Come, friends, and let us read way too much into a 20 second excerpt of a Disney movie about talking animals.
Let us be honest though, Is it REALLY too much?
No, no it is not.
One-shot (possibly more?) delving into the final moment that well and truly launched the good ship WildeHopps.
This is my first submission ever, so any comments, reviews, PMs, and chocolates are all welcome. Chocolates are especially welcome. I prefer dark, but I'm not too picky; if you bring chocolate, I will be your friend.
update: cover art added, with permission of the artist, Imanika, who can be found on Deviantart. Big shout out to her for letting me use her wonderful work!
You Know You Love Me
"So are all rabbits bad drivers, or is it just you?" Nick teased, waving his pawpsicle around and casting a sly glance at the bunny on his left, her smile faltering and one eyebrow tilting up, betraying her annoyance at the jibe. All morning Judy had been driving well below the speed limit, much to the chagrin of both the fox and several impatient drivers behind them.
Nick grinned inwardly, seeing her starting to get riled up, and went to give his pawpsicle a lick while thinking up another quip to make at his partner's expense – something about how they would never catch a street racer while she was driving like she was still behind the wheel of her three-wheeled joke mobile – when there was a screech of tires and he was suddenly flung forwards, his face connecting with the frozen treat in his paw.
"Oops, sorry…" came a sweet but completely unapologetic voice to his left. And was that a hint of smugness he detected as well? Staring ahead, pawpsicle glued over his eye like a diabetic pirate's eyepatch, they both knew she had one-upped him. He couldn't help but feel a tinge of pride at his partner's quick wit and cool nerves – qualities that only seemed to have blossomed the more time she had spent around the ex-hustler. She had learned from the best, and it was becoming harder and harder to get to her.
"Heh heh, sly bunny!" he quipped while carefully extracting the frozen treat from his face.
"Dumb Fox!" came the expected reply, causing him to grin.
He wasn't about to admit defeat though, a wicked thought entering his mind as he leaned in and in a sultry voice murmured across to her, "You know you love me."
The doe's brow knit together in consternation, but there was something unreadable in her expression as she tilted her head to the side and, in a thoughtful tone, asked the universe, "Do I know that?"
An unexpected and frightening pang of uncertainty hit the fox, his eyebrows shooting up and his smile faltering as she seemed to take an age to contemplate her own question. He had hoped to get an emotional response out of the bunny, but once again she had turned the tables on him, perhaps without even intending to.
'She DOES love me... Right?' came an uncharacteristically naive voice from somewhere in the back of his mind. He suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable, but before he could put his walls back up and lock down the offending part of his psyche that let slip such a compromising question, she leaned in close and whispered her response.
"Yes, yes I do."
The half-built walls came crashing down once more, and a flood of relief and indescribable warmth hit him, amplified and reflected back in the pools of violet light that were gazing tenderly into his eyes. He felt drawn into Judy's gaze and instinctively leaned closer to her, a genuine unguarded smile on his face as he took in the sight of his partner; his best friend who had thrust herself into his life just a few months ago and turned his whole world upside down, brought down all his walls and made him realize that he could be more than just a fox. And here he was, his first day on the job as an officer of the law, and he had her to thank for everything.
The gaze lingered between the two of them a little longer than intended, not that Nick minded. He couldn't get enough of looking at her - how innocent, cute, determined and resourceful she was. 'And beautiful.' He inwardly winced as he fended off that thought. 'Not appropriate. We are friends. Great friends. BEST friends.'
He wasn't sure who broke eye-contact first, but he found himself letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding as he turned to face forward once more, unaware of the dopey grin on his face as he continued to ruminate on his thoughts. It did not help that a pleasingly sweet and suspiciously rabbit-like aroma had started to permeate the car, and as he breathed in the intoxicating scent, it quickly acted on him by pushing more images of the petite lapine into his mind.
'Ok, yes she is beautiful.' He inwardly admitted, currently unaware of the influence being exerted on him, 'But she's also a bunny. A beautiful bunny. I mean, not that it has anything to do with her species. She's a beautiful mammal. Maybe the most beautiful mammal I have ever…'
Nick's mind went blank as his heart nearly jumped straight out of his chest, through the windshield and right across the road. His pulse already racing to catch up with the metallic blur which had shot across their path, the fox turned to look at his partner with a knowing grin and flicked open his sunglasses before placing them on his snout. They had found their street racer.
Judy had been looking forward to today for months. Ever since Nick had been accepted into the academy she had been dreaming about what their days would be like once he graduated. The cases they would solve, the criminals they would catch, and even how they might while away the hours on long uneventful patrols. Though usually quite innocent, her imagination would occasionally run a little wild with that last one, leaving her blushing and reminding herself that they were just friends.
Well, not just friends. The camaraderie between the two had only grown since the Nighthowler incident and she hadn't been the least bit shy about declaring him to be her "Best friend in all of Zootopia and the Tri-burrows!" to a crowded bar, though the carrot colada she had been drinking at the time certainly helped. He had rather coyly replied that she was "definitely his best friend in the burrows, at least." Despite the tease, the warmth in his eyes had told her that he did feel the same way. He had even given her a hug. Freely. Of his own will and everything. And she hadn't stepped on his tail this time! No, they were not just friends. They were best friends.
If that was not proof enough of their friendship, they had spent nearly every single one of her off-duty hours together prepping him for the academy. She had even convinced the chief to allow Nick to join her on a few ride-alongs, ostensibly to give him a taste of the job, but also because she could not shake the sense of emptiness his absence gave her, even while partnered with other officers. For his part, Nick never complained or gave the impression there was anywhere he would rather be than with her.
