just a bit tighter around her, his heartbeat now faster than before.
"Judy…" Nick swallowed hard, his voice getting a little hoarse again, "Judy… I love you too." Her own heart seemed to soar for a second but she could feel a building tension in him that scared her too, so she just held tight as he continued.
"I love you, and… Judy, I'm afraid of losing you."
She looked up at him, her worry now confusion, even as she felt a sort of happy yet ever so slightly wanting contentment.
"Why do you think you'd ever lose me?"
"Besides the fact that you're a police officer in the big city and not only a police officer, but the smallest police officer in the history of Zootopian police officers and that something could happen to you anyday at work? Besides that?" Nick asked looking down at her, his eyes showing her an amount of worry that she'd never noticed before, right before he somehow stuffed that worry back down and away.
The intensity of it made her blush, which Judy found slightly odd since that same worry from her parents tended to only irritate her, but then again this was Nick. The mammal who watched her back when they were on the job, the mammal she trusted with her life on a daily basis, the mammal she knew cared deeply for her, worried about her, but despite that didn't ever try to stop her and instead did everything he could to watch her back while he supported her.
"Yes, well, besides that," Judy mumbled looking down, cheeks flaming.
Nick let out resigned huff of air.
"Judy… because… because I've fallen in love with someone and now I'm a complete mess inside," he said, his voice become fast, almost uncontrolled, "I'm afraid that if she really understands just how much I've fallen for her that I'll lose her and I'm absolutely and utterly terrified that this whole misadventure with me falling in love is going to end up with me losing you in the process! You've helped me become who I am, who I want to be, helped me open up. Judy," Nick looked her in the eyes, "I can't lose you, you mean too much to me."
"I- Nick…" Judy stammered flushing, trying to sort out his rushed explanation.
He thought she'd object? (well she did, on a personal jealous level, But he didn't know that) but even if she did, he should know better than to think she'd ever trade her friendship with him over a fit of jealousy!
She felt a bit indignant at that thought, then suddenly depressed, thinking about how he was talking with her now about his feelings for his mysterious crush. But he was still holding her, and she at least for the moment was still holding him. And even if he did truly fall for some stupid vixen, there was a part of her that knew that he really did truly care for her too. Maybe not in the way she wanted, maybe just as his closest friend, but he did love her in his own way. He'd said so, and even more than his words, she believed that because of how he held her.
He did care for her.
Judy thumped her head against Nick's chest giving her own resigned sigh.
She loved him, she might not be able to love him in the way she wanted but she still loved him and because she did there was something she could do for Nick to help him, one thing he needed to know. Though… she'd already told him, the Dumb fox. She'd just have to make him understand it this time.
"Nick, listen to me okay? Really listen to me," Judy said, head still against his chest as her arms squeezed him.
"I'm your best friend, right?" Judy asked and she felt Nick nod. "You know I love you right?"
Nick's chest did its thu-thumping thing against her cheek as his usually steady heart beat spiked for a moment but she felt him nod again.
"Then get it through your head that that's not going to change. Period. Ever. Even if I don't like who ever you want to be with, I'll still be your best friend. I'll still love you. I'll still be your partner at the ZPD. Actually, I'll tell you right now in full honesty I'm probably not going to like whoever you are in love with, because you're too good for them, but even still I'll always, Always, be there for you Nick. Always. That will never change you big, dumb, fox."
Nick's paw around her tightened, pulling her close again into another hug, something she was finding herself quickly becoming addicted to. She couldn't describe how much she liked the feeling of Nick's large paws holding her to him. How it felt to have his lean, toned chest and that long russet and cream fur pressing against her.
If nothing else, she hoped that their friendship was going to include a lot more hugging.
"Thanks Judy. I- thanks… it helps to know that even if I mess up I won't lose you completely." Nick said after a few moments and started to pull back, but Judy wasn't ready yet so she held tight, stopping him.
"I mean it Nick," she said, looking up at him to make sure he did. "You're not losing me even a little bit. I said I'd become a police officer as a kit and I did, I wanted you to be my partner and you are and I'm telling you right now, that you're stuck with me as your friend and you're just going to have to live with that. And that stupid dumb 'Foxy lady' you're so infatuated with is just going to have to live with that too once you catch her." Judy thumped him in his shoulder like she usually did to make sure he was paying attention as she looked at him. Then drawing strength from his close presence, she continued. "And I'm also sure that if you really do love her, you'll get her in the end, Nick."
Nick was looking back at her with an expression that was almost indescribable, happy, content, hopeful, though still ever so slightly fearful. It made her reluctant to ever let go of him and the way he was smiling...wow, it was the most genuine smile she'd ever seen. A beautiful smile that matched perfectly with his emerald green eyes that seemed both utterly calm and serene as he looked at her.
And as he looked at her, smiling in a way that was making it increasingly hard to breathe, she could see just a touch of wild sparkle behind them.
Then that wild part seemed to flash and Judy practically groaned as a mischievous grin ran up his muzzle.
"I believe most of that, Judy…"
She made a frustrated growling noise, but that just made his grin grow. She thumped her head back against his chest, not being able to look into those vibrant green pools any longer without doing something incredibly stupid… like kissing him.
"Sorry Carrots, I just think that you might actually like her. I told you, She's something truly special. A one of a kind type of mammal."
"I still doubt it," Judy huffed indignantly, not even wanting to think of Nick's crush right then, not when she was trying to hold herself back from jumping up and just kissing the hell out of him. She took in a deep breath as she snuggled her nose deeper into his shirt, no..fur...as somehow all her snuggling against him had loosened one of his buttons. She let out a small contented sigh,, letting the smell of his distinctive musk settle her.
Holding onto him while having him still holding her seemed to be enough for the moment though, and she managed to beat off both the bunny-gone-wilde need to kiss Nick, and the melancholy about thinking of his lady love.
His stupid, stupid lady love…
"And just who is she, Nick?" Judy sighed in a resigned manner.
She didn't even need to see Nick's smirk to know it ratcheted up a few notches because she could feel it.
"Can't tell you," he said with a near gleeful note in his voice like it was some sort of game.
Judy still with her face buried in his chest, glared.
Maybe if she glared hard enough she could burn the answers out of him by pure will power.
Nick shrugged, still grinning.
"I can't, it's not proper," he added. "Sort of a fox-custom kind of thing."
"Seriously Nick?!" Judy vented looking up and then poked his chest. "Skye told me about some of your fox courting customs and she never mentioned anything like that!"
"Really?" Nick said sounding interested. "And did she by any chance happen to tell you who it is? Because I'm a hundred percent sure she knows."
"I- well… no…" Judy said grumpily. "She sidestepped the question when I asked."
"See? Fox custom. If you want to know you have to figure it out. I can't tell you, and no other fox will either."
Judy started grinding her teeth
Nick's smirk softened and he raised a paw to the middle of her back, started soothingly rubbing his thumb along the inside of one of her ears where it was hanging down almost absentmindedly. She shuddered and stopped grinding her teeth, but more because she suddenly found herself going limp against Nick.
Got- got to…to tell Nick… not to… to pet my ears like that… *groan*… sensitive… intimate spot for… bunnies… *groan*… That's nice…
"Sorry Fluff, but there's a reason," Nick said softly. "I promise, but it's something you have to figure out for yourself. I can't just come out and tell you who I'm in love with, not directly, it's against the rules."
Rules… right… should tell him… petting ears… is against bunny… courtesy rules… after he stops… *groan* though… *mmmmmmmmhhhmm* nice… if I don't tell him… he might do this… again…
Hey! Why'd he stop?! I didn't tell him to stop!
"Huh, wha… um, ya?" Judy blinked, trying to focus and looked up at Nick, who was looking at her with a small but growing little grin.
"You just started making the cu-" he stopped himself and coughed, "I mean you were making a sort of churring sound almost like you were purr-"
"Ehem! That's- I wasn't- My Ears Are Sensitive! And YOU got all rumbly when I petted your tail so you have nothing to say!" Judy blurted out feeling mortified.
She hadn't actually been chirring, had she?
Oh gods if Nick figures out he can turn me into a puddle by petting my ears-
Judy shuddered for a second, thinking of her sudden winning streak in the ZPD boxing ring disappearing as she lay helpless on the mat, Nick petting her ears as she struggled to so much as move…
She'd die of embarrassment.
Change of subject NOW! Judy mind screamed, hoping it wasn't too late to prevent Nick from drawing any conclusions from what had just happened.
What had they been talking about before? Right, Nick's idiot mystery lady.
"Nick, backup. We weren't done with what we were talking about and I still want answers!" Judy snapped, managing to reign in some of her more obvious panic.
Nick was still looking at her with a, 'Now wasn't that interesting?' expression that had her worried. (Not in the ZPD Ring, Not in the ZPD Ring, Not…) but he didn't start petting her ear again, for which Judy wasn't sure whether she was glad or disappointed about.
"I told you,, Carrots, I can't tell you. It's against the rules."
Right, Carrot Blast It, he did say something about that, Stupid Fox Rules!
"See now that is different, that's clearly a growl, that other sound was softer, much more of a happy sound. I liked that sound," he said looking at her with an almost predatory air.
"Nick! Focus!" Judy snapped desperately, her cheeks feeling like they were on fire. "Answers! Now!"
"Sorry. Still can't," Nick snickered, then kissed her right between her ears in a teasingly irritating way that made her want to yank out fistfuls of her fur. He tapped her on her back as if to get her attention.
"Don't worry, Carrots, you might figure it out… someday."
"Darnit Nick!" Judy fumed. "Fine then! When did you meet her?! Where did you meet her! I've never seen you seriously flirt with any of the vixens we've met! It's not that fox receptionist over at the courthouse is it?! I've seen you chat with her-"
"Calm down Judy," Nick said grinning fully now. "And no its not her, "Nick rolled his eyes. "I already told you she isn't a red fox."
Nick took a breath and seemed to sober a bit.
"That's part of the problem, we're not exactly the same species Judy…" Nick said, looking right at her as if trying to impart just how significant that was. "I- I'm not sure if she's even considered the possibility of me being even a prospective mate because of that."
"Well that's just stupid, Nick," Judy huffed. "Any vixen would consider you a good catch!"
"She'd not exactly your standard vixen…" Nick mumbled looking away.
"And what do you mean by that?!" Judy asked in frustrated.
"Nothing…" Nick sighed. "Just… I just think she's one hell of a Foxy Lady, Judy, that's all…"
"And yet you haven't even made a move on her yet?!" Judy snapped.
"Hey! I've tried." Nick said defensively, his ears angling back.
"Then try harder!" Judy growled. "Do that whole Mr. Charming thing you did with me dancing! That's sure to get her attention if not just bag her outright! Hell Nick," she thumped his chest maybe a bit harder than usually as a bit of jealousy boiled up, "I'm just a bunny and I'd have gone home with you after something like that if you'd asked!" she nearly shouted, blushing just a tad. She reminded herself that he didn't need to know just how true that statement was.
Nick didn't respond though, and she stopped glaring at his ruff to look up, and to her startlement found that Nick was blushing, and not just a little either. She'd never even imagined he could blush like that.
Her mouth gaped open for a second as Nick almost caught her eye before hurriedly glancing away with an expression of pure embarrassment. He looked almost as embarrassed as he had outside the love tunnel with her little disaster of an episode there.
Worry shot through her as she thought he might clam up like he had then with when the crowd had started laughing.
"You don't- You're not, um, nervous about... well, trying… are you?"
There was a short almost panicked laugh, and Nicked turned, blush still making his cheeks look fire engine red as he muttered, while not quite looking at her.
"You have no idea how nervous I usually am Judy… I just usually do a better job of hiding it. That's the first trick any hustler learns."
"Then hide the fact that your nervous when you try, Nick," Judy said, putting a paw on his chest reassuringly. "Just make sure you keep trying."
That got another short, half panicked laugh. "Just like your favorite Gazelle song eh, Judy? Just keep trying till you succeed? You know, if she was singing that song right now I'd have thought you'd have planned out that little pep talk!" Nick said looking over at the stage as if to double check Gazelle wasn't singing 'Try Everything'.
Which she was not. She was finishing up the song 'She wolves'.
"Nick, come on. I'm being serious," Judy replied, also hoping that song didn't get him thinking back on their earlier discussion. Though Judy couldn't help thinking with a smug, if slightly depressed thought, that Mrs. Wolford had been wrong.
Nick did love her… just not in that way apparently… not like he was with his crush on his Foxy Lady. That old wolf just had just seen the one and confused it for the other.
Carrots and Cabbages, he must have it bad for her if that girl could make Nick Wilde that nervous.
"Right… Right… Sorry fluff…" Nick muttered, and gave her a quick squeeze. "Sorry, it's just, I can't help but worry, Judy." He sighed and leaned his head on hers again. "Why don't we just take a break, Carrots, and enjoy the rest of the concert?"
Judy let out an exasperated huff and poked the underside of his muzzle, making him squirm.
