"JH: Be there in 20!"
"NW: ok. Just finished,"
"JH: You taking the train?"
"NW: yes. It's raining."
"JH: I can see that. See you soon!"
"JH: Did you pass btw?"
"NW: Patience, Carrots."
"JH: Just tell me…"
"NW: Losing reception now. See you there."
Judy groaned, realizing she should have asked the question first. Give a fox time and they'll use it to their advantage. Give a fox like Nick time and he'll probably mess with you. She found herself looking out the window, below which her phone had been resting. At least he wasn't lying to her.
Given the miniscule size of what others would barely call a room, more like a hole in the wall, Judy needed only reach slightly behind her to grab her rainclothes. She could have done it on the bed as well, and she probably would have had it not been for the anxiety. Despite the seemingly nonchalant tone Nick had taken over text, this whole pass or fail matter arguably meant more for her than him. If he had failed, Judy would be alone on the job, with probably less time to so much as talk to Nick, who, while not a cop like her, assisted her to such a degree in solving the Missing Mammals case that she started calling him a junior detective. Nick would have his conartistry to fall back on, which would eventually lead to an ironic encounter where Judy would be professionally forced to arrest him. If he had passed, they'd be formally partners in crime and could more easily continue their friendship. Judy had to admit, while she knew much more than the average mammal knew about Nick, the case hadn't run for that long. They never had time to really talk, aside from that one rare emotional time in the skytram.
Judy would have loved to reminisce on that wholesome moment, but the thought of it all going wrong kept her on edge. She was good under pressure, but not when it came to potentially losing somebody important to her.
Grabbing her umbrella from the uncomfortably narrow closet, Judy tried to think as optimistically as she could. Who in the right mind would have that winky-face attitude if they had failed the academy final, and would be rejected the opportunity to enroll in the Zootopia Police Department? Someone who didn't care? Someone with an overly easy-going personality, perhaps.
Oh, she thought. That's Nick. Shaking her head briefly, she stepped outside for the first time. It was as if the sun had found her eyes. A beam of light protruded onto her and illuminated her gaze into the scenic urban landscape, crowded with early risers. Not finding a cloud in sight, Judy couldn't help but grin, her ears spiking upwards. But then she looked down, noticed her attire of a raincoat and boots, felt the umbrella in her hand, and then stared back outwards at the sunlight. Unlucky on the timing, but still lucky regardless. If she were more spiritual, she might have taken the beautiful day as a good omen, a sign that Nick had actually passed.
And now she would have to go back up and change. Her smile slowly faded into a pout and she groaned in annoyance. It was more indirect than aimed at anybody. She certainly didn't blame Nick for unnecessarily warning her about the rain that would stop minutes later. He probably hadn't had time to look at the weather anyway, assuming he was the slightest modium of nervous.
Nonetheless, Nick must be tired by now, having gone through the entire final evaluation early in the morning. Judy suspected that, when he'd come up from the underground train station, he'd be happy to see the sun, just as she was.
Or would he? Her ears perked up in realization and she paused. Her hand lay frozen on the doorknob mid-twist. With the other hand, she fished for her phone in her right pocket. A grin crept back up on her face as she started typing furiously.
"JH: Hey look! The sun came out!"
Keeping her phone grasped within her hand, only now did Judy open the door and begin to walk outside. As she reached the stairs that would lead to the outside again, she typed again, having received no response.
"JH: "That got me thinking, what's your phone carrier, anyway? Must be pretty cheap if just a little rain and clouds are killing your reception. Well maybe it'd have helped if your train went through some tunnels to block some of that deadly precipitation. Unfortunately for you, the last time I checked, the Z-Train runs exclusively outdoors! And you're definitely riding it right now 'cause a sly fox would never willingly add forty-five minutes to his commute by some indirect way! So you oughta fess up and give me those test results or you might just find your partner isn't a dumb bunny, but a giant elephant who'll undoubtedly step on you."
