Undercurrents - a Zootopia FanFic by The Cubist

A/N - I'm thinking we'll rise again.

One of the strangest things about writing is how much characters gain their own life and tell you what they want to do. Forcing them into places they don't want to go just… doesn't work. Hence the trouble I've had the past few months - my head hasn't been a place that cheerful, impetuous Judy or a learning-to-trust, fast thinking Nick wanted to be. And rather than try and force them to, I decided to step away from the keyboard until it felt like I could write them again.

It felt like the right time for me to come back to them.

I'm sorry you had to wait so long.

Obligatory end-of-chapter R-Rated smut warning. Those with sensitive constitutions may wish to look away.

Feel free to ignore all {soundtrack suggestions}. All music can be found on YouTube, and a curated playlist can be found at

tinyurl com/undercurrentsmusic

Use a period rather than a space.

{Feist - The Water}

Judy opened her eyes to an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar bedroom.

Not so unfamiliar was the scent it was absolutely doused in - Nick's - nor the snoring presence of the fox in bed with her.


That was the right word, and absolutely not the right word at the same time.


That, too, was the right word, and absolutely not the right word.

Familiar, Alien.

Alien & familiar.

How could something be both at the same time?

It was as if she'd always woken up here, next to him - but she knew it was the first time.

A brief spell of panic lit in her stomach as she looked around for a clock - a radio on the nightstand behind Nick said 4:38am in large green numbers. Roll call was at 7:30 - which meant she still had plenty of time. It was then she noticed she was still naked from the night before. Naked, in bed with a fox, in his bedroom, who she'd let - no, asked - no, pretty much forced into a… situation the night before. Had she cornered him? She knew Nick was worried about the consequences of sex. Maybe she'd just taken it too far, and he had to do what he did to defend himself from her advances. Still… it had been… well, amazing. He was ferocious in pursuing her pleasure, insatiable until she'd gone blank from it. Judy still weighed whether he'd done it because he had to, rather than because he wanted to, but… here she was, and here he was, the morning after.

Nick whimpered in his sleep. He had been sort of sprawled out on the oversized-for-Judy bed, a little distance between them. He started to almost whine, turning and reaching towards her. It was completely adorable; and since he was in such a defenseless state, probably a reliable indicator of his true feelings. Just for a moment, Judy felt trepidation over their shared nudity - but only a moment. She scooted close to him, throwing a paw on his waist and using the other to bury her nose in his creamy chest fur. Nick made a contented noise and stilled, his arms closing around her, his breathing slowing back into the steady rhythm of sleep.

His scent was somniferous, and the worry of waking up late that had briefly panicked Judy was chased from her mind as she sunk into a blissful doze in her fox's arms.

The alarm went off about 20 minutes later, jerking Nick from his sleep. He was immediately aware of another mammal in the bed with him, and in his sleep dazed brain, his instinct to defend his den from another mammal started to go off - until Judy squeaked and nuzzled deeper into his chest fur, as if she couldn't get close enough to him. He felt his heart swell at the sensation, his instinctual response abruptly flipping to protective. He reached over and shut off the alarm. Judy stirred but did not wake, her face scrunching up adorably as she curled herself against him. Nick marveled at her presence next to him. He should have felt put off, she should have been scared, the whole scene should have ended in a police report - if not a blood bath.

Nick snorted out a breath of laughter. No doubt in that scenario, he'd be the one in pieces on the ground as Judy stood, drenched in not-her-blood. The image of a rabbit drenched in fox blood brought into his mind's eye an angry looking Stu (with a shotgun) and a terrified Bonnie Hopps. He groaned.

Bonnie and Stu might have had a pretty progressive attitude towards predators, as far as rabbits from as deep in the country as Bunnyburrow were concerned, but having one - a fox, no less - nude in bed with their daughter? That seemed a bridge too far, at least to Nick, and the spike of anxiety the thought gave him threatened to push through the bliss of the moment. Not to mention the way his body responded to her - too easily, too greatly; a constant temptation to put them both, potentially, into a life-long conundrum. He groaned, the anxious worries beginning to rise above the enjoyment of Judy being next to him. He made to move a little further away, but instead found himself staring down at the adorable bunny cradled to his chest. She was too cute for for words. Nick sighed, and tightened his arms around her. None of his worries changed how important a part of his new life Judy was.

At his motion, Judy stirred, her ears perking up and bapping Nick's nose as she woke up and yawned. Nick blinked and screwed up his eyes at even a soft impact against so sensitive a spot, but smiled down at her all the same.

"Good morning, beautiful bunny," Nick said. His voice rumbled against Judy's paws and cheek, roughened from sleep.

"Hey…" she replied. "What time is it?"


Judy let go of Nicks fur, fisting her paws and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "...only 20 minutes..?" She asked herself quietly.


"Never mind," she replied. She looked around the room curiously, quickly waking up all the way. "I don't think I've been in your bedroom before, Nick."

"Probably not. It's a fox thing - being territorial about your den."

"What, really?" Judy asked.

Nick nodded, the motion causing his muzzle to rub on Judy's ears.

"I know you prefer living alone, but I thought that was just a personal choice."

"Well, it is, but not just. Any fox would probably go crazy if they had to share a den with as many other mammals as bunnies do. The only mammal a fox would willingly bring into their den is their mate."

There was a brief pause. Then Nick's eyes went wide as he realized what he'd said. "Uh, that is, I mean-" he stammered out, as Judy's expression curled into the self-satisfied grin she always wore when she knew she'd gotten the best of him.

"Is that so, Nick?"


"I'll have to remember that," she said, and gave Nick a kiss on the lips, which he did not respond to.

"...coffee," Nick said.


He pulled his arms up to point two digits at his head: "Morning. Stupid Brain. Coffee. No more talk, need coffee."