"You know I'm not going to let this go now. I'm going to find out who she is and when I do I'm going to have a talk with her too!" Judy said warningly as Nick squirmed and her pokes finally got him to lift his muzzle of her head with a sheepish smile.
"You don't give up easily do you?" Nick said, starting to put his head back on hers when she booped him on the nose, stopping him.
"No. No, I do not!" she added proudly.
Nick gave her an amused, almost admiring look, then snorted good naturedly.
"Well, you're going to have to tell me what you say to her the next time you see her…" Nick mumbled with a half smirk. "I'd like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation."
"Ah HA!" Judy shouted. "So I do know this vixen!"
Nick looked to the side muttering, "Foxy Lady… Foxy lady," in a disgruntledly manner as if he was pouting that she'd caught that slip up. But she had a clue now, and she knew she was on the right track because she could feel Nick's paw nervously tapping on her back as he spoke.
"It doesn't matter what you like to call her, Nick. The fact that I know her makes finding out who she is all that much easier," Judy said, grinning evilly.
"Judy, I could describe her every detail and you still wouldn't know who she is," Nick said with an amused and almost disdainful sniff. "Maid Marian save me, Carrots, She could be standing right here," He pointed his claw down right between them, "and you still wouldn't be able to figure it out."
"Oh really?" Judy said patronizingly, arching an eyebrow, then gave him her own disdainful sniff. "Fine, challenge accepted. What are you wagering?"
"Wait, what?" Nick said, startled.
"What are you wagering?" Judy asked with a malicious grin. "You said you could describe every detail of her and I still wouldn't be able to guess who she is before the concert is over. Fine. I'll take that challenge. I already know what I want anyway…"
"That was not a challenge!" Nick spluttered.
"Oh yes it was!" Judy said with saccharin sweetness while Nick pursed his lips as if trying to think of a way out of it before finally muttering.
"Fineeee. What do you want?"
"Oh… nothing much, just a little private performance," Judy grinned before humming a familiar tune.
"~Hey hey, Mister Fox, what are you doing-~"
Nick's jaw dropped and his eyes widened to the size of elephant sized saucers. It was all Judy could do not to laugh, which was probably a good thing because he snapped his muzzle shut, narrowing his eyes at her and every danger alarm she had went off at once.
"Well if that's your wager, I'll need something of equal worth," Nick said and started tapping his chin, his tail even starting to wag in a thoughtful and somewhat devious manner. Then Nick looked down, grinned and grabbed the tip of his tail examining it for a second with a critical eye.
"Right, well then," he said, looking at Judy in a manner that made her gulp. "I am overdue to get my fur taken care of soo…" Nick drawled out while Judy squinted at his tail, which to her eyes looked pristine. "If I win, you have to take me out for a full spa day..." Judy let out a breath she hadn't even known she'd been holding. That wasn't so bad, might be a bit pricey but that wouldn't be bad at-
"At the Mystic Springs Oasis." Nick finished smugly, and Judy stiffened in alarm, her ears shooting up and her tail almost flying off.
Her and Nick… a whole day… at the Mystic spring Oasis… in the fur… or how would Jessica put it?
Granted seeing Nick in the buff would be a treat, IF she didn't die from embarrassment herself!
"Hold on there a sec Nick!" Judy repeated, her turn to stammer now.
"Nope," Nick cut her off, dropping his tail, and looking supremely pleased with himself. "A bets a bet. You started this, deal with it Fluff."
"Fine," Judy ground out. "I was planning on winning anyway, now start talking, Slick. I want details."
Nick took a half step back from her, eying her up and down, almost like he wasn't sure she'd keep her side of the bet… or he might just be stalling. Judy crossed her arms and her foot started thumping the ground.
Nick raised his own eyebrow at her thumping foot then shrugged and looked around as if checking for evesdroppers before scooting close to her.
"You promise you won't tell her any of this if you do figure out who she is?" he whispered into her ear.
Interest peaked, Judy nodded.
Nick sighed and placed his arms and tail around her, beginning to dance slowly before taking one last careful look around.
"Nick, nobody else is listening, now…what type of fox? How tall is she? What's her dimensions? Any identifying marks? Fur color?" Judy startled listing traits off, though she did put her paws around his waist and if they ended up resting right over the base of his tail… well hey, that was just a coincidence right? Them was the breaks of him being taller than her.
"This isn't a criminal investigation, Judy." Nick snickered as she ran though the basic suspect identification questions exactly as they were listed in the ZPD handbook.
"I'll be the judge of that, now Spill!" Judy commanded.
Nick took one last breath and looked right at her before looking up distantly and finally starting to talk.
"Let's see…The first thing that stands out is probably her eyes. Judy, she has the most beautiful eyes. Eyes the color of flawless amethysts, eyes that are always filled with emotion, and that are determined yet soft, eyes that-"
"Right. I get it Nick," Judy said, trying not to audibly grind her molars at the puppy love wonder that filled Nick's voice. "What shade of color exactly? Are we talking deep violet, or light purple or something close to light pink or an almost bluish hue?
Nick huffed irritably at her interruption looking back down at her crossly, his paws flexing momentarily on her back as they still danced slowly.
"Well since you 'get it' I don't think I need to tell you anymore about her eyes," Nick sniffed.
Judy tried to restrain herself and mostly succeeded. She didn't growl at least… though judging how Nick shifted suddenly… she might have squeezed his tail…
"Um… right, how about I just keep telling you about her…" Nick said quickly, taking a small step away from her temperamental paws, which actually placed him almost right up against her… so Judy let it go.
"She's also got lovely fur, softer than any fox's I've ever meet. Almost snow white belly fur with a gray coat that-
"She's a Grey Fox?!" Judy blurted out, mentally knocking out the majority of the candidates on her list of possibilities. There weren't that many grey foxes around.
"Are you going to continuously interrupt me?" Nick asked, lips tight as he looked at her crossly.
"If it gets me my answer more quickly," Judy shrugged, "Now what kind of gray?"
Nick pursed his lips for a few moments before finally saying,
Judy rolled her eyes.
"What like everyday gray?"
This time Nick shrugged his shoulders.
"It's a normal common gray. I still think she makes that common grey look extraordinary."
"Righhhhhht," Judy said, rolling the word to express her disbelief. "So she's got a common grey coloring."
That for some reason seemed to prick Nick's pride… or she guessed his protective instinct, which irritated her more because if he felt protective of her… well he was crushing bad.
"Hey, color isn't everything!" Nick said bristling.
"Says the fox that's excessively proud of his russet fur," Judy countered, though… she had to agree that the russet coloring on him with its varying shades of red from almost orange to deeper tones of almost maroon brown did look spectacular on him. That and he did know how to groom himself to show off his fur to its best (and it was very good) effect.
"It's not what you have, it's how you use it," Nick said haughtily, sticking his nose in the air, and using that distraction, swished his tail up to swat her nose unexpectedly.
Judy jumped a little in surprise and Nick grinned.
She gave him the stink eye.
"Right, Common," she stressed the word just to rub Nick the wrong way. "Grey fox, go on."
"No." Nick shook his head, still sounding indignantly haughty. "Very uncommonly pretty, common grey Foxy Lady."
Judy rolled her eyes.
"I'm not kidding Judy," Nick said with a straight face. "I don't think she pays much, if any, attention to her fur, which is a real shame in my opinion," he shrugged. "Yet it still looks amazing. Part of it is her natural looks. 'Common' grey it might be, but her fur's shading is beautiful and that is without any fur treatment what-so-ever. She actually doesn't understand just how good her fur looks, 'common' grey or not. But the other part is just how she carries herself-"
"Right, I've seen how vixens carry themselves," Judy said giving another eye roll… and trying not to be jealous. "You don't need to describe how 'sexy' it is to me," she added mockingly, and hopefully not enviously.
Nick snickered, and her face heated thinking he was snickering at her at first,
"No, actually that's also a wrong assumption," he said with another apparent snicker at his apparent crush, which confused her until-
"Wait- 'Also a wrong assumption?!' " Judy blurted out. What other 'assumption' had she gotten wrong?! She wasn't making any assumptions! She was trying to get facts here!
Nick waved a paw dismissively.
"Doesn't matter, but for your information, No, she actually doesn't carry herself quite like the standard vixen. Oh she's got the agility and such, and the confidence to shame ten vixens, but my Foxy lady is a bit too um… enthusiastic? Hummm… Spontaneous? Mmmmhhhh…." Nick seemed to be deliberately taking his time trying to think of the right word. And judging by the sly almost smirk on his face he was doing it on purpose. It made her foot want to thump a hole through the floor, but every time her foot started to twitch in the first signs of a bunny thump, Nick moved, pulling her along in their slow dance. Judy bit the inside of her lip, determined not to give him any satisfaction in how much that was irritating her.
Nick's grin finally broke out over his face as he continued. "Maybe 'impatient' is a better description. Point is, she doesn't quite have the slow grace or smooth sexy appeal most vixens try for. If anything I think it makes her look cute, wait!" Nick looked at her alarmed, speaking quickly "I'm talking about my Foxy lady, so you can't get upset about that word right?"
"Doesn't matter to me," Judy replied, a bit amused at Nick's reaction to the dreaded C-word.
A huge smile broke over Nick's face and she heard his tail start wagging audibly behind him.
"Well then I have to say that I have never seen a girl as cute as her, I mean like super duper opilishous cute. Like world's cutest Hall of Fame Cute. I mean Judy, she is seriously, unbelievably CUTE. Utterly. Absolutely. Insanely CUTE. Cuter than Cute shoud be CUTE. The Cutesiest cute that ever cute could be kind of cute!
"You got that out of your system yet Nick?" Judy yawned as he gushed.
"No!" he glared before his huge smile broke back out and his tail doubled its speed.
"Cute! Cute! Cute! Judy. She. Is. So. CUTE. Like how cute could a cute-chuck be if a cute-chuck could chuck cute, kind of cute!"
Judy let out an amused snort at her enthused fox.
"Pretty sure the answer to that would be as much cute as a 'cute-chuck' could chuck if a 'cute-chuck' could chuck cute." Judy replied.
"YESSS! Now you're starting to understand!" Nick hugged her enthusiastically. Which Judy enjoyed shamelessly before muttering teasingly.
"I thought this girl was a vixen not a 'cute woodchuck'."
"Of course she's not a woodchuck!" Nick sniffed derisively, pulling back just enough to plant his nose against hers and stare at her as if to burn the point into her head.
"Judy. She. Is. A. Foxy. Lady!" he said slowly, then chortled in amusement. "Not a woodchuck." His stupidly almost puppy-ishly gleeful grin broke out as he laughed.
"A Cuuuuutee Foxy Lady. The cutest one that ever was! Cutest Cute mammal ever! Cute CUTE CUTE cute Cute Cuuuute! Cute cute *whispered* cute, CUTE, Cute cute Cute Cute CUTE CUTE… C. U. T. E… cute CuTe cUtE cute cute Cute CUTE CUTE-"
Nick took in a long breath of air.
"CooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" He howled, squeezing Judy against him while spinning in a circle enthusiastically.
He had to take another breath after the howl while Judy tried to recover her own a bit of blush-induced short breath, though she tried to be a bit less obvious than Nick's gasp.
"Well… that was…"
"Not done!" Nick interrupted her, putting a finger over her mouth to silence her.
"Cute. CUTE. CUTE! CUTE! CUTE!..." Nick grabbed one last breath and practically sighed, "Cute…"
Judy waited a moment, watching him as he took a few breaths and straightened his tie before giving her an ever so slightly chagrinned smile.
"Now I'm done."
"Wow," Judy snickered. "Been holding that in long?"
"You have noooo idea how much I've wanted to do that," Nick said sounding about as pleased as a cat that stole a seat in the sun.
"You do realize that if your 'Foxy Lady' ever heard you say that she'd probably kill you. I mean even for a non-bunny that was ridiculous," Judy said, still amused over Nick's playful eccentricity.
"Oh ya," Nick grinned at her nodding his head. "I seriously doubt she'd take that all too well, which," he tapped her nose, "is why I made you promise to never ever tell her any of what we are discussing."
"Sure, Nick," Judy chuckled. "I'll keep your dirty 'cute' little secret."
"Thanks Judy." Nick, tail still wagging, leaned down and dazed her with a kiss to her cheek. "I really appreciate that."
"I… ah… no problem… N-Nick… any… any… time…" Judy mumbled as Nick put his paws back around her and pulled her back into the slow dance they'd been moving at before, though with a bit more enthusiasm than he had previously.
He even hummed along to the concert music though he seemed to add some suspicious 'c' sounding words into it.
"Well," Judy said after a few moments to recover, "That was… something… I just never really imagined you for the kind of guy that would like clumsily cute over elegantly sexy."
"She's not clumsy," Nick said with a shake of his head, then looked at her pointedly raising both eyebrows.
"And I'd think a bunny like you would understand that 'cute' does not exclude 'sexy'." He tapped her nose. "And don't even get me started on the issue of her not exactly fitting the traditional vulpine view of 'elegantly sexy'. I'd need a dictionary and a white board to explain it so let's just leave it at, I think she'd very elegantly sexy."