Again, no response, but Judy didn't need Nick to tell her she had caught him deep in a lie. He had been procrastinating telling her the results, but for what? Judy forgot to ask herself, and just for the moment, she didn't mind. She was having too much fun, silently giggling to herself. As the flashing dots appeared on her screen, indicating that Nick was typing back, her lower lip raised in attempt to hold in her snickering. When his response came through however, she couldn't help but burst into triumphant laughter.
"NW: Clever rabbit."
Despite leaving late, Judy managed to arrive at the train station ten minutes early. Turns out that when nervous or excited, she tended to jog. She probably would have ran, but her leg was still in pain from when she tore it running from Bellwether. All the obstacle courses the Academy put her through during her training, and she nearly skewered herself on a life-sized mammoth tusk. Letting out a reminiscent sigh, she shook her head lightly. No matter how long the media decided to talk about the Missing Mammals Case, Judy knew the sooner she moved on from Bellweather, the better. It wasn't like the sheep was going anywhere.
Judy fit her way through the crowds of mammals, most of which towered over her in size, and situated herself on the edge of the Z-Train's platform. Her eyes eventually caught the sunbeam reflecting off the incoming train in the distance. As the crowds of people moved in closer, either from impatience of waiting or anticipation to meet with whomever was on the other side, Judy fixed her triumphant smile she had assumed back home. She'd never miss an opportunity to rub something in Nick's face, especially when it was beating him at his own game of wit.
The train's wheels screeched on the tracks as the cars slowed to a gradual stop. As the reminder to give the exiting passengers space played over the intercom, every mammal on the platform rushed the train doors. Judy could have said something about the hazard they were making, but she figured that without her police uniform nobody would take her seriously. She just had to wait a few moments until she saw a fox with a reddened coat of fur and an auburn tail. From a distance, they almost looked the same height, but she knew from too many encounters that he had about half a foot over her.
"Real smooth there on that phone, buddy." Holding that same victorious expression, Judy eyed Nick approaching her from the train and crowds of mammals stampeding out. "Bunny got your tongue?"
Nick, with his usual, smug and sly grin, rolled his eyes and retorted with no hesitation. "Yeah, you'll have to forgive a fox who's been up since five and dare I say, decaffeinated, if it takes him a while for his brain to start working. Sorry to disappoint."
Judy scanned him over quickly before firing back a snicker that widened her smile. He was wearing his usual trademark attire of a green, untucked button down shirt and loose khakis down below. And the purple striped tie, of course. Normally he would have had his hands in his pockets, but one arm was holding the bagged gym clothes he had worn for the physical part of the final. The other seemed unoccupied, yet Nick held it behind his back. Stealing a suspicious glance at Nick's side, Judy noticed he wasn't moving and decided to take the lead by walking first. It didn't take long for him to slide into place beside her on the platform. The aftermath of physical activity did not leave Nick entirely energetic. As he walked, he slightly lagged behind her and Judy could hear his barely noticeable pants under his cool, nonchalant facade.
"So," she asked, growing impatient and increasingly anxious at the same time. "Did you pass or not?"
"Hm?" Nick peeled his eyes away from the ground and raised his eyebrows at her dramatically. "Pass what?" he asked, invoking a questioning tone.
"Nick, the test," she moaned, crawling her hands into her head and over her ears so they drooped downwards. "For the love of all the carrots growing underground, enough with the games and just tell me!"
"You're very impatient," noted Nick, shaking his head before gazing up with a grin. "And that's coming from me, the actual hustler here. I'd expect a bunny from the countryside like you to take a deep breath," he paused to inhale at an overly slow rate, and added "and just take in the scenery" before exhaling. "I've found it very meditative and it keeps me from asking about things like test results! You should try it some time."
"You know, you are so inconsiderate sometimes. It's like you don't care."
Nick nodded in agreement. "Not a care in the world. Funny how that's the secret to life but everyone misses it. Getting up early, rushing to work, asking mammals about test results? Sheesh, do you do that to all your friends or just me?"