"Ok, furankenstein's monster."

Nick rolled his way off of the bed and on to his feet, walking with his arms stretched out and knees locked. "Uuunnnnnngghhhh… Coffee…"

Judy giggled at the tableau. "Truly, the poor peasants will be running in fear of the pantsless terror assaulting their village."

Nick gave Judy a dirty look, and pulled the blanket off of his bed, wrapping it around his waist - leaving Judy suddenly very chilly under just a sheet.


"Problem solved," he said with a smirk, and marched through the bedroom door towards precious, life giving coffee.

{jinsang - morning.}

Judy walked into Nick's retro, red black & white kitchen to find him - comforter draped around his waist - pouring a cup of coffee. He added sugar, and turned to face Judy while taking a sip.

"Hey," she said, a nervous smile on her face.

Nick raised his eyebrows, not interrupting his caffeine intake. A couple of nights on Nick's couch over the past year had shown Judy that he was always like this in the mornings: useless until he had his coffee. Being a naturally vespertine mammal must be a pain, Judy thought, with having to force yourself awake while your instincts are screaming that you shouldn't be getting up for another 12 hours or so.

"Um. Do we have time to go to my place before work?"

Judy was carrying her bodysuit and all of her gear under one arm, wearing a t-shirt she must have gotten out of his dresser. It seemed to Nick that he should be bothered that she'd gone through his stuff, intruded further in his Den; but he just… wasn't. In fact, in his oversize-for-her Toha Heavy Industries T, and with ruffled facefur, Judy had a distinct 'freshly tumbled in the hay' look that Nick found… rather appealing. There was a delightful thrill to seeing her in his clothes, a sense that she was his, so to speak, and wanted to be.

"I'm guessing you want me to give you a ride, judging by your professional choice in attire."

Judy at least had the social graces to blush. "I hope you don't mind?"

"That you stole my shirt? No, it's ok," Nick said, and gave her a little smirk.

Judy sighed and hung her head in mock-shame. The image was ruined when she started giggling a few seconds later. Nick's smirk grew into a genuine grin, and he started to crack up himself. For a minute or it was all they could do to laugh themselves silly - then Nick's comforter-kilt came undone and fell to the floor. Wiping tears from her eyes, Judy gave the naked fox an unabashedly thorough looking over, a pleased and slightly smoldering look in her eyes. "Good morning, Mr. fox," she said.

Nick picked up the blanket with a grin, bunched it under his arm, and said, "Let me get cleaned up and I can go get the car. 45 minutes tops. There should be some veggie stuff for breakfast around here if you want some." He made to leave the room, but paused at the doorway to turn and say, "You know, you're pretty damn cute yourself, the morning after."

She couldn't even bring herself to be annoyed at him as his tail swished out of sight beyond the doorway.

{The Strokes - Someday}

Nick was part way through scrubbing himself down, humming a song, when the shower curtain was ripped open and he froze in shock, blinking, covered in suds, one footpaw off the ground. Judy stood on the other side, a sly expression on her face. It flickered to trepidation and then a nervous smile before she stripped off her borrowed t-shirt:

"Uh. Can I help you?" Nick asked, watching Judy hop on one footpaw as she pulled off her panties.

"Hey, I can save some time if I'm already cleaned up before I stop at home, right? Do you have any not-male-smelling soap?" Judy asked, climbing into the tub next to Nick.

"That stuff is unscented," Nick said, pointing at a bottle in the rack hanging from the shower gooseneck. Judy slid around him and into the water stream, which plastered down her short fur. The shampoo was just out of her reach, so Judy took a careful grip of the curtain, and stretched out a bit further - just in time for Nick to place it in her hands. Judy hugged the bottle and turned to look at Nick, who was working soap through his tail fur.

"Thanks, Nick," she said, hugging the bottle to her chest.

"Any time."

Judy poured some shampoo into her paw and set the bottle on the shower floor. While she worked the soap into her fur, she observed Nick's slightly tense body language.

"Have you never shared a shower with another mammal?" She asked.

"...No. Well, maybe at like a public pool or something." He paused. "Have you?"

"With my littermates when we were kits."

"But not-"

"And in high school when my friends and I all went skinny dipping in the swimming hole."

"...But not like this."

"No. Not with a boyfriend. Or a fox."

Nick fell silent, moving under the water to rinse out. Judy looked up at him, still soaping up.

"Nick… is this making you nervous?"

"It isn't!"

"Something is. Is it me?" She asked, looking worried.

"No! It's not you. It's just- I, with you, and, um..."

Judy reached out to him, and pulled her body up against his in a hug under the shower stream. She laid her head against his chest and scratched her claws into his wet fur. Nick blinked down at her, his arms held away from his body.

"It's just me, Nick. Just Judy."

After a moment, Nick unfroze with a sigh and hugged her back.

"I'm glad you're here, Carrots."

They stood that way for a minute, under the cascading warm water.

"I'm feeling a but," Judy almost mumbled into Nick's soaked chest fur.

"What was that?"

"I'm waiting for the 'but,' Nick."

He leaned back and looked down at the rabbit against his chest.

"No buts!"


"I swear! I'm glad you're here. It's the new idea of what… 'us' is that's…"


"More like totally undefined."

"So? Isn't fox dating kind of about figuring out that stuff on the way?"

"I… guess you could look at it that way."

"...but you don't."

Nick pulled gently away from Judy, and leaned down to turn off the water. He caught Judy's eyes and tilted his head slightly at the faucet handles before grabbing them. She nodded at him, so Nick shut the shower off and pulled open the curtain.

"Well, no. Um. I mean, maybe if I had gone into a relationship… look. This is the first time in my adult life I've been in a stable enough position to offer somemammal more than a tod who doesn't know whether or not he'll be destitute in a month, let alone one who could create something meaningful with them."