"Okay, I'll take your word for it."
"You should," Nick said nodded his head knowingly. "Because I'm right."
Judy let out a snort then reviewed her list of possible suspects.
There were only three grey foxes she could think of, though none seemed like a real match… Then again Nick was probably looking at this girl though love-goggles so who knew how much of his description was imagined perfection.
"Is this girl the café's second shift barista?" Judy asked. "The curvy girl with the long tail."
"The one that makes putting whip cream on a drink look like one big innuendo just to see how many guys' jaws she can drop?!" Nick belly laughed, leaning hard on Judy for support.
"Oh Karma No, Carrots!" he continued to chortle. "Knock me out and save me from that fate if I ever start looking at her!"
"No, Judy she's not the one," Nick said, grinning as he got his chuckles under control. "First, my girl has a bit of a short tail for a foxy lady, though it is very very nice tail. I could go into the details about it but, again, I'd need a white board and I feel like any mammal of the female denomination might slap me for excessive maleness after that lecture." Nick snickered. "Oh and also, while the girl I like is nicely curved in a few spots, like the view when you look at her tail…" Nick muttered under his breath with a cough that she suspected he hadn't meant her to hear, given how he blushed when she looked at him pointedly.
"Ehem," Nick coughed into his paw again looking away. "What I meant to say is that while the girl I like has some very feminine curves, she's far more toned and sleek than that fox." Nick looked back with a sheepish grin as if testing the water after his previous muttered comment and then continued.
"I really did mean what I said earlier, Judy. During that song? I prefer 'humble' over 'mountainous'."
"Well…" Judy muttered, now the one looking away as she tried to forestall a blush at from that memory, "What about the new attorney we saw at the courthouse?"
"No-pe." Nick popped the p in the reply. "One, her fur is actually black, she uses fur dye to tone it down," Nick tapped his nose. "Could smell it on her from the day before we saw her last time. Two, she has earrings. I already told you the girl I like doesn't bother messing with her fur, which actually works out great for her since she has great natural complexion, but she also doesn't have any piercings in her ears." Nick snickered. "Trust me, I would have noticed. Not to mention her ears are longer than either of the two ladies you've mentioned, which I must admit, I find oddly fascinating. Her ears are very expressive, I rather like them a lot…" Nick seemed to trail off in his own wandering thoughts, staring off into space above her head as Judy thought hard.
She only had one last guess and she had a gut feeling it wasn't her. Just the way Nick and her had interacted seemed completely off for Nick's crush.
"What about that petite little fox that works over in the mayor's office as a secretary."
Nick snorted again. "She wears glasses and has the wrong eye color, Judy." He flicked one of her ears chastising. "You need to work on your observation skills. Plus the girl I like, while she is petite, she's also quite strong, I mean surprisingly so. I'd be a little afraid getting in the ring with her if she were in a bad mood," Nick snickered, which left Judy flummoxed.
"You said I know this girl!" Judy said challengingly, pretty sure he'd fibbed on some detail because she was getting zero matches for anyone close to his description.
"You do," Nick responded with an amused snort.
"No, I don't, Nick," Judy said eyeing him questioningly. "A gray furred vixen-"
"Foxy Lady," Nick said holding up a finger like a professor correcting a student. "There's a difference."
"Fine...a grey furred foxy Lady," Judy growled, "with amethyst eyes, long ears, short tail, petite frame, stronger than she looks, etc. etc. It sounds like you fell for a dyed feminized Finnick! What does he have, a sister or something I don't know about!"
"Gahhhh! Ewwwwww!" Nick cringed badly, his tongue poking out as his muzzle as he all but gagged. "Female version of Finnick?! Judy, you're going to give me nightmares. Did you even listen to me at all?!"
"Well that's at least a little reassuring Nick, because I had images of you dating some female fennec bodybuilder who carries a bat around and had Fin's face. Now I can safely scrub that out of my mind." Judy rubbed her temple with one paw as she squinted, then looked up at Nick.
"But that still doesn't add up to anyone I've ever met, Nick," she said, pointing her paw accusingly at the fox she was dancing with.
"Sure does from my perspective," Nick retorted nonchalantly, then added with a wicked grin. "But I think that means I won and you have to pay for a spa day at the Oasis." Judy's felt a stab of alarm shoot through her as Nick's grin grew.
"NO, You cheated!" she accused, half panicked.
"Did not!" Nick said sounding affronted, then raised his paw in a ranger scout salute.
"Scouts Honor! I meant every word and all of it was true!"
Judy pulled her arms from around Nick and crossed them, his one arm around her back the only thing keeping her in motion doing their slow, barely moving dance together.
"Then point out one time, just once, that I've actually meet her!"
Nick's jaw opened as if he had a response ready, his free paw already raising to make some gesture when he stopped, a conflicted look coming across his face.
"Ha! I knew I've never meet any girl like that Nick!" Judy said triumphantly and a wee bit hurt too. Though there was a good amount of relief too, a day naked with Nick… in a public place? She didn't really like the idea of the latter even if every one else was 'nekked' too, but the part she could stand about that scenario was that it would involve a very 'NEKKED' Fox whom she seriously doubted she'd be able to prevent herself from ogling… or drooling over… or having any number of other mortifying bodily response to seeing. Sheesh...and Nick worried about him being the one to screw up their friendship?! Well she'd at least avoided that.
"Last spring. The night you and the rest of the crew took me to the bar to celebrate my first month at Precinct One," Nick said flatly, not looking at her. "You met her that night… among other times…"
Judy's upright indignant ears flopped down like two dead fish.
She'd didn't have all that much drinking experience and the bars mugs were a bit large. To say that she'd gotten drunk was putting it nicely. She couldn't remember most of that night. Except that it involved a lot of giggling… and a traffic cone? and she thought Nick might have put his jacket around when he'd walked her home… or had he carried her?
"I… I met her that night?!" Judy squeaked.
"Yes." Nick said evenly, "She maybe had a bit to much and was a little more forward than I'd expected," Nick said, his voice even but a telltale blush running up the inside of his ears. "It's um… I think the alcohol made her a bit, um… cuddly… That's something that ah… really catches a guy's attention, when an attractive girl cuddles up against you…" Nick's blush grew worse and he mumbled, "Ask Ralph if you want to confirm it."
Judy thought hard for a moment, but despite all her efforts, could not bring up any memory of a gray vixen at that bar. She couldn't bring up any memory of that night where Nick was further than an arms reach from her either. Any memory of Nick talking to anyone outside of their group of police officers in fact!
Though, there was a lot she just flat out didn't remember too.
There was a few moments of silence, where even the crowds cheering died down as gazelle finished singing 'She Wolves' and started preparing for the next song.
Then Judy very grumpily muttered into the quiet spell.
Nick's jaw dropped.
"What?" Judy muttered her cheeks starting to burn as Nick gaped at her. "It's not like I don't know any, um, real curse words…" Judy mumbled her cheeks now feeling like they were on fire.
"Pickle my Carrots, I never thought I'd hear something like that from you." Nick said a slow grin reforming. "I might just have to retract my use of the c-word." He raised up a paw, fingers just I tiny bit apart. "Just a little mind you."
"Oh stuff it Nick," Judy pouted, then slumped against him before muttering. "I'm going to have to go and update my will now…"
"And why's that?" Nick asked looking at her curiously. "Do bunnys that use bad words turn into Carrots at midnight or something?" He teased her.
"No!" Judy said sulkily. "It's just that when I have to pay up for losing I'm going to die of embarrassment!" Her ears were already heating just thinking about it
Seeing Nick Nekked! Something in Judy giggled girlishly,
Him seeing her see Him Nekked! Something else in her squealed in embarrassed terror.
Nick lounging around in the fur, relaxed and happy and smirking at her.
Judy grabbed her now burning ears and pulled them over her eyes and groaned.
"Carrots…" Nick said his voice losing its teasing tone and with one paw, he tilted her head up and brushed her ears to the side so she was looking at him.
"You know you don't have anything to be embarrassed about, right?" he said, his paw rested lightly on her cheek as he looked over her face. As if trying to pinpoint what was the cause of her worry. "Nobody would make fun of you there. You don't need to be embarrassed, you're a very beautiful bunny after all.
She was wrong, she wasn't going to die from embarrassment at the Oasis, she was going to die of embarrassment right now.
She felt like she'd been dunked in boiling oil, like she was melting from the inside out.
His soft touch, his earnest words…
Judy's eyes started to water as she looked into his eyes. As he looked at her with all that care.
"Nick…" her paws gripped his shirt and she thumped her head against his chest.
Then thumped it a few more times.
"You are such a dumb fox Nick! You can't just go saying things like that! And that's not even the problem!"
"Well it's true," Nick replied, sounding a bit startled at her reaction. His paw slipped from her cheek and went around her, holding her comfortably.
"But if that's not the issue, than what is?" he asked curiously, his muzzle dipping down to her ear. "Are you just embarrassed you lost another bet to me?" he teased playfully.
Judy couldn't stop an amused snort of air from escaping, then thumped him muttering. "Sometimes I hate you."
"Nhaaa, You just hate when I'm right and you're wrong," Nick said, the concern in his posture now completely gone and leaving her normal playful fox.
His nose nudged her ear and he whispered almost too low for her to hear.
"You known you love me."
Judy sniffled, her paw fisting hard hard enough in the cloth of his shirt that it was sure to leave wrinkles. Trying to pull herself together, she glared up at the fox smiling above her.
"You're right, I do hate it when you're right and I'm wrong."
Then she let go of his shirt and reached up with both paws to cup his face and pulled it down. Then kissed the side of his muzzle and watched with no little satisfaction as Nick got the funniest look. All surprised and wide eyed and confused at her sudden move.
"And I do love you. Dumb fox," she added, now grinning just a bit as Nick tried and failed to speak, his jaw opening and closing a little.
Nick raised his paw up and touched his cheek for a moment before looking back at her, still with that funny, blindsided look on his face.
"W-What was that for?" he barely managed to ask.
"That was a thank you," Judy said just a bit demurely, though she was grinning, enjoying Nick's reaction. "For saying I was beautiful."
"And I don't get 'thank you's for telling you you're cute?" Nick asked, still sounding a bit bushwhacked… and confused… and maybe even slightly disappointed.
She decided that utterance of the 'c word' could go without remark, though her ears pinked a bit.
"Well, theoretically… if I was dating a bunny and he said it to me, he might just get a kiss too," Judy said just a bit coyly.
Nick's face made a whole slew of funny expression at that. A sort of confused slightly disappointed miffed 'Wait, what-Huh?' expression that got even funnier as she stood on her tip toes and kissed the side of his muzzle again.
"But there, that's a thank you just in case you've even said that in a non-teasing way. Happy?" Judy said lowering back down with a giggle.
Nick made a sort of a 'Nobody's-home-at-the-second-check-back-later' kind of nod and Judy giggled again as the stage lights went out, only for a spot light to come back on as the next song started.
~I can see what's happening,~
~And they don't have a clue!~
Judy feeling oddly content at the second, looking up at the still stunned fox just standing there with his arms around her.
"Hey Nick, since you're being so nice and not teasing me at the second, could I have this dance with you?" She asked, smiling with just the smallest grin.
Nick's ears snapped up like two little tents.
"Huh. Um. Yes, yes, of course…" Nick stammered a bit before shaking his head as if clearing it, then gave her an over dramatically suave grin. "How could I possibly refuse such a request from such a lovely lady?"
"That one was a little overdone, Slick," Judy replied with a roll of her eyes, though she smiled as Nick started moving, his previously loose paws on her back now guiding her as they started dancing in place.
"You just don't recognize compliments when you hear them Fluff." Nick said, letting out a small playful huff that had Judy giggling again as the music continued.
~They'll fall in love and here's the bottom line,~
~Our trio's down to two.~
She looked up at the stage as the singer at the piano waved up at the screens flanking the stage. "No, don't you see?" he said and the screens shifted their views to start showing couples in the crowd.
~The sweet caress of twilight,~
~There's magic everywhere.~
~And with all this romantic atmosphere…~
~Disaster's in the air!~
Judy was just starting to lean into Nick and close her eyes to enjoy the slow dance when she saw who appeared and the screen and snarked into Nick's shoulder.
"Oh My Goodness! Nick! Look!" She squeaked out in a furious giggle as the female buffalo hooked her horn into the very recognizable, wide eyed, slack jawed male buffalo's horns as he stared off toward the screen, and yanked him down into a back bending kiss.
"Way to go Chief!" Nick hooted, then muffled his snickering muzzle in Judy's fur.
"Hey! No being mean, Nick" Judy chastised, playfully swatting him, and turning up her nose. "I, think the they're very cute!"
"Right the chief… 'cute' " Nick snickered and she swatted him again, though she was grinning.
"Still," Nick said, pulling his snickering muzzle out of her neck and smiling at her. "Not as cute as you."
"I-" Judy blushed badly and swatted Nick a third time. "Niiiick!"
"What, I can't give the girl that asked me to dance with her a compliment?" he grinned.