And then he had left to attend the academy. The four-month course that would ultimately shape him into a police officer also meant very limited contact between the unlikely duo. And Judy, despite being surrounded by many new acquaintances in the ZPD and the city at large, had been very lonely without him. They messaged each other every day on their respective breaks, and still got to see each-other on the weekends, but even so she had still missed him terribly and would occasionally drop by the academy to see how he was doing, much to the annoyance of the instructors.
However, no matter when and where they met up he always had a warm smile for her whenever he saw her, and it in equal parts affirmed her desire to spend more time with him, and made her even more impatient for the day they would finally be together.
'Working. Working together. Be together, working.'
But it had worth the wait, because Nick had passed the academy with flying colors and – after a recommendation from Chief Bogo himself – now sat at her side as her partner.
Today was both his first day on the force and their first official assignment together – tracking down a street racer who had been tearing up downtown – and so far it had been everything the bunny had hoped for.
The two had been trading playful barbs all morning and much to Judy's satisfaction she had been coming out on top, for the most part. She had expected their first patrol would go something like this and had mentally prepared herself to give as good as she got. That said, she hadn't expected it to be this much fun, and she quickly found herself relaxing into their repartee, loving every moment of it. Perhaps loving it a little too much, as his next quip caught her completely off guard.
"You know you love me."
The young rabbit's heart skipped a beat as those words left the vulpine's lips. A surge of something hit the grey bunny as his words sunk in and a feeling of heat started to creep up to the tips of her ears. She quickly fought down the blush that was threatening to turn the soft pink of her inner ears to a crimson red as that something formulated itself into a realization which she had been refusing to acknowledge for months.
'Oh, cheese and crackers…'
Nick hadn't noticed, yet. In fact, barely a second had passed since he had spoken, and the fox seemed to be more wrapped up in keeping his pawpsicle from melting than gauging his partner's reaction to – what he must have intended to be – just a playful jab at the bunny. Thinking quickly, she flipped his comment back on him and turned it into a question – a trick that he himself had taught her.
"Do I know that?" She shot back, causing the vulpine to hesitate. And had his smile faltered a little just now?
'Alright, now what Jude?' she thought, relishing the few seconds she had bought herself to regain her composure. Her heart felt like it was going to burst through her chest as her brain sprinted through a complex series of mental gymnastics trying to get her out of the corner she had put herself in.
'DO I know that?'
Her own words echoed in her ears. To her credit, she had kept a straight face and a relaxed tone when saying it, but that didn't change the fact she had basically blurted out the first thing that came into her head. And now Nick was staring right at her, giving her an equally unreadable expression as he patiently waited for the answer to her question, letting the silence between them stretch.
She turned her head to gaze back at him, his muzzle turned up in an exact mirror of her own, denying her any insight into what he was thinking either. Her eyes briefly lingered on those dark, vulpine lips, causing another wave of that something hit her. It was all she could to do keep her nose from reflexively twitching and betraying her thoughts (and, as she was quickly realizing, her feelings).
Judy forced herself to shift her focus upwards and away from Nick's muzzle. She immediately regretted it as she locked eyes with her partner instead. Emerald-hued eyes full of mirth and curiosity gazed back at her, beckoning her to close the distance and give her reply.
A feeling of warmth exploded in her chest as the thrill of her realization grew, and before she could stop herself, the words just seemed to flow from her lips.
"Yes. Yes I do."
Internally, she was bracing herself for a meltdown of embarrassment. Instead, she felt a weight lift from her small body. It felt right to say it, even if she had worded it ambiguously, and the way Nick's face lit up as she said it only served to fan the warm feeling in her body into a torturous flame.
'Oh, sweet cheese and crackers, I really, really DO know it…' she mused as she gazed into her partner's eyes. She felt herself leaning closer, and it felt like he was leaning in too.
'Are… are we about to…?'
Her eyes dropped to his lips and became heavy-lidded as she thought deliriously about closing the distance and pressing her petite mouth to his. Just a little closer…
Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.
A flash of green in the corner of her eye brought her attention to the traffic signal changing and, clutching the steering wheel like a lifeline, she forced herself to break eye contact and turn herself to face forward. Summoning her inner hustler bunny, she willed herself to be calm and carry on like normal.
'Don't let him see that he gets to you… not like that, at least! He probably doesn't even feel that way… does he?'
A twinge of sadness crept into Judy's mind at that last thought, her pulse slowing and her focus returning. Letting go of the breath that she didn't know she was holding, she put the cruiser in gear and depressed the accelerator, giving herself a mental pat on the back for the willpower she had just displayed, 'Phew. That was clo…'
Stifling a terrified squeak, she instinctively slammed on the brake as a vehicle flew past them mere inches from their front bumper.
BA-DUMP. BA-DUMP. BA-DUMP. BA-DUMP.
Her poor heart, which had already been violently hammering away for the last 20 seconds, seemed to redouble its efforts. She thanked her grueling academy training for bringing her to the peak of physical fitness; an average rabbit might have gone into cardiac arrest by this point.
Turning to Nick, she could see the realization in his eyes just as it was dawning on her. She returned the smirk he flashed her, once more throwing the car into gear and peeling out after the suspect they had been hunting for all morning. She was so wrapped up in the chase that all thought of what had just passed between them was briefly forgotten, and she failed to notice the way Nick's nose twitched as it gathered in the scent which had all but saturated the interior of the cruiser …
A/N: End of fluff. For now. Let me know if you enjoyed this, and I might consider adding to it?
FYI, I do take chocolate as encouragement.
Am I asking for bribes in chocolate form?
Yes, yes I am.