Nick stepped out of the shower and rooted through a small cubby of shelves until he produced a couple of towels. He pawed one to Judy.

"Seems to me you did pretty well for yourself, Slick, given the connections, car, and apartment..." she said, giving herself a brief drying and then stepping into the "Fur-nado 5000" in the corner of the bathroom, which spooled up with a jet-engine like whine.

Nick shouted over it: "Maybe in the end I did, but that's not what I meant anyway. You know I pride myself on having all the information ahead of time, Carrots, so I can keep my head organized. Sometimes just enough to improvise off of, but something, at least. And before, I knew those relationships weren't supposed to last - they were just pretty vixens crushing on a bad boy, and me happy to oblige them… and I always told them that: 'this is for right now, don't make plans on me.' Because I had a plan already, and it was to leave before anyone could get hurt. This… I don't know anything."

The volume of Nick's voice dropped as the fur drying unit cycled down. Judy stepped out, and took back her towel to smooth her fur into place.

"So, what you're saying is that: you're nervous because you want something meaningful and long term with me, and you've never wanted that before, so you don't have any plan to follow or knowledge to rely on and it makes you feel lost and scared?"

Nick opened his jaws to respond, a digit raised, but then froze for a moment. He blinked, shut his mouth and dropped his paw, and turned to step into the Fur-nado, and said with a funny expression on his muzzle, "That's exactly right, actually."

Judy smiled at him, but more to herself, as he shook his fur out in the dryer. After it spooled down, Nick stepped out.

"That's so sweet, Nick. Thank you."

"How could I want anything less with such an incredible doe?" He asked, and leaned down to plant a kiss on her lips. She kissed him back, eagerly. After a few seconds, though, they simultaneously became almost painfully aware of their shared nudity - which instantly shifted from utilitarian to something much more intimate. Their eyes met and widened considerably and they broke off the kiss.

"I think I should-"

"Maybe we just-"

"Um, I think…"

"Uh huh."


They looked down at their foot paws, and simultaneously heaved sighs. Nick glanced up from under his brow at Judy, a small smile creeping up his muzzle. Judy snickered and giggled, bringing a paw up to her mouth, eyes mirthful. Nick huffed out a canine snort, and darted out of the bathroom, Judy's eyes following all the while.

The brief stop at Judy's apartment didn't delay their morning terribly long - she was in and out within five minutes, coming back to Nick's waiting car with his t-shirt in paw, and wearing a fresh bodysuit.

They made it to the bullpen with barely a moment to spare, clambering up onto their shared chair right in front of the Chief's podium just as Higgins called the room to attention and the Chief burst in. Only a few mammals pounded on the tables in front of them; there just wasn't as much enthusiasm midweek as there was after a weekend off.

"Two items today: first, the annual Policemammal's Ball is coming up in July. Attendance for officers below sergeant rank isn't mandatory-"

"Thank god! I know I don't need to see a Cape buffalo try to dance again," Nick interjected.

A vindictive smile settled into place on Chief Bogo's face as the assembled officers snickered at Nick's joke.

"...as I was saying, isn't mandatory except for those officers who have been specifically requested by council mammals or the mayor. As you, Officer Wilde, and your partner, have been."

Nick blanched at the news, groaned, and plunked his head against the table, to louder laughter around the bullpen.

Looking inordinately pleased with himself, the Chief continued: "Second, any officers who were involved in that speciest gang scuffle on Monday need to submit a copy of their reports to Captain Owuru at Precinct 4 because, thankfully, it's his case, not mine. Anything further will go through him."

"Assignments! Krumpanski, Johnson, Higgins: you're on detachment to Savannah Square GIU." The trio of officers stood and took a file from the Chief as they exited.

"Grizzoli, Andersen: Tundratown SWAT - apparently they're raiding the Snow Powder sales ring you helped uncover, and they requested you join them for the honor." The polar bear partners stood and left out the back door, tapping fisted paws as they exited.

"Hopps, Wilde: we've had a recent series of reports about attempted theft by trick in the Gnu York neighborhood subways. Take some time out of patrol today to look into that. Everyone else, standard patrols. Don't make me any extra paperwork."

Nick gave Judy a loaded glance and whispered under his breath, just loud enough for her to hear, "Gee I wonder why we got that assignment." Judy gave him a wry half-smile and bumped his ribs with her elbow. Nick took the folder Chief Bogo was holding out, and the pair headed out towards their cruiser.

"Big, speciest old bull," Nick said, looking into briefing folder, "giving the fox officer the con artist investigation."

"I'm sure it has nothing to do with your particular insight and experience in the field, Slick."

Nick stuck his snout up in the air. "Yeah, and I'm the King of Baaaahrain," he said, but with a smile. His face fell as he looked down again. "Huh. That's interesting."


"You know I know everyone. Or I did, anyway. I figured that in Gnu York it was going to be Weaselton running his goldbrick scheme with those fake DVDs."

"It's not?"

"There's no mention of him. The reports are all about an old fox tod."

Nick fell silent as he climbed into the passenger seat of their cruiser. He dug further into the file.

"Somemammal you know?"

"Maybe... But whoever it is, they're an old school con-mammal, that's for sure. I haven't heard of anyone running a fake conductor scam in years. Hell, I haven't used a paper ticket myself in forever. No wonder he got reported."

Suddenly, it occurred to Nick that he couldn't feel the sexual tension between Judy and him that had defined the past couple of days. His eyes widened as he looked into the distance through the windshield, and let out a surprised "Huh!" He heard a giggle from the driver's seat as they came to a stop at a traffic light. Then a small, blunt-clawed paw scratched where his jawline met his neck.

"I know. It's nice to be able to think straight," she said, as Nick let out a pleased groan. He was just beginning to purr when Judy put her paw back on the wheel and pulled away from the stop light.