"Do you give all the girls compliments like that?" Judy muttered looking away.
"Depends on how pretty they are," Nick replied easily, and Judy, blushing fit to burst now, gave up the back and forth as a lost cause and leaned into Nick, muttering to herself about too slick, too dumb foxes as Gazelle came into the stages spot light singing.
~Can you feel the love tonight?~
~The peace the evening brings~
~The world, for once, in perfect harmony~
~With all its living things~
Judy sighed, rocking slowly as she danced with her infuriating fox. Feeling utterly content and happy being held by that snarky dumb fox. The only thing she thought that could possible make things better in that moment was if he loved her just a bit more than he did as a friend.
~So many things to tell her~ (The elk pianist took over singing.)
~But how to make her see~
~The truth about my past" Impossible?!~
~She'd turn away from me!~
Nick's arms around her squeezed almost reflexively, just for a tiny moment, pulling her closer. She bumped up fully against him, up against his toned chest and solid stomach and… Judy's eyes snapped open against that chest, her mind flashing back to thoughts about Nick's secret Foxy Lady while his body stiffened slightly in alarm before shifting just a tad so she wasn't pressed that firmly up against him.
~He's holding back, he's hiding~ (Gazelle was singing now.)
~But what, I can't decide~
~Why won't he be the king I know he is~
~The king I see inside?~
Nick, ever so cautiously, looked down at her. Then away as the inside of his ears darkened ever so slightly.
Right, like that isn't confusing! I think it's time we clear this up. Judy thought, her scowl hardening, he managed to weasel out of answering before when I was trying to be sly, so lets try blunt.
Nick looked down at her and smiled, though it was a controlled smile.
"Ya Carrots? What's-"
"Did you just 'bump' me?" Judy interrupted him, making an impossible to misunderstand glance downward before watching him closely.
Nick practically choked on what he'd been saying, a panicked expression breaking through his controlled smile.
"I- ah, nooo!" Nick blurted out sounding quite guilty.
Nick took one look at her disbelieving face, and changed his story.
"Um, maybe, unintentionally? I mean Judy- cut me some slack! I'm a tod, it's winter, I'm having getting a girlfriend issues, it happens!" Judy just watched him as he gestured with a frantic nervousness. She maintained her neutral police officer stare. He looked at her again and changed tack.
"And you know Judy, Flash was telling me about this conspiracy where all the coffee shops put something in the drinks around valentines day to, ehem, 'boost' spirits and sales of valentine gifts and I think he might be right!" Nick ending in a conspiratorial whisper that would normally be sure to get her arguing with him, all the while looking around like their might be mammals tailing them.
"Denial, change of story, distraction," Judy listed, off looking at Nick who grimaced, his ears snapping flat in alarm. "You know that's pretty much a textbook response for someone trying to hide something Nick."
"Oh My Gosh!" Nick said with a dramatic gasp pointing over her shoulder. "Judy look at Nadine and Ralph! I can't believe they are, I mean wow, In Public! And they have them on the screens too!"
"Nick," Judy said with a little bit of exasperation, "You're not going to distract me away from figuring out what your hiding, now why-"
"Judy, seriously, I mean just Wow…"
Judy sighed, then looked over at Nadine and Ralph where they were standing near them… and blushed, her jaw dropping a little as she stared at the two.
Ralph was on his toes, rubbing his muzzle along Nadine's small ears as she in turn rubbed at his neck marking him
~Can you feel the love tonight?~
~You needn't look too far~
Nadine reached down and brought up Ralph's paws and rubbed them one at a time along her cheek.
~Stealing through the night's uncertainties~
~Love is where they are~
Ralph then took her paws, rubbing his cheek along the back of each before standing up again and rubbing his muzzle along hers in a long caress.
"They're… They're actually claiming each other… in public..." Judy murmured, momentarily successfully distracted, the sight of her two friends declaring each other each other as life mates sending a slew of happy joyous feelings through her. Though... there was also a twinge of painful want at seeing what they had together, what they were committing to.
"Wow, Ralph is never going to live this down," Nick snickered, though he wasn't looking in Ralph and Nadine's direction. Judy, still a bit shocked at seeing the intimate moment for her friends, turned to see what Nick was looking at and her slack jaw turned into a full gap as she saw that one of the cameras viewing the crowd was showing a full view of the tiger and wolf as they marked each other.
Judy snapped her head back and forth between her friends just a few steps away from them and then back to the screen where their affectionate display was being broadcast live.
"Nick! Should we warn them, I mean, I don't think Nadine-"
"Shhhh!" Nick took one paw off her back and pressed a finger to her mouth shushing her before quickly looking over at the two and back at her.
"Do you want Nadine to go on a real rampage?! They're in their own little world right now, just leave them be for the moment."
"Oh… right…" Judy mumbled softly taking a look back and forth between her friends and the screen again… only then noticing the other couple caught in the corner of the cameras view as it focused on the tiger and wolf.
The other couple with the bunny snapping her head back and forth between the newly mated pair and the stage.
The bunny being held by a fox who's tail had slyly wrapped around her again…
The bunny with her back toward the camera…
The bunny with a bright pink heart shaped sticker on her back…
Everything around Judy seemed to slow until each beat of her suddenly spiking heart rate seemed to almost stop as she stared at the large video screen, her vision seeming to tunnel in on the corner. Tunnel in on that sticker on the back of the bunny's shirt right above where Nick's paw was resting.
Everything seemed to lurch.
A hundred...a thousand little memories of Nick smiling at her, of teasing her, of ruffling her fur seemed to shift, like she was seeing them in a new light.
All the small little niggling questions and inconsistencies that had been buzzing around in the back of her mind seemed to snap into place all at the same time.
Nick not only accepting her more gregarious bunny attitude toward friendship, with all her hugs and close contact, but starting to respond in kind.
Nick always accepting any chance to hang out or do something with her.
His slightly rumpled state and odd behavior as winter rolled around.
How he seemed to always want to be near her, was calmer, less frazzled around her. How he got edgy interacting with other males, other single males, around her.
Sasha pulling her aside and giving her a nervous explanation about how winter affected predators while not so subtly hinting at Nick.
Nick bristling at Clawhauser's offer to go with her today as her, 'fake boyfriend'.
His barely contained fury at Leaps in the coffee shop this morning.
Murmuring, 'My bunny saved me again," after he woke up from being tased.
His expression looking at the sticker phrases Clawhauser had picked for their passes.
His evasive, worried, answers when she'd first asked about his love interest. The small slightly hopeful smile he'd had when she'd told him that if he really loved her not to give up.
The probing questions about her love interest, his odd intensity listening to her response.
The teasing kiss to her nose at the go karts
His mortified embarrassment outside the Love boat ride.
Oh Serendipity, the Love boat ride…
The way he'd reacted to her petting his tail, him saying he was fine with her petting his tail, his tail that he was utterly obsessively proud and protective of. Nick's reaction to her panicking, smothering her protectively till she'd calmed. Nick's teasing game of 'you know you love me?' The way he'd smile and say 'Judy, You know I love you right?'
Judy's felt like her head was swimming.
How many times had he looked at her and told her that? How many times had he said he loved a 'Foxy Lady'. Not a vixen, A Foxy Lady. A petite gray furred foxy lady with long ears and a short tail.
It was so blindingly obvious in retrospect.
Mrs. Wolford's dead surety she could get her together with Nick over some 'vixen'.
Nadine telling her to stop assuming.
Skye telling her to simply watch to see who Nick spent all his time around, who he would touch or let touch him without reservation.
She'd been so focused on finding someone else, cataloging every female, and more specifically every vixen, she'd ever seen Nick with, that she'd never considered that a full accounting included her.
And all that time she'd been wishing that Nick would have take an interest in her beyond that of their friendship! Kicking herself for not having asked him out before he'd found someone else to love…
Asked him out before…
The realization was like getting punched that first time in the ZPD Academy ring.
Skye had spent so much time explaining to her that Vixen's were always the ones to ask the tod out. That tods would show their interest but they would never be the ones to ask the vixen out. Because it was their STUPID DUMB Fox custom!
Gods, and she'd waved her tail at Nick earlier and told him that if he wanted to get his girl he needed to try harder because even a bunny like her wouldn't be interested. He'd done everything but ask her out. Carrot Sticks he'd practically thrown himself on her! And here she'd been so confused over his and his body's obvious reaction to her while he seemed so steadfastly adamant that he loved his Foxy Lady!
She'd been so Stupid! A complete dumb bunny!
She was still going to kick her DUMB fox for not finding a better way to tell her!
He probably thought he'd been being Sooooo cute with the little… clues… he'd… been…
Wait a second…
'Ohhhhhh… right it's also a bunny 'hot' button!'…
'Cute! Cute! Cute! Judy. She. Is. So. CUTE. Like how cute could a cute-chuck be… Of course she's not a woodchuck! Judy. She. Is. A. Foxy. Lady… A Cuuuuutee Foxy Lady. The cutest one that ever was! Cutest Cute mammal ever! Cute CUTE CUTE cute Cute…'
And she's found his tail-wagging, gleeful-gushing to be rather… cute…
He'd hustled her good.
Cute, Nick, very 'Cute'.
She might have to give him a kiss for being so clever... but then she'd have to kill him. It was that or turn into a blushing bunny puddle.
Judy's tunnel vision on the screen, on that view of the sticker on her back that said in nice large letters 'Foxy Lady', snapped back as everything around her started moving all at once again. Her heart hammered away in her chest, the crowd moving, dancing, cheering; Gazelle singing the last refrain again with the elk, Nick blathering on about something, probably still trying to distract her from his body's far more straightforward and understandable reaction to his feelings.
~Can you feel the love tonight?~
~You needn't look too far~
~Stealing through the night's uncertainties~
~Love is where they are~
Judy looked up at Nick, her whole body flushing as a whole new world of emotions threatened to break free inside of her. A dazzling place she never knew! All her secret desires, all those thousands of little smiles he'd shown her, all those times he'd held her yet held himself back, all those fears and insecurities he'd shared with her, confided in her all the while not letting her know it was how she might react that scared him. How he was afraid of losing her. Dumb Fox. He'd been a very cute Dumb fox, in all the varied meanings of that word, bunny and otherwise.
Judy reached up with both paws and cupped Nick's muzzle as he nattered away, which had the nice benefit of silencing him, then turned his head to face her.
He had such a perplexed look on his face from her unexpected action, such a cute perplexed look that Judy couldn't help but smile. Then standing on her toes she put her lips to his and kissed him full on the mouth like she'd dreamed of doing for so long.
It wasn't that long of a kiss, it wasn't even, technically speaking, a very good kiss; his longer muzzle and her inexperience and the way he yipped in surprise as she kissed him made it a bit of an awkward kiss in all reality. But none of that mattered to Judy. To her it was the best kiss of her life. Nick might have been too startled to pay attention to how he reacted, but she wasn't. She felt how his paws instinctually held her, how his heart seemed to skip a beat and all the other little tells of his body that she now clearly saw that screamed his feelings toward her.
It might not have been a great kiss... But it was one hell of a satisfying kiss. It left Judy humming happily in her chest as she settled back on her feet with a very dazed looking fox staring at her.
"I, um, I… ah, What was… ah… that for?…" Nick stammered, apparently unaware of how his arms were pressing her to him… or how other parts of him were pressing back.
It was a very satisfying reaction to her kiss too. A very cute reaction for a very cute fox who'd been a little, just a little mind you, too cute.
"For that," Judy said point back in the direction of the screen by the stage. Nick's gaze followed, though he still seemed baffled.
"Bottom corner of the screen, you see?" Judy asked and Nick squinted for a second.
"Ya… that's, um, us…" Nick said sounding even more puzzled, probably wondering why she'd kiss him when they were being shown live on screen, even if just in the background.
"No," Judy said a grin forming. A very predatory grin. A grin that no bunny should ever have the right to grin. "Take a closer look," Judy said and Nick squinted again. "See the sticker? I'm pretty sure that's you and your Foxy Lady."
Nick's whole body jerked and he yipped again snapping his head back to face her, only for his eyes to go a wide as he now saw her grin.
"I- um, J-Judy- I c-c-can e-explain! I ah…" Nick stammered, his eyes getting a truly panicked expression.
"You don't just love me, you're in love with me." Judy stated, not asked.
Nick gulped, then looked down before barely managing to whisper.
"Good." Nick's head snapped back up, though his jaw took a second to follow and stop himself from gaping.
"You really are a dumb fox, do you know that?!" Judy said her eyes flashing, and she grabbed his tie pulling it his head down closer to hers.
"Falling in love with a dumb bunny. How many times have I told you that I love you too you dumb fox?!" Judy half shouted, and as Nick gaped, attempting to come up with an answer she kissed him again, this time far more forcefully, pushing her muzzle to his as she pulled on the tie to keep him from being able to escape. She kissed him with everything she had to drive home that point.
That kiss lasted a little bit longer than the first...
Judy had to pull back before she wanted to though, because of her shortness of breath and her racing heart, and how all her feelings were spilling over inside of her. She needed to breath or she'd pass out.