"Aw," Nick said.

"Not on duty, Officer Wilde."

"No fun allowed at work?" he asked with a mischievous smile.

"No fun, no breaks."

"You started it!"

"Merely a temporary lapse in sanity, I assure you."

Nick barked out a laugh, and Judy joined him in a fit of giggles. Judy glanced over at Nick. 'This is nice. This feels just like it always did,' she thought. Of course, it was just then that her eyes drifted, spying his sharp white teeth, the moving muscles in his neck, his strong shoulders… suddenly memories of the pleasures from the night before flooded into her mind.

She whipped her head forward, feeling the slightest licking of heat in her core. 'So… not like it was. Not at all.'

Sensing Judy's change of mood as he laughed himself out, Nick looked over to her. She looked a little more tense then she had just a moment ago, her scent shifting as she exuded pheromones of a nervous mammal. He had a sudden urge to tuck his snout into the curve of her neck inside her collar, to give comfort to the bunny he cared for so deeply - which he pushed away easily. He suddenly understood the onset of her anxiety.

"Not just like normal, is it?"

"No, it's not."

"But it works?"

"Maybe. It did Monday, with that awful fight, even with how distracted we were."

"Well… maybe it's a new normal." Nick smiled. "I still don't want any other mammal sitting next to me."

Judy glanced over to him, and a sunny grin grew into place on her face. "Me neither, Slick."

Just then, a car in front of them blew a stop sign and made an illegal left turn. Sharing a glance, Nick flipped on the siren and lights, and Judy took off after them.

Lunch that day ended up being on the job. Apparently the motorists in Downtown Zootopia had collectively decided it was their day for moving violations. Nick would barely finish handing out a ticket when somemammal would go speeding by, or a fender bender occurred a block away and they had to go speeding off again. The pair of them hopscotched across Downtown in fits and starts between traffic stops - Nick had barely gotten a bite of lunch down when a pair of cars rocketed past the parked cruiser, and they had to go 10-8 and tear after them.

With the insanity of Zootopian motorists that day, they didn't get a chance to head south to Gnu York in Savannah Central until about 4pm. At Nick's insistence of not spooking their quarry, Judy parked the cruiser about a block away from the subway entrance. They headed down into the bowels of the city through the Veldtstreet station to see if they could scare up a lead.

"Why the Anamalia Line?" Judy asked. Nick had practically insisted on it while they were parking the cruiser.

"It passes through Savannah Central Station, and is also the closest to the southern tourist attractions."


"He'll be looking for tourists. Trust me."

Judy sighed. "Because they're less likely to know the rules, and easier marks?"

Nick nodded at her. "Yup. This would be easier if we were plainclothes… he'll probably run if he sees uniforms."

"Maybe we'll get lucky."

"I don't get lucky."

"Don't say that!"

"Judy, meeting you is pretty much the only good luck I've had in 25 years… Granted, that's some pretty amazing luck, but I think it used my supply up."

She blushed, and smiled. "Well, maybe you'll get something from a couple of rabbit feet working with you."

"Cripes, even you guys believe that awful old superstition?"

"You should see my keychain."

Nick eyed her. "I have. It's a carrot."

Judy burst out laughing. Nick gave her a slightly confused smile, and waited for her to laugh herself out.

"Do you- do you think we should question the Transit workers?" she asked.

"Nahhh… we just have to let them know we're here on work. Maybe they can get us on the trains for free?"

"Always looking for the angle. I thought you outgrew that?"

"You can take the fox out of the hustle, but you can't take the hustle out of the fox."

Judy bapped him with her paw. "Lets see who's home," she said, and knocked on the 'ZTA Employees Only' door next to the ZTA pass and ticket machines. A jackrabbit buck in an orange safety vest and wearing a yellow helmet opened the door after a few seconds. Judy could see a similarly dressed prairie dog doe behind him, sitting at a table, and a stairwell headed further underground behind her.

"Can I help you, Officers?" the jackrabbit asked.

Judy smiled. "Judy Hopps, ZPD. We're conducting some investigatory work on the Anamalia line, just wanted to let you know."

"...Do you need to get out on the tracks? We have to schedule that way in advance, you know."

"No, nothing like that, sir."

"Alright then. Thank you for letting us know, I guess."

As the jackrabbit began to close the door, Nick spoke up: "Do you think you could get us onto the station platform?"

The jackrabbit paused, and looked back to the prairie dog, his body language indicating the smaller mammal was his superior. "No problem," she said. "Follow me."

Nick slipped into the door from behind Judy, and she followed him in. The room behind the door had rows of coat hooks filled with orange jackets, tools, repair equipment, and more safety gear than you could shake a stick at. The prairie dog led them around a scarred table with mugs and open takeout containers on it, and partway down the back stair to an unmarked steel door.

"This is the platform," the prairie dog said. "Further down is track access - but do not even think about going that way without a ZTA Engineer."

"I understand," Nick said. "I grew up in Zootopia - I remember all the scary stories we'd tell about mammals touching the third rail."

The prairie dog sighed. "It's the smell that's the worst part, really. There usually isn't much left to clean up - but the smell, it lingers."

Judy gulped, a distressed expression on her muzzle. "Ok well let's get moving, shall we? Thank you, Ms…" she trailed off, gesturing to the big rodent in front of her.

"Abigail. Abigail Burowning."

"Ms. Burowning. Thank you for your assistance." Judy pushed nick at the door, which thankfully opened out into the platform rather than into the stairwell.

"If you need anything else," Abigail said, "I'm on extension 832 in the ZTA phone system."

"Thank you," Nick said.

Abigail Burowning, the prairie dog ZTA Engineer, nodded to them as the door swung closed. Nick and Judy found themselves on the station platform off to the side of a big crowd of commuters.

"How did you want to play this?" Judy asked.