"You… you... love me…" Nick said, still a bit uncertain, sounding shocked… though that might have been because of how she'd just kissed him.
"Nick…" Judy said closing her eyes for a second and taking a few breaths. "I started loving you back during the Nighthowler debacle. I started falling in love with you not long after that."
"Even… even though I'm a fox?" Nick asked holding on to her as if worried she'd bolt now that she'd discovered that deep dark secret of his.
"Dumb fox. You're a Dumb fox. And I'm the Dumb bunny that fell in love with a dumb fox." Judy muttered then looked up at Nick as the shock and worry started finally fading to be replaced by a truly gloriously happy, tail wagging smile.
It made her heart ache, but ache in a not so bad kind of way. An ache she wouldn't mind living with for the rest of her life.
It was such a cute smile, cute in all the right ways. Cute just like her too cute fox.
"I have only one issue with you Nicholas Piberius Wilde," Judy said, forcing a stern expression back on over all her giddy happy feelings.
Nick's smile froze along with his tail as Gazelle finished and the elk at the piano took over while the song slowed to its finish.
~And, if, he falls… in love… tonight~
~It can… be… assumed…~
Judy rose up on her toes again as all the tiger dancers came chorusing back in,
~His carefree days with us are history~
But this time she didn't kiss him, she simple whispered into his ear.
"How many times did you call me cute?"
~In short,~ The elk and all the tigers finished together, ~our pal is Doomed!
Koslov, followed by what looked like the world's smallest abominable snowmammal, entered the lobby of the central log house of the small retreat complex on the mountainside, carefully brushing some snow off his shoulders.
The abominable snowmammal on the other hand, shook itself sending snow flying everywhere to reveal a rather grumpy fennec fox.
"I swear Koslov, someday… Somehow I WILL get you back for that."
There was a grunt that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.
The fennec fox kicked the bears foot, not that it seemed to have any effect.
The large polar bear though, turned and glowered at the defiant little fox. Instead of pounding him into the ground like his expression said he might, the bear smirked and put his paws up to his cheeks, did a comical little reenactment of some damsel in distress falling and screaming out in a high pitched voice.
Finnick's tan fur went pale.
"How about we never EVER speak of what happened out there again and I'll forgive my sworn terrible vengeance upon you?"
Koslov gave an amused snort but nodded his head, before turning back around.
And then jumped.
"Now where have you two been?! You were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago!"
Koslov, recovering, tried to speak.
"Um… Ma-mama, we were-"
"Don't you go trying to Ma-mama me!" Waved the not quite as large as Koslov, Mrs. Koslov as she waved what looked like a feather duster at the bear's nose. "Things are moving, And I barely managed to finish dinner what with having to run out and get the spare cabin set up. *Harrumph* And you two won't be getting a bite of it till you finish your jobs. *Harrumph* Should have expected you'd be late," the matronly older bear gave a repoving sniff. "Boys! You need a good girl to go settle you down! What were you running off doing this time anyway?" she said, crossing her arms over her apron and tapping her feather duster on her arm demandingly.
Koslov's mouth snapped shut and his face took on an obstinate, 'You'll have to torture me first to find out!' expression.
Finnick on the other hand, snickered before pointing at the bear and then making exaggerated lovey dovey kissing motions like he was making out with someone.
Koslov's white cheeks flared and his leg snapped out sending the small fennec fox fly across the room.
"Oh… now isn't that Interesting!" the older bear chortled with a deep laugh, then walked over to pluck the fox out from in between the cushions of a couch where he'd gotten stuck.
"I'll tell you what. Since my little boy is more likely to bite off his tongue than tell his mother about who he's dating, why don't you tell me all you know about it after we're done here and I'll give you some of the special Honey pie I have baking."
Koslov's adamant expression suddenly broke.
"Ma-ma! That's my pie!" he said in a deep, gravelly and almost wounded tone.
"Well you tell me about it and you'll get some too!" she replied seeming unconcered at the conflicted expression that came over the bear's face, then whispered down to Finnick who was still dangling from her paw.
"He's just like his father, bless that bear's soul. Had the heart of a teddy bear when it came to family under all that gruffy fur and a kinder sweeter mammal I'd never met. But Baloo help him, if he'd ever let anyone else know that!"
She set the fox down on the couch and brushed some dirt off his back… and also almost knocked him right off the couch and onto the floor.
"Now since you two were late you missed some last minute changes. Mostly it looks like there's a new plan for getting them here so Kevin and Raymond won't be needed. But you still have to do your part. You ready?"
"Why don't you just ask me if I could sell frozen water?" Finnick grinned toothily and pulled out his phone. "Am I ready. *huff* Seriously I was born ready. Hustle like this is easy as pie."
He tapped a number and prepared himself for his performance…
And waited so more.
"Hey, this is Nick Wilde."
"Nick, Where the hell is your ass right now?! I've got a problem-"
"But I'm apparently too busy to pick up my phone so leave a message after the beep! BEEP!"
Finnick stared at the phone for a second before hitting the end call button with a growl.
"I-swear-I'm-going-to-break-his-phone-the-next-time-I-see-him-if-he-doesn't-change-that-voicemail-message!" he muttered angrily before redialing.
He was just about to give up when the phone finally clicked.
"Nick You'd better have a DAMNED good reason for not picking-"
"Ummm… hello? Is this Finnick?" Came a voice that was distinctly not Nick Wilde's.
"Wait… Kevin?!" Finnick said in shock finally recognizing the deep voice. "What the hell are you doing with Nick's phone? You and Raymond didn't grab him did you? That wasn't the plan!"
"No, we didn't grab him," the bear said and Finnick raised a paw to his face.
"Then why do you have his phone?" he asked, trying to keep calm.
"Oh, he dropped it." Finnick breathed out about to ask why, because Nick would never just drop his phone, when unexpectedly the bear continued. "He was running from that bunny and it fell out of his pocket when he dived under some hippos. We thought we should pick it up."
"Wait… What?! Running from… what the hell is going on?" Finnick asked confused, trying to make sense of what he'd just heard.
"Don't know. It looked like they were about to kiss, then the fox bolted with the bunny chasing him... I might run if someone was chasing me like that too…"
Finnick groaned and looked at his phone for a few seconds before replying.
"Would you go get that phone back to Nick Wilde, and tell him that if he doesn't answer it a fox he knows might regret it!"
He will regret it if he messes up a hustle I'm part of! Finnick growled to himself.
"Right, hold on just a minute." There was a click and the phone cut off as Finnick stared at it.
Bogo was lost to the world as Bess kissed him… and he kissed her back and she… and then an elephant near them let out an alarmed trumpet… and Bess dropped him.
"Opps! Sorry! Are you alright?" Bess asked pulling him back to his feet and brushing of his rear, "You didn't bruise your buns now did you?" she asked with worry.
"What? No, no Bess I'm fine, now what was that?" Bogo asked shaking his head and trying to focus.
Bess didn't help by giving his rear a squeeze.
"Oh that's good to hear." She smirked then looked over, pointing to a section of crowd that seemed to be in a bit of turmoil. "Not sure what's going on but it came from over there.
Bogo looked and groaned as he saw mammals moving and shifting in alarm like grass stems left swaying in the wake of a sprinting mammal through the savanna. Two rhinos by the elephant that had trumpets let out startled chuffs before looking down at their feet and then a pack of lions let out startled noises as a few jumped in surprise as the group scattered.
"What do you think is going on?" Bess asked, watching with him as the chaos moved through the crowd in a circle, now heading back toward the reforming herd hippos.
"I'll give you one guess…" Bogo said just as a familiar fox shape scrambled up the clothing of one hippo and then started leaping from head to head like they were stepping stones.
Then a bunny bounced up from the side, flipped and used a nearby giraffe like a mid air bounce board and sent herself hurtling toward the fox.
"Judy! You said You wouldn't tell yourself about that!" Nick shouted over his shoulder as he climbed frantically.
"I didn't. I have long ears! I overheard it!" Came the shout from the ball of fluffy fury somewhere behind him as he got to the surprised hippos shoulder and then leaped over to another hippos head, then leaped again.
Well if he was a dead fox anyway…
"Then do you finally understand that I think you're CUTE!"
"NICKKKKK!" Even without Judy's radar ears he could hear the blush in her voice.
He grinned leaping again. Now that his cover was blown, calling her cute seemed to have even more of an effect on her.
Now, if he could just keep out of reach of his blushing bunny, maybe he could tire her out…
Wait… who am I kidding? This is Judy I'm thinking about.
It seemed… unlikely, that she'd tire first, he thought.
Welp, onto plan B.
"Hey Judy!" he called back, "You know I'm ears of tail in love with this absolutely Cute Foxy Lady right?"
Blush her into submission or go out with a bang.
"GET BACK HERE!" shouted his foxy lady. "YOUR TAIL IS MINE!"
Nick leapt again, turning his head to look back, only to go a little pale as he saw the blushing grey ball of fur bounce and flip off a giraffe, hurtling right at him.
He tried to twist mid jump, but Judy plowed right into his middle and they went tumbling, of course to bounce off a few mammals and go rolling away from the group like a ball sent flying in a game of Hungry Hungry hippos.
They rolled to a stop and Nick tried to scramble away, but a soft and yet very strong paw clamped on his tail and dragged him back by it.
He let out a surprised yip and turned only for Judy to land on him pinning him to the ground.
"Mercy! Mercy!" Nick shouted in a desperate attempt to save himself, or his tail at least, from his rampaging bunny. In hindsight, he maybe had called her cute just one to many times. "Mercy! I ask for Mercy from my cute bunny!"
Nick looked up at Judy sitting on his chest and could visibly watch her blush spread out from her cheeks and up her ears. He gave her his best smile.
"Um… that last bit just kind of slipped out."
And smile and pray!
"Your 'cute' bunny?!" Judy said indignantly, her chest heaving as the pink flush under her fur spread downward toward her breast.
"Ummm… from 'the' cu- ahh… caring bunny I love then?" Nick tried with a lopsidedly nervous grin.
Judy's breath seemed to catch for a second as her cheeks got a bit redder and then her paw shot down and grabbed his now rather lose tie and pulled his head up and closer to hers.
"And Why should I show you mercy?" Judy glared (blushing badly) down at him.
"Because… you love me too?" Nick smiling up at her hopefully, his tail even giving a few wags on its own.
Judy seemed to freeze and Nick had a worried moment were he thought maybe she'd just overloaded and her file had crashed. Then her eyes meet his. A lavender purple so unique he could drown looking into them. Eyes filled with life and kindness and, currently, with more than a little bit of exasperation and some, not quite in control wildness that seemed to burn like the source behind her heated blush.
"Fine…" Judy said and Nick relaxed a bit.
"If you kiss me," she added, and this time it was Nick's turn to freeze briefly.
"Come again?" Nick asked, just to make sure he'd heard her right. Judy seemed to vibrate on top of him as she gave a very cute growl. Hearing that sound come from his bunny was both terrifying and arousing.
"If you want me to be merciful, then you'd better kiss me, Nick." she said again, looking right at him, her paw almost shaking as it held his tie. "And you'd better make it good!" she added poking him in his nose with her other paw.
Nick, slowly, reached up with his own paw, but instead of brushing hers away from his nose, took her paw in his.
Nick swallowed, his heart pounding hard enough that he thought Judy could probably feel it from her seat on his chest.
"You'll… You'll forgive me, if I kiss you?" he asked slowly, looking up at Judy and was shocked to see what he thought might be tears starting to form and shimmer in the corner of those beautiful eyes.
"No!" Judy said insistently shaking her head in an almost desperate manner, her legs squeezing his sides, "If you kiss me I might forgive you of one of your cute remarks!"
This time Nick didn't grin. All the 'angry bunny' at his teasing had leaked out of Judy and she sat there now looking like a raw ball of emotions ready to pop. It reminded him of back when she'd found him under the bridge to apologized for the news conference. But he didn't hug her this time. She didn't want him to hug her this time.
He'd been worried for so long that when she found out how he'd felt towards her he might lose her. That no matter how open and caring she might be, that the idea that a fox loved her, and loved her not just in a friendly or even familial way, but loved her, was attracted to her, wanted to court her, wanted to become her mate… even now he found it hard to believe she hadn't rejected him.
He was a fox and she was a bunny…
She'd asked him to kiss her…
She hadn't run. She hadn't been revolted or angry (okay, well, not angry for any reason that mattered, cute remarks aside). She hadn't flat out rejected him, shot down his hopes, she hadn't even, as he'd worried she might, tried to gently let him down and tell him she just wanted to be his friend.
In fact Judy seemed almost… eager, relieved to find out how he secretly felt about her. If anything, there might have been a bit of anger mixed in there about not having found out earlier.
But now that she knew, she sure wasn't being subtle in her response.
Her paw in his was gripping it like she'd never let go. Shaking ever so slightly like she was afraid he might reject her now.
Dumb bunny… If she wanted him, then he was already hers.
Nick marveled at the whole situation for a moment.