"One train at a time, moving so we're always at opposite ends of a car. Just keep an eye out for a fox in a ZTA uniform shaking down passengers."

"So, basic pincer?"

Nick nodded. "It's not like he really has anywhere else to go. I never liked running anything that leaves you this trapped if things go sour, back in the day."

"So… you've done this before?"

"No, not me. I knew a couple of mammals who did, though. I never liked hustles this mean - or dishonest - or difficult to run from. You needed more confidence than I had to try it. Course, it's moot now that we all have ZTA cards."

Judy nodded to Nick, a vague stirring of relief in her mind. She moved to stand at the furthest down-line section of the platform, waiting for the next train. Nick was about half a car-length further up, so they could board through separate doors and maintain spacing.

The first train yielded nothing. They paced down the train from carriage to carriage, carefully watching for a mammal fitting the description in the file, but came up empty. They changed trains at the third station stop, but again, found nothing.

On the third train they found their mammal.

Judy didn't give the elderly tod a second glance in the crowded subway car when she first passed by - he was wearing a worn blue jacket and facing away from her. A second later, though, her sensitive ears picked up his conversation. She froze and pivoted her ears toward him, listening in:

"...and I don't want to make a scene for you, ma'am, but I can't have you onboard without proof of fare."

"I didn't even see where to get a ticket when I paid!"

"Well, happily, I can take care of that for you - 7.50 for you and the little ones, and the $50 penalty for no proof. I'll give you a receipt and everything."

Judy decided she'd heard enough to establish probable cause as the female stammered. She turned to get a closer look at the elderly tod, and discovered he'd cornered a rabbit and two kits who looked very nervous, and like they'd just fallen off a truck in Podunk.

Judy caught Nick's eye, and he nodded in confirmation, moving to block the aisle opposite of Judy. She stepped up behind the vulpine conmammal.

{Silversun Pickups - Well Thought Out Twinkles}

"Excuse me, sir. ZPD. Can I have a-"

He bolted, right past Judy and away from Nick.

"Hey! HEY! Freeze!"

Shoving commuting mammals out of the way, the tod made for the carriage exit - but Judy's size and speed were a tremendous advantage in the crowded rail car. She caught up to him inside of 5 steps, and tried for a simple trip - kicking the lifting paw foot behind the stationary one - but got only a flick of his tail instead. He made it to the door and heaved it open, darting through just out of Judy's reach and across the howling, noisy gap to the next car. He slipped through the door as Judy stepped over the small gap between the shaking platforms, and Nick slid through the door behind her.

Judy reached the next carriage and started yanking on the handle - then a big russet paw surrounded hers and shoved the sliding door open.

"Stop! Police!" She shouted into the emptier carriage, causing heads to whip towards her. Not that it gave the running tod even a little pause. At this point Judy could hear his strained breaths, though, and she and Nick took off after him. With split second timing Judy darted around a surprised wolf and sprung up and off of a grab pole, rocketing into the back of her quarry. With a loud "Oomph!" the tod went down to the floor, the smaller mammals' velocity making for an effective tackle despite her small frame. Crouched on his back, Judy grappled his left arm into an elbow lock just before he started started struggling against her, growling, teeth flashing.

Charging behind her, Nick saw the flashes of yellowed teeth as the fallen tod thrashed: an inferno of possessiveness, territorial instincts, and a need to protect Judy burst into life in his chest. He came slamming down onto the foxes right side, teeth bared, growling in challenge, and got the tod's head locked down, wrenching on his neck. After just a moment of multiple joints straining, the twice-grappled tod whimpered and tapped his forepaw against Judy's arm in submission.

"Surrender?" She asked him. The tod nodded, his snout rubbing on the floor of the car.

She risked a quick glance at Nick, whose teeth were bared, a growl bubbling in his throat; "Cuffs, Nick."

His eyes pivoted to her - there was a rush of relief in them, then he shifted his weight and brought out his pawcuffs to cuff the tod's paws together. Together, Nick and Judy lifted him up and set him on a subway seat. He landed with a wheezy grunt. As soon as Nick saw his face, his expression turned to troubled recognition.

"Ah hell. Theo?"

Judy looked up at Nick, concern in her eyes.

The tod - Theo, apparently - smiled sadly. His muzzle was streaked grey, contrasting with his dark red fur and amber eyes. He looked old, grizzled - and tired. Tired, a little sad, and resigned.

"Nicky. You got big. And switched teams."

"It's been a long time. Things change," Nick responded. 'God does he look beaten down. And old,' he thought.

"You know him?" Judy asked Nick.

"Of course he does," Theo said, "The little bastard tried rolling me at 12 years old - he's lucky I thought he'd be a better protege than an example of why you don't play a player. Theodore Ainsworth Dodger."

Judy folded her arms, stern disapproval written on her muzzle.

"You must be Officer Hopps," the old conmammal said. Glancing at Judy's expression, he followed up saying, "Don't act all surprised, now, sweet cheeks. We do have TV in jail."

Nick growled at Theodore's use of the pet name. Theodore looked up at the younger tod, a shrewd look in his eye. After a moment, his snout lolled open in a canine grin, and he winked at Nick. "So that's how it is, huh?"

Nick sighed and hung his head, and Theo's grin grew even bigger. Judy didn;t know what to make of the exchange.

"When did you get out, Theo?" Nick asked, looking back at him.

"Not quite… hmm, what was it? About 2 weeks ago."

"Two weeks was all it took? After 15 years away?"

"I was getting hungry, Nicky, and I stayed that way."

"Let me guess. Fake Conductor didn't fool anyone."

"Not a one. They all seem so paranoid, now."

Nick sighed and dropped his face to his right paw. Judy decided that stressing Nick out - and the conversation - had gone on long enough.

"That's enough, Mr. Dodger. You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you. Do you understand your rights as I have explained them to you?"