It was almost too good to be true. Even in his wildest dreams he'd never imagined that she'd be so open to a relationship with him, would chase him down and demand it, demand a kiss. Even in those dreams he'd had to slowly work to bring her around to even the idea, to win her heart over all the taboos that stood between them.
He'd underestimated her again.
Now though… now he had a chance to make it up to her. He didn't have to hold back how he felt. Well, not completely anymore at least. There was no way she was ready for that kind of commitment from him yet, and anyway, unlike Ralph, he wasn't really an exabitionist, not with his most closely guarded inner feelings.
Now though… now he had a chance to start showing Judy the full extent of those feelings…
And maybe one day…
Maybe one day Judy would be ready and ask him, and he could show her all of his feelings.
Nick slowly shimmied himself partially out from under Judy and sat up, sliding her down so that she sat in his lap, her head even with his.
Then, slowly, ever so slowly… he raised his paw, touching his fingers to her cheek.
"Nick…" Judy let out in a quiet anxious tone, her cheek turning into his paw, the soft fur on her muzzle sliding through his fingers.
"Shhhh…" he hushed softly, intently, his brow furrowing just a tad as he looked at her, "Your muzzle's shorter than mine and I need to get this right."
Judy almost whined her cheek pressing harder into his paw.
Nick closed his eyes for just a second, taking in a breath, then tilted her head up a bit. Leaning forward he ever so carefully placed the tip of his nose lightly against the pink button of her own and looked her in the eyes. She stared back at him, her short quick breaths feathering against his muzzle as he let down all his guards and tried to let her see all the feelings he usually kept so carefully hidden away. Let her see in his eyes how much she meant to him, how much he cared for her, how much he felt toward her. He whispered soft enough that only a bunny would have heard.
"You know I love you, right?"
Her breath caught for a second and he saw her eyes start to water, so he gently pressed with his thumb and finger along her jaw and cheek, asking her to raise her muzzle just a little… then turned his head slightly letting his lips touch hers.
It was a tentative kiss at first. His lips just lightly brushing hers, barely a nip of a kiss, but she didn't pull away, didn't tense or become worried. Only had the slightest catch in her breathing, so he pressed forward, letting their lips touch again, letting the contact linger this time, reveling in that contact.
But it wasn't quite right, not quite perfect and Nick pulled back, not quite breaking the kiss as their muzzles skimmed over each other. He could feel his heart hammering like it might break at any second but he didn't care, only shifted his head a tad more to the side and let their hovering lip meet again just as Judy pressed her muzzle forward to his.
Their lips met, mingled, then seemed to slip together and Nick lost himself for a few moments in the wonder of that kiss. The teasing taste of her mouth against his, the way she responded to his lips on hers, how their muzzles, so different, seemed to settle into the perfect position against each other.
He'd dreamed of kissing Judy like this for so long, but this kiss didn't compare to those dreams.
It surpassed them, blew them away.
He poured his feelings into that kiss, not pressing or demanding, but asking, responding with all his heart. He didn't try to dominate her mouth, but kissed her with all the soft care he wanted to lavish on her, with all the love he felt for her.
It was a simple kiss. It was a perfect kiss. And when that kiss ended Nick thought he could die in the next instant and he'd be satisfied with life because he'd had the chance to kiss Judy just once like that.
Their breaths mingled for a second after that kiss as they sat there, Judy in his lap, their muzzles just an inch apart, breathing faster than normal. His tail was curled around them, pressing up against her puff of a tail and her paws had somehow found their way around his neck and head and were fisted in the fur at the nape of his neck.
They just sat there like that for a few seconds before he touched his nose to hers again and finally broke the silence.
"So, am I forgiven one of my cute remarks?"
Judy eyes focused on him, her chest still rising and fall more than normal.
"I'm… I'm not sure… I- I think… I think you need to kiss me again… just to be safe…"
Nick felt a small grin pull at the edge of his mouth.
"You're not trying to hustle me, are you?" he asked, not moving his nose away from hers and the tip of his tail flipped back and forth where it was snuggled around his bunny.
"And… and, what if I am?" she asked looking back at him, her fisted paws in his fur tightening ever so slightly.
Nick smiled; a smile that said he didn't care if she was hustling him and then still moving slowly, deliberately, so she had every opportunity to stop him, leaned forward and kissed her again.
It was just as amazing as the first kiss, better even, as inconceivable as that seemed. Still light and new and with so much promise as to how it might grow. And this time while he might have started the kiss, by the time it ended, Judy was the one leading.
"S-still not sure…" Judy mumbled after the kiss, breathing hard, "Kiss... me again."
He kissed her, nipping at her lip first before surrendering to the kiss, his arms pulling Judy closer even as she tugged at his neck.
They parted and Judy's breast heaving against his chest as she looked back at him.
He kissed her. But first he kissed her neck, causing her head to angle back with a small soft moan. Then he kissed slightly higher, then under her chin, kissing a light trail of kisses till her got to her mouth. She pushed forward as he kissed her back. She tilted her muzzle, and he groaned into her mouth.
She tasted sweet and perfect and like everything he ever wanted.
They broke apart and Nick stared into the face of the bunny he burst forth from fireworks around the stadium as Gazelle started singing.
~I messed up tonight~
~I lost another fight~
~Lost to myself but I'll just start again~
Judy's paws tugged at the back of his neck.
He kissed her. She leaned back, letting him press forward. He stopped, feathered her lips with light soft kisses. She groaned then pulled herself up and retaliated, kissing fast. One little peck after another, too fast for him to kiss her back. Then he caught one of her kisses and their lips played tag, light gentle kisses each one just a tad slower till they melted together and stayed their merging, melding before finally breaking apart.
~I keep falling down~
~I keep on hitting the ground~
~I always get up now to see what's next.~
"Again." Judy managed between breaths.
He kissed her, keeping his lips to hers in a long soft tender kiss. Kept that slow gentle affectionate kiss going until Judy practically melted against him, her body pressing against his front as her paws worked though the fur behind his neck as if desperate to hold him, prevent him from ever breaking that kiss.
But all things had to end eventually and so did that kiss.
~Birds don't just fly~
~They fall down and get up~
~Nobody learns without getting it wrong~
"Again." Judy said insistently.
That kiss, like all things, might have had to end... but then ends just led to new beginnings, after all.
So Nick kissed her like she'd asked. Kissed her carefully, kissed her lovingly, kissed her in a way that asked if their time just being friends was done. Kissed her silently asking if now they might try being something… something a little more. Kissed her hopefully.
And she kissed him back.
~I won't give up, no I won't give in~
~Till I reach the end~
~And then I'll start again~
Nick's smile ended up breaking that kiss. He couldn't help it. The enthusiasm with which she kissed him made him feel warm and happy to a terrifyingly giddy extent and the smile just broke out on its own, interrupting the kiss. Hell, even his tail was doing its own little happy dance though it seemed conflicted on whether it wanted to wag or wrap around Judy. In the end though it tried to do both with it circling her with the tip thumping on her leg.
~I'm not going to leave~
~I wanna try everything~
~I wanna try even though I could fail~
Judy looked up at him, a smile of her own on her face.
"Again…" she said and this time she nipped him first. Though it was like no nip he'd ever experienced from a vixen before. Maybe more of a nibble than a nip, her being a bunny and all and how she caught his lip with a tiny tug before they kissed. Nip or nibble, Nick decided as he kissed her (or she kissed him?), that first it really didn't matter what he called it, and second, that he really really liked it and third that he really really really wanted her to do it again.
~I won't give up, no I won't give in~
~Till I reach the end~
~And then I'll start again~
They pulled apart to breath and this time Nick beat Judy, putting his muzzle against hers and whispering between breaths.
Judy grinned and kissed the side of his muzzle, then let go of the back of his neck to put her paws on his cheeks and hold his muzzle still as she very deliberately kissed him.
Her kiss was as warm as the summer sun. As soft as her puff of a tail. As kind as the heart of the mammal that he'd lost his to. As insistent and sure of what it wanted as the ZPD's first bunny police officer was and more loving than he could have possibly imagined. Nick melted into that kiss, losing himself, hoping she'd keep kissing him like that forever, hoping this kiss wasn't just some dream; knowing that this kiss was too good to possibly be just some dream.
If he hadn't already been in love with Judy, he would have surely fallen for her from that kiss alone. It didn't matter to him that she wasn't a vixen, wasn't a fox, wouldn't be a traditional 'respectable' mate for him, or he for her. And it apparently didn't matter to Judy either. That kiss told him more than words possibly could that she loved him.
She, Judy Hopps, loved him… and he'd give her the world if he could.
And if he couldn't… well then, he'd just have to settle for loving her as much as a fox possible could.
~No I won't leave~
~I wanna try everything~
~I wanna try even though I could fail~
Nick whined as the kiss ended, but Judy just looked up at him with a smile so happy that she was starting to tear up.
"Again?" she asked, and Nick practically dove at her, kissing her, covering her muzzle in kisses.
Judy giggled as he kissed her relentlessly, her paws traveling up to grab hold of him right behind his ears before scratching lightly.
Nick stiffened, then went limp with a whimper against Judy as the feeling of her tiny claws scratching through his fur sent waves of happy pleasure through him. And it was only when he was completely defenseless like that that his sly bunny attacked, kissing first his ears, then his brow, then his nose. He whimpered again and tried to turn to kiss her back but she just kissed his chin and then the side of his muzzle
~Oh oh oh oh oh- ~
~Oh oh oh oh oh-~
~Oh oh oh oh oh~
~Oh oh oh oh oh- ~
It was only after he whimpered a third time, trying desperately to kiss her back that she relented and let him kiss her.
And oh oh oh oh oh what a wonderful kiss it was. It was like drinking pure ecstasy and joy and his chest starting to vibrate with a deep happy rumble as they kissed. It was his new goal in life, Nick decided during that kiss, that he'd kiss her more than any mammal had ever been kissed before or ever would be kissed again. So he kissed her as Judy's small paws latched onto his ears, using them to pull him further into that kiss while one of his paws cupped her longer ears to the back of her head cradling her in that kiss while his other moved down cupping her tail, supporting her as her legs squeezed around him while they kissed and kissed and kissed.
And when they could kiss no more they pulled back and Nick kissed her nose and then Judy kissed his.
"I wish we'd figured this out sooner," Nick said giddily before stealing a quick kiss.
"Me too," Judy replied and stole that kiss back. "But at least we do now."
Nick didn't think it was possible to be happier than he was at that moment in time.
~Look how far you've come~
~You filled your heart with love~
~Baby you've done enough take a deep breath~
~Don't beat yourself up~
~Don't need to run so fast~
~Sometimes we come last but we did our best~
Judy looked at him, happier than she thought she'd ever seen him while the tip of his tail wrapped back around her leg and started thumping again. Both asked at the same time.
They grinned at each other and then Judy pulled his head down into a kiss as he held her tight.
~I won't give up, no I won't give in~
~Till I reach the end~
~And then I'll start again~
It was another soft slow sweet kiss. But that kiss lead to another… and another… and with each kiss they explored just a little more, kept kissing until-
The loud cough broke through to Nick's rather preoccupied mind, and made Judy jump in his lap with a loud Meep!
It was a very disgruntled fox clutching his bunny protectively that turned to snap at whoever had interrupted them… and looked up… and then up some more before seeing the face of two all too familiar polar bears.
"Come on, we need to get closer and find out what's happening!" Bess insisted with the same determined excited desperation Bogo usually heard from Clawhauser saying he needed to check on the midmorning police office donut delivery. "They looked just about ready to break before and any female would recognize the tone that bunny was using! Your fox is in soooooo much trouble!" Bess nearly squealed.
"Dear…" Bogo replied calmly-
Calm… stay calm… it's just Wilde and Hopps being… Wildehoppsish… Bogo thought to himself with effort, then groaned, Calm Calm Calmmm
"We can't get too close to them or they'll recognize us."
Bogo mentally nodded to himself. He'd never admit it to anyone or even himself but he was afraid of what they might find after seeing that bunny tackle Wilde mid jump. Bunnies weren't supposed to do things like that! It… it just wasn't normal! But then again when were those two ever 'normal'?
Doomed… the last word of the previous song rang through Bogo's mind like a gong foretelling disaster.
"Right, you're right, they would recognize us if we got that close…" Bess said biting her lip in a way that momentarily distracted Bogo from his brooding thoughts. It was a very cute lip chewing pout he thought…
"Okay, lift me up then," Bess sai,d snapping Bogo out of his thoughts about Bess's lip.
"Lift me up like you're trying to give me a better view of the stage!" Bess grinned and Bogo sighed knowing he'd just cave to her if he tried resisting.
He wrapped his arms around her hips under her but careful not to let his hoofs wander (Okay not wander that much) and without apparent effort hoisted his giggling wife up.
There were a few more moments of giggling and a light swat from Bess's tail before she stopped, her hoofs going to her mouth, before she let out a muffled fangirl squeal that seemed to vibrate against his chest.
"Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! Honey, you have to see this!" Bess said, squirming so much that she almost slipped out of his grip.