Theodore, who had been at least cooperative once he was cuffed, frowned in anger and frustration: "Yeah, yeah. I get it."

"Where did you get that jacket?" Judy asked, pointing at the ZTA logo on the front of it. Theodore gave her a look that clearly said 'How stupid do you think I am?' and said nothing.

Nick put a paw on Theodore's upper arm, and Judy turned to stand in front of him, waiting for the train to return to the Veldstreet Station where they'd left their cruiser. Thankfully, the combination of trains they'd jumped had left them only a couple of stops away, so the awkward, silent trio didn't have to wait long.

Once they got onto the station platform Theodore made a half-hearted attempt to bolt, shifting his weight and trying to pull his arm out of Nick's grasp. Judy, however, heard the movement, even through the crowd, and cut off the feeble escape attempt, stepping into his chest with her shoulder.

"Ok, ok, I get it. Sorry. You know how it is," Theodore said to her. Judy gave him her grumpiest scowl, and turned to keep walking out of the station, her ears pivoted towards Nick and their arrestee.

They got back up to street level and walked the block to the cruiser. Judy unlocked the car and opened the back door, and Nick guided Theodore into the rear passenger compartment and closed the door behind him. He sighed, and turned to Judy.

"Are you ok, Nick?"

He took a few seconds to respond: "...Yeah. I think I am."

Judy gave him a sad little smile, and turned to walk around the cruiser.

"...Aren't you going to radio this in?" Nick asked her, suddenly realizing she'd gone against code to not do it already.

Judy stopped and turned to face him. "Do you want me to?" She asked.

Suddenly overwhelmed, Nick spread his paws palms out in a swift motion. "I-I… I don't know!" He sighed again, tension evident in the set of his shoulders. "That's our job. He's a criminal - a lifer, at that, without much remorse. But I still feel like I owe him something, for what he did for me when I was a kid."

"You owe some conmammal who dragged you deeper into crime?"

"I… would have been in jail - or dead - without him at least pointing me in the… 'right' direction. Theo kept a load of trouble from hitting me when I was too young and brash to understand the consequences of getting it wrong."

"So? It sounds like he got caught and left you hard up."

"Judy… you don't…" he trailed off. "That was going to be me in there!" Nick said, pointing emphatically at the back seat of the cruiser. "That's the path I was on. I look at him and I see me, 30 years down the line. That's where I was going - beaten down, trapped going in circles, seeing no way out. But you happened to me instead."

Nick bowed his head. His throat felt thick. "That's where I was supposed to be. The only reason I'm not is you, Judy. You saved me."

Judy felt her heart twist. Her ears fell back, her nose wiggling. She wanted to jump up and cuddle him, comfort him, remind him he was better than he felt in the moment.

"Thank you, Judy."

"You deserved it, Nick."

"Nah, I didn't. But at least I can try and make up the lost ground, huh?" He smiled wanly down at her, paws itching to grab her up into a hug. She smiled back, like sun breaking through clouds.

Nick heaved another big sigh, looking up at the cruiser. "Anyway, I thought maybe Theo could use somemammal believing in him, too, you know? Not just a trip back to the slammer."


"Judy… you didn't…"

"What did you have in mind, Slick?"

Nick was speechless for a moment.

"C'mon, Nick. If there's anything I learned from you - even a year ago - it's that life, and the rules, aren't always fair. That just means you have to work extra hard to make it that way. So…?"

"Right. Uh, I'll have to call him and make sure, but Finnick went straight with the Pawpsicle Parlor. Maybe he could do something for him."

"Well? What are you waiting for?"

Nick dug out his phone and dialed up the fennec.

"So. The Artful Dodger just can't keep out of trouble, huh?" Finnick asked Theodore, standing in the middle of the temporarily closed Pawpsicle Parlor, arms crossed, stance wide. "And now he ends up coming to my establishment."

Theodore looked sidelong at Nick in confusion. "What are we doing here?" he asked.

In response, Nick released his arm and stepped behind him, unlocking the paw cuffs on his wrists. "Don't make me regret this, Theo."

"You're working for me now, Dodger. The magnanimous Officers Wilde and Hopps have decided you deserve a fair shake, and I'm going to be the one to give it to you. You work here. You get a room upstairs, and a wage. You listen to me. You keep your head down. You don't make trouble. Play nice, and these fine officers don't have to come calling - after I'm finished with you."

Theo looked back at Judy and Nick, rubbing the fur on his wrists, confusion evident in his expression. "You're… you're letting me go?"

"Not really. Think of it as a very personal, very intolerant probation. One strike and you're out. Don't strike out," Nick said.

"This is it, Mr. Dodger," Judy said. "This the proverbial - and real - last chance. Nick is going out on limb for you. If we hear of anything - anything about you putting a single claw out of line, you're done. Make good on what you've been given."

"I… why?"

"One time, years ago, you had mercy on a kit who didn't deserve it, and tried to bring him up in the world. Here's your return on the favor."

Finnick, impatient to open up the store again, hooked a thumb towards a doorway to the back of shop: "Go get cleaned up. We've got customers to help."

"You've got a chance, Mr. Dodger. Take it and don't mess it up," Judy said, and stepped out of the shop. Nick nodded to Finnick, who flipped his hand at him in a 'buzz off' gesture. Nick followed Judy out of the store.

Nick climbed into the passenger seat of the cruiser just outside and joined Judy in the front seat of the cruiser. "Do you think we did the right thing?" Nick asked.

"Do you?"

"I don't know. I hope so. I'm just nervous about it."

"Finnick can handle him, can't he? And he'll call us if things go sour?"

"He will. I'm just nervous about what we can put in our reports, or tell the Chief."