He set her down as she continued to let out stifled delighted noises and pranced on her hoofs, still seeming to vibrate.
Bess then gave another startled giggly squeak and reached for her pocket, pulling out her phone, which Bogo now saw was vibrating.
"Yes? Yes?" She said hurriedly into her phone, grinning girlishly just like the first time he'd mustered up the courage to ask her out.
"YES! I know I just saw! Here let me put you on speaker so Mason can hear too!"
She pulled the phone away from her ear, clicking a button as she, still prancing in place, practically threw herself on him in a hug and kissed his cheek.
"Chief! Chief! Did you see?! *SQUEALLLLLLLLLLL* it worked! It actually worked!I" Clawhauser's voice squealed through the phone tinnily.
Bogo, off balanced by the sudden attack of giddy Bess, snorted once, his tail giving a flick all on its own, and tried to focus on whatever Clawhauser was talking about.
"Clawhauser, What worked?" He said with another snort of air to clear his mind.
Bogo thought it was a damned good thing Bess didn't work every day with him like some mated pairs did. It was all well and good for some mammals like many wolves to work alongside their mates since they could operate effectively and keep their mind on the job while together, and being apart from their mates could end up being more of a hindrance to their attention and performance than when they were together. But he simply didn't know how they did it. He would simply never be able to focus properly on his work if Bess was around him all day long.
Bess certainly didn't help him keep his mind focused on talking to Clawhauser with the way she was grinning and gave him a surprise little peck on the lips.
"Chief! They're kissing!"
Bogo frowned as Bess grinned with a smile that lit up her face and kissed him cheek again.
"Um, what? Yes, Clawhauser I know I'm kissing Bess!" Bogo said in a distracted grumbly manner at the over excitable cheetah calling just to tell him what he well knew what was going on.
"No Chief! I saw that on the big screens! I don't mean you! I mean THE plan worked! Didn't you see the shot of them they just had on the screen? They're kissing!"
Bess gave another excited giggle next to his cheek.
"Well of course they're kissing," Bogo huffed distractedly, "They just marked each other! Of course… wait- you mean Wilde and Hopps are kissing?!" Bogo blurted out, his brain finally catching up to the what the cheetah had been saying as he snatched the phone out of Bess's hoof and stared at it.
"Hey Careful! Don't go breaking my phone too!" Bess said in a reproving voice, though her giggly smile lessened the effect of it somewhat.
Bogo's hoof clutching her phone stopped, as he very carefully made sure not to squeeze it like he wanted to squeeze the answer he wanted out of it.
"Yes! O M G! *SQUEALLLLL* Chief you should see them, they look Soooo CUTE!"
"Clawhauser!" Bogo said brow furrowing, he need to make sure what he was hearing was right, he needed confirmation. Then he could call off everything else, pat himself on the back for a mission well done and go back to letting Bess be as distracting as she wanted to be.
"When? Where? What Happened?! We just saw Wilde running from Hopps a minute ago! Are you sure they're kissing now?!" he asked speaking hurriedly into the phone, though he kept his voice low as if afraid he was going to jinx himself.
"Oh that's just adoooOOOOOOoooorable!" Clawhauser squealed and Bess giggled next to him whispering into his ear.
"He's right honey! They're kissing, that or they're eating each others faces!" and then she squealed too.
Right, as cute as he found Bess's squeal, Bogo couldn't help think that there was just a bit too much squealing going on, even for a squeal inducing Gazelle concert. It was disorienting.
"CLAWHAUSER! Focus!" Bogo ground out rubbing at his temple while his cheeks heated a bit from Bess's commentary.
Don't care, Don't care, Doom't care, Doomed care…
"Right. Don't worry Chief! We got one of the camera crews on them so you can watch the whole reply later!" Bess squealed at that and he just groaned more. "Oh My Goodness, they look so happy! I mean Chief, I couldn't believe it! They were sort of just dancing to gazelle's duo with Elkton John and wasn't that amazing chief? I mean I didn't think that song could get any better, but, then again they never had the angel with horns sing it before!"
*Groan* Don't care, I'm happy because of Gazelle singing a special duo, Don't care, Don't care…
"And then something happened and Judy grabbed Nick and kissed him out of the blue! Then he bolted!"
"Wait…" Bogo stopped his mental mantra, frowning at the phone, "Wilde ran because she kissed him?"
"Well… she whispered something to him right after when he looked like a deer caught in a spotlight… but ya, then Nick bolted and Judy tackled him and then he kissed her!"
"Hold on…" Bogo said trying to mentally reconstruct what had happened, "Don't you mean she tackled the fox and then kissed him?" he asked because the scenario seemed to simply not make sense to him. Why would Wilde run then kiss her?!
"Nope! *SQUEEEAL*" Bogo was going to have to do something about the squealing before he went deaf, "She tackled him and said something and then Nick kissed Judy! After that it was game over because they just started kissing each other like crazy!"
Makes no sense… makes no sense…doomed.
Bogo groaned looking up to the sky for help as he rubbed his temple only to see his personal idol singing her most popular piece.
~I won't give up, no I won't give in~
~Till I reach the end~
Right. It might not make sense, Hell most of what those two did never seemed to make sense but it seemed to always work out. And he'd accomplished his goal. Made it to the end of his mission and now he could relax and simply enjoy the remainder of the night with Bess.
Thank goodness he had his idol to guide him whenever he was in doubt.
"Whatever, I don't care," Bogo said coming to his decision. "My job is done. Clawhauser call off Plan J. we got what we wanted so now let's just enjoy the rest of the concert before we all head home."
There was a pause.
Bogo groaned. What could it possibly be now?
"It… ah… might be a little, just a little mind you… um… too late for that…"
Bogo dropped his head onto Bess's shoulder and groaned a final time.
~I'll keep on making those new mistakes~
~I'll keep on making them every day~
For all the world had changed, for all that mammals had evolved and grown and become civilized, Nadine couldn't help but think somewhere deep in the back of her mind while running her muzzle through Ralph's fur, that it still seemed like some of the most important moments in mammals lives were ruled more by their instincts than by rational thought.
In that moment of time during the trials at the police academy when she'd had to dig deep and act on pure unthinking resolve to make it through…
During a shootout on a raid when a split seconds reaction had her covering Ralph so her heavier body armor would take a round that could have killed him…
Now, as she marked her mate, claiming him as the one she'd spend the rest of her life with…
There was obviously no other reason for what she was currently doing.
Sure, they might have talked, briefly, but none of that mattered right now. None of that had any bearing on her actions as she marked Ralph.
She was operation on pure instinct. On overwhelming need and emotion and love and longing and desire. On that part of her, deep down that growled in satisfaction as she claimed him as hers, and purred when she thought about his mark telling all others she was taken.
There was absolutely no thought anywhere else in that mess of feelings despite whatever her civilized self might say.
Nadine knew as she marked her wolf, that if he'd found out earlier about his mark, confronted her earlier about it, that they would have ended up right here anyway. She could hide from that all she wanted but when it came down to the moment of truth, her rational mind and all its reasons why this might not be the smartest move fell to the wayside and instinct took over.
Not that her rational thinking self seemed to have any objection at the moment either, that traitorous supposedly sane part of her!
Nadine had started with his head, rubbing along his muzzle, pressing her cheek and chin deep into his fur, driving her scent as far into him as she could. Then she marked his other side making sure to run right over his nose. Ralph had returned that little favor after he'd thoroughly marked her neck and it was like an explosion of wolf, her wolf, that lit up her senses like a fireworks explosion.
The scent of wolf crashed down on her like a descending tsunami. Her nose was filled with his smell, drowning in wolf, her wolf, as it seared its way through her olfactory sense and right into her mind.
Ralph… all she could smell in that moment was Ralph… pure undiluted Ralph… her Ralph… her wolf… Her whole world seemed to be filled with only… Ralph.
It rolled through her, starting from where he'd marked her nose and burning its way to the end of every limb in a liquid fire that made her mewl against him and redouble her efforts to drive her scent forever into him, down to the very fabric of his being.
It was a wonder she hadn't blinded him with her fangs the way she'd frantically rubbed her jaw along his face working up to his ears, though after she was through rubbing the inside and outside of them with her chin he'd probably end up hearing her scent for a week. That was if he could hear anything after the way her traitorous body had started purring.
There was some part of her that was indignant at the way she responded to his claim, at just how easily she was rolling over for this wolf. It screamed that she was an independent tiger, that no one owned her! And it was utterly completely useless because she wanted to be his more than she wanted to be her own…
Finished with his head, Nadine move down to his neck, working each side down to his shoulder, stretching the fabric of his shirt as she tried to reach every part of him she could without reaching up and using her claws to rip the impeding fabric away from her wolf… her mate…
If she was indignant over his claim on her, at least she could sooth that part of herself with the knowledge that she'd given that away in exchange for him. Ralph was hers now. Completely absolutely hers.
That knowledge utterly crushed any and all opposition.
Nadine's paw had moved up gripping his shirt collar covering his shoulder as her head worked but she had just enough control left in her to prevent herself from opening her claws all the way and ripping his clothing off. That, she promised herself, would come shortly, come soon. Come after they were away somewhere, just with him and her and then she'd mark the rest of him hidden being that irritating fabric. She would cover him in her scent, from head to toe and the tip of his tail. She'd force her scent so deep into him that it would be impossible for him to ever completely lose it. And then she'd do it again, and again; do it every day in case it ever fade even the slightest bit.
He was hers…
The future father to her cubs…
Her partner for life…
Finished with his neck and shoulders, Nadine took a moment to bask in the purely primal pleasure of the moment as Ralph worked on the top of her head and her round ears, paying special attention to the white splotches on the back. She could feel his chest rumbling with a possessive growl as he did so and it made her purr deepen in her chest, but that wasn't enough. She pressed up against him, running her head up under his chin, encouraging him, reveling in the contact as she arched her head under his muzzle before turning and doing it again, rubbing as much of herself as she could against him while still clothed.
She was his mate… a wolf's mate…
The future mother of his pups… (maybe… someday…)
His for life…
She knew that as much as she knew the sun would rise in the morning and set at night. She knew it in her mind and in her heart and because she'd chosen it and because her instincts told her so.
Ha! She was a tiger and her instincts were telling her this wolf was her mate?!
She was pretty sure her felines instincts weren't supposed to be in favor of this! If anything, it should be driving her away from him, making her feel conflicted for her feelings toward him, not egging her on enthusiastically!
Her instincts must be broken.
Her wolf had broken them, stupid bad wolf…
She'd nip him for that, she decided… after she was done rubbing and purring against him…
Stupid lovable wolf…
Then again, maybe… maybe mammal's instincts had changed from their savage root, been domesticated over the ages by civilization, changed and adapted to fit this strange new wonderful world.
Nadine closed her eyes for a second, savoring the feel of Ralph nuzzling her head as she arched up under his muzzle again.
She could get used to this new world with broken instincts or whatever it was.
It was certainly better than the dark ages where it was every mammal for themselves, predator and prey and heartless competition for survival. She'd was pretty sure Judy would agree with her too (though she needed to get off her tail and do something about that fox mooning over her.). This though… this…
...was definitely better. Of that Nadine was certain, because in that old world she probably wouldn't have ended up with Ralph, and there was no way in any world that she could possibly have a better mate; be happier than she was with any other mate.
It was a rash stupid ill thought out choice.
It was a choice that made her happy.
Maybe part of it was her heat right now, maybe part of it was all her repressed desires she'd had for him, maybe all that made it seem this impossibly wonderful. Nadine couldn't deny that there weren't still some niggling worries that they were moving too fast, that they shouldn't be deciding so quick… but those worries got quashed by the upwelling emotion and love she had for Ralph that was finally running rampant and free.
Nadine knew… knew, that this was the right choice. That he was the right choice. She didn't know how she knew it, only that she did.
Maybe it was because he loved her?
And because she… (Damnit, she could, would say it now, without turning into a mess! Well, think it at least)
She loved him.
Maybe that was why.
Regardless of all the other factors, that… love, was an underlying certainty, and hasty or not they'd already jumped, and jumped together. And she would tell him how she felt without crying all over him! Next time…
She might need some practice…
But that was okay, she'd get plenty of time to practice.
There was no going back now.
She didn't want to go back.
She wasn't one to look back anyway…
It was too late. She'd made her choice and that choice was Ralph. And since she'd made that choice she'd pursue it without reservation. She'd tell him she loved him and if she was going to be a wolf's mate then he'd be the happiest damn wolf there was...
She was already sure he was going to make her the happiest tiger that ever was or would be too.
The need, the drive was overwhelming, and Nadine found that she couldn't simply stand there letting Ralph nuzzle and mark her without responding, and even arching, rubbing her body against him wasn't enough.
She marked his muzzle again and then unsatisfied with her inability to make her mark there any stronger than it already was reached down and grabbed his paws.
She brought them up and rubbed them under her chin and along her cheek.
First the back of his paw and forearm, then the pad of his paw and in between each digit and claw.
She chuffed with satisfaction as she finished.
He wouldn't be able to so much as touch another mammal without her scent traveling along with his.
Let that stand as a warning to any other female that might have ideas about taking her wolf.
But Ralph didn't let go of her paws as she finished her task. No, he held on and then slowly brought her paws to his cheek before taking exquisite care to mark every part of them with a determined thoroughness. He couldn't have marked her more if he'd dunked her paws in a vat of his scent.
Nadine's purr caught in her chest as she watched him, understanding that this is how he planned to treat her, care for her, that as her mate he was going to try smothering her with love and tender kindness until she melted from the inside out basking in his loving ministrations.
It was an evil devious plan…
And it was working.
Working all too well already…
She couldn't let that stand.
Nadine let him finish but as soon as he had, she retaliated. Moving forward, she let out the purr that had been building in her chest in full force as she rubbed up against him; running her head along his shirt covered chest, then through his ruff up along his neck under his chin before nipping his ear. Telling him quite clearly that she wouldn't simply stand there and let him pamper her (well not always…) and that if he tried he'd better expect her to counter in kind… well… maybe a bit more in her own way. She had more of a mind for playful little games than simple pampering.
She was a feline after all, so he'd better get used to the idea of her pouncing on him.
Ralph, that sneaky wolf though made his position on that matter clear when, in a move that startled and pleased her on a deep visceral level, he surprised her by giving her chin a lick.
Her purr stopped, then redouble as she stared back at him with a heated gaze.
Ralph grinned goofily and wagged his tail.
Nadine chuffed then nearly pounced on his tail, snatching it with one paw as she pressed against him leaning over to the side as she brought his trapped wiggling fluffy appendage up so that she could mark that too, and damned if anyone saw her do it! That was her tail on her wolf and he'd just better get used to it!
Nadine didn't realize she'd raise her own tail snapping it back and forth in her excitement as she leaned to his side marking that fluffy gray wolf's tail until that devilish wolf nipped her tail then marked it as well!
The tender bite sent little electric shocks of pure heat right up her tail to explode inside of her belly and she had to stop herself from roaring and turning to pouncing on her mate and drag him to the ground right there and then.
"Ralph… Not here!" Nadine nearly begged looking up at him as she held onto his shoulders for support, her legs suddenly feeling a bit wobbly under her effort to restrain herself.
Ralph though, Rajah curse him, only looking very pleased with himself, then kissed her nose which nearly sent her over the edge. He apparently saw her reaction to that kiss or sensed the impending danger because his eyes widened just a tad and he took a step back with a sheepish apologetic grin.
The space was just enough and just in time to prevent her from doing something she'd seriously regret doing (in public…) to her wolf, though her arms on holding onto him refused to let him get any further away from her than the short step had taken him.
They simply stared at each other for a few moments after their frenzied marking, Ralph looking… well like an utter happy Ralph and her panting more than a little and trying to recover some of her composure.
She took in a few calming breaths then looked up at her new mate.
Oh gods! And what the hell am I supposed to say to Ralph now after that?!
Hey Ralph, It's been a one hell of a crazy day, huh? You want to go find a pub and grab a drink (or two… or three…)?
Sooo… now that we're mates and stuck together for life… which side of the stadium are we going to be sitting on for the Prowler verse Pack game? The canine side or the feline side?
Can we please please Please go rut now?
There isn't paperwork involved in this joining your pack is there? Please tell me there's no forms or anything because I hate paperwork!
"I love you."
Ralph's words broke through her thoughts and Nadine groaned leaning her head against his chest.
Damnit! Most of the time Ralph can ramble on, but then he goes and pulls something perfect out of thin air like that! Why is he so consistently unexpectedly perfect?! That's not fair!
"I love you too." She muttered back, not able to look at him directly as her blush worsened. Her paws twitched, clutched at him, her claws extending a bit before she asked almost pleadingly. "How much longer until we can leave and go home?"
Nadine's heart thumped hard, nearly jumping out of her chest as she said that.
There was an implied 'together' in that sentence. An unstated 'go home together'. There was no more her going home, or him dropping her off. It was now a 'them' and 'us' and 'we' and home now had an inherent quality of theirs. Without Ralph there, her apartment would no longer seem like 'home'. Home was now where ever they were.
Nadine was unprepared for how much that little shift in how she spoke would affect her. It made her heart ache with sort of need to be with her mate that was terrifying in its depth for something so new.
Ralph wrapped his arms around her waist scooting closer and Nadine groaned, feeling warm all over from the presence of her mate, like he'd wrapped her up in a blanket even though she was the larger of the two of them.
"As soon as the concerts over," Ralph murmured softly as she, unable to stop herself, leaned down nuzzling against his neck, "Wilde and Hopps should be done with their mission by then and we can go home."
Nadine stopped nuzzling for a second as the way Ralph said home, as it made her heart ache even more than before. Nadine closed her eyes again and leaned into her mate.
That was going to take some getting used to.
She sighed, whether in contentment or resignation, she wasn't sure.
"I can't believe what's happened today…" Nadine mumbled. "And on top of it all, it seems like their super secret mission today might have been a bust. I just hope we didn't end up messing it up for them." Nadine cringed a bit, thinking of the little fiasco in food court. The Chief was not going to be happy if they had messed up their mission, good intentions or not.
Ralph seemed to sense her thoughts because he hugged her tight.
"Given their history, it would take more than us to keep trouble away from them," Ralph said reassuringly, "We aren't even filled in on the details, so they might have actually already done what they came her to do." Ralph turned his head and gave her a small kiss which made her tail snap happily. "Anyway all we need to do is keep an eye on them and make sure…" Ralph trailed off, his face going a bit pale as he looked over her shoulder.
Nadine frowned, feeling the sudden spike of tension that stiffened Ralph and turned to see what he was looking at.
Then she stiffened too, alarm and adrenaline clearing her mind of all thoughts of being newly mated and how quickly she could get her mate into bed with her.
"Crap! Those are the two bears we saw watching them in the coffee shop this morning!" Nadine whispered as if afraid the two bears standing over Judy and Nick might over hear them in the loud concert. And why was Judy sitting in Nick's lap like that anyway? "How the hell did we miss them approaching?!"
Oh right, because she'd been too absorbed with talking to Ralph, and crying on Ralph, and almost jumping Ralph, and final admitting that she loved Ralph, oh and marking her claim on Ralph too. Couldn't forget that little development now could she.
She was going to have to get a handle on her partner now also being her mate real damned quick or the Chief was going to split them up faster than Clawhauser eating a donut. Maybe he'd give them a break since she'd only had about um… well about a minute's practice being mated. That and technically they weren't on duty right now either. She was going to have to make sure she didn't let that world shaking life altering change in her life interfere with their team work or distract her, because she was not losing Ralph as her partner!
"Okay, let's not be hasty. Remember we're here just in case things go sideways." Ralph whispered back, all hints of the goofy wolf gone, replaced by the serious on the job ZPD police officer that had gotten him assigned to so many difficult cases.
"Right, let's not make it obvious we're watching them," Nadine said, turning her head back around and leaning down to nuzzle Ralph's neck again though it lacked the previous sensual draw it had a moment before. "We're just two innocent mammals in love, necking at a valentine's day concert, while you still got eyes on them?"
Ralph gave a half amused chuckle and started laying a line of kisses along the stripes of her fur at the crook of her neck and shoulder.
"Yep, I got eyes on them. Those are definitely the polar bears from this morning. Can't hear what their saying but this looks like mob all over." He added a small nip in with the kisses and even as focused on the situation as Nadine was, she could feel her body respond with a wet heat that made her flush.
"Do you have any idea what their doing? If they try grabbing them…" Nadine shook her head worriedly just a bit. "That wouldn't be good in here, to many bystanders might get hurt and the dark and noise would work toward their advantage."
Ralph kissed his way up to her ear then nuzzled that for a moment, using that as cover to whisper back to her.
"I'm not sure. This has more of a look of a message, maybe a warning, than a snatch. If they try and 'invite' them to a meeting with a mob boss though…" Nadine could feel Ralph tense, "Things could get ugly fast. Nick and Judy aren't in exactly the best spot to evade or fight back. And what the hell are they doing sitting on the floor like that too? This is a dance not a kumbaya pow-wow."
That was a good question Nadine thought, a small smirk forming on her muzzle.
"Maybe they were just trying to keep their cover and 'pretending' to be two love sick idiots like we are." Nadine responded and nuzzled Ralph's cheek.
"Right…" Ralph said a touch of amused sarcasm touching his voice. "That would be mighty hard for those two to do. And didn't they already pull that 'fake' in love act with the wedding house debacle?"
"Hey it worked once for them with a mob case, no reason it shouldn't work again." Nadine responded, hiding her grin in Ralph's shoulder.
And maybe just maybe it'll stick this time if they were pulling that act again, Nadine thought to herself and even crossed her fingers behind Ralph. Other cops might start ripping out their fur if the betting pool on those two went bust again.
But she could worry about the precincts betting pool another time, right now they had a job to do.
"What else can you make out from here?" Nadine asked with a kiss to Ralph's ear thinking that pulling off a 'fake' lovers act as cover was way way to easy. Infact, she'd need to be careful not to take it too far.
"Not much. It looks serious though, Nick's ears are pinned all the way back, wait! Uh-oh…" Ralph stopped nuzzling her for a second, "One of the bears just pulled out a phone, Nick's talking on it… whoa his tail just puffed out! Nadine-"
Ralph didn't need to say more. If Wilde's was shocked like that it didn't bode well. They needed to be ready to move.
"Move on your call. You go long, I go close?" Nadine asked in a quiet tense whisper.
Ralph nodded, then pulled his head away from her ear and kissed her. He kept his eyes just barely open and looking just past her, but his kiss was still more than enjoyable and it took all Nadine's discipline to keep her mind on what they were doing and not on kissing her mate.
Their muzzles locked in a deep kiss for anyone else to see and she pulled him closer using the motion to sneak a paw under his shirt and snag his pair of cuffs while Ralph's paws worked down along her back to her butt. One paw not so subtly copping a feel as it caressed the curve of her rear while the other slid past the base of her tail dipping inside her jeans, the feel of his claws running through her fur enough to make her gasp into the kiss and jerk her hips involuntarily against his.
Ralph grinned into the kiss, then whispered.
"Got your gun."
CHAPTER 15 - It's A Trap!
'Springing the Trap!'
Operations Clock: 7.5 hours
*snicker* Seriously you didn't see that coming?
Well, to be honest neither did I .…
but it turns out that there's a limit to chapter sizes that can be posted in Ao3 and the complete chapter kind of um… would break it…(Don't think i could break Ao3? Well... I managed to crash my google docs while transferring big edited sections of this: Grinch 1, Google 0!) so ya… This time it's legitimately not my fault! Hooray! And I now have a convenient excuse to give you all another countdown to groan and moan over! Even Bigger Hooray! Reset the countdown timer! Reset the timer!
Wait, you say?
They already kissed, you say?
Please, that's just the tip of the iceberg *snicker*
Secret Squirrel Division Report:
Cimar of Turalis WildeHopps - The squirrels are now terrified of this beta reading editing typo demolishing monster. They had no idea what they awoke when the snuck into his house and slipped in bits of the chapter into his workload to review! He's crazy (awesome) and insatiable (Seriously?! this chapter took me months to write and I Reviewed it and edited it and then he came in and started throwing out typos left and right and dear god what hath you wrought!? *squirrels now searching desperately to find new fluff filled works to appease Cimar* Also seriously? You slipped in an aladdin quote? *snicker* kodos
Irual - squirrels report additional typos annihilated by irual, as well as tactful suggestions and questions during beta reading. Note: Secret Squirrel Division mammals may need counseling to deal with witnessing the the downfall and future extinction of typos, brought on by beta readers/editors.
Fox in the Hen House - The Squirrels apparently didn't even both to sneak in to his house and steal stuff, they just knocked on his door and asked for advice when they needed it.
MinscLovesBoo - *special note added by the Squirrel Inspector General* It has come to our attention that a certain renown author *Cough* Boo *cough* may have subverted some of our secret squirrel division. He is apparently secretly feeding them and challenging them to slip in awesome little hilarious quotes of his devising into this story!
eng050599 - Squirrels successfully infiltrated Eng's home pretending to be another actual real life scientist (apparently a lab coat and mustache-glasses disguises do work) and got him to review certain alterations to underpinning scientific aspects of evolution to ensure that the skewed evolution track presented in this world is, plausibly (take with a BIG grain of salt), workable with known science. Or at least not complete junk. Meh. it works, so says the real scientist. Also they stole some of his original story ideas (*cough* Honeywells *cough*) for use here.
We shall defend our Fluffdom, whatever the cost may be! We shall see them kiss on the beaches, we shall see them snog on savannah's grounds, we shall see them Boop noses in the fields and in the streets; They shall kiss from Zootopia's Skyscrapers to Tundra's snowy Peaks! We shall never surrender The Fluff!
-Quote by his grinchness Fluftston Churchill to the House of Common Fanfic Writers