"Officer Discretion. All he could be put away for is attempted petty theft by trick. And he's in a very tightly watched environment with a reliable 'informant.' He's not going anywhere - and if he does, you'll be there to catch him. Write the truth - that you felt he was desperate and deserved to be given a chance in the right direction. The Chief will understand."

"Thanks, Judy" he said, and leaned across the car and pulled her into a hug. She gave a squeak of happiness and burrowed her muzzle into his neck fur, breathing in his scent. Nick turned his head and kissed her between the ears. Judy pulled her head back and looked up, meeting his lips, and they lazily, relaxedly kissed, taking comfort in each other's presence. After a few scant seconds, though, Nick cleared his throat and pulled away. Judy whimpered at the absence of his lips and tongue on hers.

"Still on the job," he said. Judy sighed and nodded, and started the cruiser to head back to Precinct One.

"The precinct," said Nick to himself, "is a fine and wonderful place, but none, I think, do there prefer to toil."

He shook his head in bemusement at his mangling of an old poem, and turned back to his laptop, filling out his share of the reports for the day on his couch at home. It'd been close to 8pm when he'd left the precinct - after spending more than an hour agonizing over what he put into Theo's report. Of course Chief Bogo (who apparently never left the damn place) hadn't batted an eye when Nick personally handed the report to him, responding with: "Hopps agreed with and vouches for your decision. Where would we be if I couldn't trust the judgement of my own officers?" Judy had still been at her desk, plugging away at the other half of their reports, when Nick headed home. He'd given her a wave, a 'see you tomorrow,' and after a lot of head swiveling looking for co-workers, a rather chaste kiss on the cheek.

Of course, now he was missing her and wishing he'd stayed, no matter how comfortable his couch was.

It was getting close to 10pm - time to turn in, though his body resented it - when there was a knock at his door. There was really only one mammal who would be trying to come by this late and without any notice. Nick felt a thrill in his stomach as he approached the door.

Sure enough, Judy was standing outside, looking bashful. She was dressed casually and had a duffel bag over her shoulder, her ears standing tall and her nose oddly still. She gave him a nervous smile. Nick folded his arms and leaned against his doorway, giving her a small smile and a questioning raised eyebrow.

"So, um… I couldn't sleep," she said, the inside of her ears growing pinker by the second, "it felt like you were, uh… missing next to me, I guess." She paused, digits twining and fidgeting, then said in a rush: "And I stewed on it for a little while but then I just said 'this is stupid, he's just across town' and so here I am."

She looked so embarrassed to Nick. After just a few seconds of silence, Judy said: "...Or this was really presumptuous of me and, hahaha, I can just go h-ummmph." Nick swooped in and cut her off, tilting her jaw up and capturing her lips with his.

They kissed for a good 30 seconds, until Judy pulled away, a little out of breath. "Oh."

"Of course I want to spend the night with you," Nick said. "Please come in."

{The Harp Consort - Bridget Cruise}

Nick watched her as she stepped by him, all curved hips, perky tail, and a hesitancy in her gait that spoke to a remaining uncertainty. In that moment, she was irresistible. He closed the door, bolted it, and swept after her.

Judy made it about 5 feet into the apartment before Nick scooped her up from behind. Her trained-into-reflex combat response made her to briefly stiffen and move to break free, but his scent and his lips meeting hers overrode her initial reaction, and she melted in his arms instead.

Judy reached her paws up to stroke his muzzle as the kiss deepened. His mouth lifted from hers, his tongue stretching to tease her lips, and his snout dipped lower, to kiss, lick, and nibble at her neck. Judy moaned out her pleasure; from his ministrations, his presence, the feeling of security in his arms. As he nipped and kissed down the curve of her neck to her graceful collarbones, she started unbuttoning his shirt, needing to feel his fur and skin against hers.

Nick could scent her growing excitement; a need for release that he could almost feel and sought to quench. He felt himself starting to respond to her. He reached lower with his mouth, taking her shoulder and neck in his jaws and biting down gently. Judy moaned, almost mewling in ecstasy, and her blunt-nailed paws, having gotten past his shirt, dug into the fur and skin below in response.

After a few seconds, he released her and leaned back, looking down at Judy. She was panting, flushed, eyes dilated, and her scent was strong in his nose. She reached up and took his muzzle in her paws again, cradling his face like a precious treasure. He didn't deserve to be looked at like that, he knew, but he loved it anyway.

She saw the tenderness in his eyes, the lust and the desire and the uncertainty, the protectiveness and the eagerness to please her. His scent swirled around her, calming and exciting her in equal measure. He was handsome and strong and wanted her, she was sure.

Looking into each other's eyes there was a sensation of tumbling, of falling into each other.

"Wow," she said.

"Yeah. Wow."

"Can we…"

Judy giggled as Nick dashed into his bedroom in answer. He moved next to the bed, kicked the covers open, and gently laid her down. As his arms pulled out from under her, Judy cocked her hips, rubbing her thighs together, and pulled an ear over an eye, playing with it. She flashed Nick a coquettish grin as he finished pulling off his shirt. He drank the sight of her in, his hackles raising further, his eyes full of hunger. She leaned forward, reaching for his belt line, but Nick smiled and shook his head, pushing her back onto the bed with a paw.

"Please," he said, "let me."

He reached for the hem of her shirt, hooking his digits under it. Judy lifted her arms and her torso slightly, and Nick pulled her shirt up, slowly, sensually, dragging his claws gently through her velvety grey and white patterned fur, his mouth dotting kisses and licks as he moved up her torso. Judy shivered at the sensations. He leaned in and kissed her lips as the shirt came over her head and past her ears, and she seized him by the ears, pulling him against her lips.

Judy felt him running a paw pad between her waistband and her fur as they kissed, gently stroking her. Then it moved lower under her clothes, his paw cupping her right hip, a pad and claw tip tracing the crease where her thigh met her hips. Nick broke the kiss and started crawling further down the bed. Judy held still the paws on his head; her blunt claws raked over his ears and down his snout as he moved. Nick gave her a shivery grin at the sensation. Crouching over her legs, Nick hooked both paws into the waistband of Judy's pants and underwear, carefully extracted her tail, and repeated the slow, claw-trailing removal of clothing down her legs. With her bottoms off he almost immediately moved to service her as he had the night before, but Judy sat up and pushed his head away, firmly.

"Don't. Thank you, but I want to take care of you tonight," she said, and moved to undo his belt. Nick let her work, watching with trepidation, and she soon had his pants unbuttoned. Nick stood and took them off. When he moved back to the bed, Judy took his paw and pulled him down to lie on his back.

Judy, sitting next to him on bed, looked over his reclining form. His excitement was obvious: raised hackles; fast, panting breath; and more visibly between his legs. Judy leaned over him, dipping her muzzle in to kiss him on the lips. After a moment she reached down and took him in paw. Nick gasped and then whimpered, a nervous, almost scared sound. Judy broke the kiss and asked sweetly: "What is it, Nick?"

He started to answer, but Judy hadn't stopped working her paw, and he interrupted himself with a sudden intake of breath. She felt him shiver against her. Judy ceased her motion to let him answer.

He whined, then said in bare whisper, "...I'm scared."

"Of what, handsome fox?" She tightened her grip slightly. "This?" Nick nodded quickly in response.

Judy smiled down at him, eyes ablaze in desire, and asked "Didn't any of the vixens you dated before take care of you?" Hesitantly, Nick nodded again.

Judy leaned in and kissed him again. "Then don't worry. Relax and enjoy yourself," she said, and began moving her paw. Nick's eyes closed for a moment as he gasped and panted. Enjoying his response to her ministrations, Judy leaned lower, examining him more closely. He really was going to be rather too big for her, although the shape made things less intimidating. She looked up at Nick and gave him a little smirk before lapping at him.

Nick immediately responded, letting out an abrupt whine as his muscles tensed, then relaxed. He started to vocalize slightly on his exhales. Though he was feeling foggy with pleasure from Judy's efforts, he reached between Judy's legs with a paw, seeking to reciprocate. She felt his paw pad apply pressure to her, and gave a moaning shudder, but after only a few seconds, moved out of his reach. She kept her grip on him, smiled and shook her head, and lay down on his legs. As she put her mouth and paws back to work in her new position, she could much more closely feel Nick's shudders and muscle tension. After a moment, though, he lifted a thigh between hers and put pressure against her again. She rolled her eyes, but couldn't keep herself from pushing back, building to her own release.

It took a little time, but eventually Nick's vocalizations and shudders built to a crescendo. He grabbed her ears, one in each paw - not pulling, just holding them. She felt part of him start to swell - surprisingly large, even though she was expecting it - which, combined with his paws on her sensitive ears and the pressure against her, triggered her own unexpected release. She shook against and moaned around him - he gave a harsh gasp as his body went shiveringly, whipcord-tense: she had brought him to his fall. Nick rode the pleasure out, Judy pulling her ears from his grasp at one point, but was brought rather quickly back to reality as she started laughing.

He looked down the bed to find her... rather out-of-sorts, but still laughing.

"Ah…" he said.

"There's just… so much!" she said, and started giggling. She looked down at him, still in one paw, and quirked an eyebrow.

"Right… That's, uh, normal. Sort of… enforced cuddle time, if this was… arranged a little differently." Judy smiled at him, and crawled off the paw-foot of the bed.

"Let me go clean up," she said, and left for the bathroom. Nick nodded, a little embarrassed, and got a towel out of his closet to clean up himself.

Nick lay in bed on his side when Judy returned about five minutes later. She slid under the covers behind him, slightly awkwardly being the 'big spoon', and kissed the back of his head.

"Hey," she said.


"You've got nothing to be embarrassed about, Nick."

"Don't I?"

"No, you don't."

Nick rolled over to face Judy. "You must be joking."

"I'm really not! Actually… I kind of liked it."

"What, seriously?"

Judy shivered against him slightly. "Yeah. I… um. It made me wonder what it would feel like if we, you know…"

Nick gave a nervous laugh.

"Well, it made a little more eager to find that out, anyway."


"I know, I know. Don't worry about it. There's no pressure. Just… no hesitation from me anymore."

Nick nodded in understanding. "Ok. Good night, Judy."

Judy tilted her muzzle up and gave Nick a quick kiss, breathing his scent in.

"Good night, Nick. Sweet dreams."

He curled his arms tighter around her, pulling her close. Her presence, her scent; it felt right. She filled his world.

She nuzzled into his neck fur, deeply breathing him in. Really there was nowhere else - no one else - she could contemplate that she'd prefer. It was their own perfect little corner of the universe, and for now nothing outside it mattered.

Wrapped in each other's arms, drinking in each other's scents, they quickly succumbed to sleep, ever deepening the safe harbor they brought out of the undercurrents in each other.

A/N - Almost 3 months, it's been, since I had something to show everyone. This is an extra long chapter, because there was a lot to get done in it, and maybe that helps a little - but I know, never really enough. I can promise all my readers, though, that this fic is not dead - it just might take longer to complete than anyone, including me, wants it to.

Thanks to Fairlane302, my beta reader, for his advice, super speedy editing work, and patience. You're the best, dude.

FYI Bridget Cruise is an old Irish love song by Turlough O'Carolan. It's usually played as an instrumental, but does have lyrics - which are extremely tender hearted and sweet.

Bye until next time... In like a year and a half… or longer!

(Yes you can win fake internet points if you can pick out easter egg references in the text. I'll even note your screen name if you comment and get one right! Here's one for you: a few chapters back I badly quoted The Emperor's New Groove.)