"I can't stand you!" Judy blurted out. She tried to hold her frustrated tone and posture but ended up giggling silently. Sometimes Nick felt like her older brother, the kind she'd put up with simply because. She knew Nick took advantage of this and hated that she laughed, trying to hide the smile that crept out of her face. When they bickered, her laughing was often an unintentional way of egging Nick on to continue his ridiculous mockery of everything.
"Oh, come on, Carrots, you're not actually that annoyed. If you couldn't stand me you'd have run away a long time ago."
"You know?" Judy replied, having managed to stop the laughter and face him again. "I just might if you don't tell me! And don't think I won't actually run 'cause my leg, either."
Nick paused, cocked his head, returned her stare, and said, "Okay, rabbit. Now you're just making me feel bad." With a sigh, he reached out from his back pocket and revealed a rolled up sheet of paper. To Judy it was like the holy grail and angels may have well have been singing, even though she had yet to read the results.
Judy didn't thank him, but her immensely heavy sigh of relief signaled to Nick just as much, if not more, gratitude. She carefully took the paper from him, having reminded herself not to tear it out of his hand no matter how frustrating the entire exchange had been. Unrolling the paper, she took a deep breath before her eyes darted for the important words. Of course, on school report cards these would be letters ranging from A to F, but notifications were harder to carve words out of as they varied in length and style. In this case, Judy found herself staring at a typed up letter. Knowing the Academy at which Nick had trained, she assumed it was automated. After all, they weren't exactly warm and welcoming when she trained there. Fortunately, having received a letter just like this when she was applying, she knew what to look for. The famous C word, which was often the first word and usually came with an exclamation point. If that word appeared in any way, shape, or form, there was no reason to read anything else.
"Congratulations…!" Judy cried out after a sigh. It was less to Nick and more of a victory cry upon finding the word.
"Mhm, and look behind that." In the time she took to browse the letter, Nick had inched closer to her, looking over her shoulder at the forms. Under the letter of acceptance was the certificate. Vines ornated the borders right above the Academy Master's and Nick's signature. Written in bold, large letters were the words:
NICHOLAS P. WILDE
Has been officially integrated into the Zootopia Police Department.
Many thanks for his participation and may he proudly provide his exemplary service.
This form was issued to the above officer on Saturday, February 19, 2019
"Not sure why they're so bombastic," Nick said, breaking the silence. "Or why they couldn't just tell me in p-"
"You passed!" Judy interrupted, peeling her eyes off the certificate and peering up to him. Nick had been awfully close to her, but as a courtesy he stepped back so she could level her head.
"Mhm. I sure did." Taking an exaggerated bow, he showed no more additional excitement through his trademark grin, but Judy could almost sense he was internally grateful. At least, hopefully. She on the other hand, was often an emotional wreck. She felt a tear creep up in her eye and promptly reached towards her face to wipe it way.
"That's...that's amazing! I don't know what to say except…" she paused, thinking of something fitting. After a few seconds, she continued, "...welcome to the force, Officer Wilde."
The name caused Nick to briefly grimace and furrow his brow. "Ugh...please never call me that again." The hand that had been holding the papers now fell into his pocket, and he adjusted his grip on the dirty clothes at his side.
"You'll get used to it," Judy said, shifting her attention to the certificate and admission letter to roll them up. By now, more mammals had stepped onto the platform to await the arrival of the next Z-Train. Sounds of talking and laughing that had seemed eerily absent as Judy was anxiously prodding Nick for his results slowly returned. Briefly panning her eyes around the station as she wrapped the papers back in the ribbon, Judy felt her heart rate return to a normal pace, her breathing to a steady rate, and her mind to a relaxed state. Only now did she allow herself the freedom to consider what Nick's next step was. For a moment, she had to search through all the remnants of worry about whether such a step even existed for him.
Carefully grasping the roll of papers in her hand, she handed it back to Nick, facing him again. "Yeah, once you get your badge at tomorrow's ceremony, the whole cop life will start to really settle in!"
"There's a ceremony?" Nick raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
With a smile, Judy replied, "Seven-thirty on the spot."
"Don't they notice that all criminals start their days after nine? Tell me, when was the last time you heard of police doing work at seven-thirty?"
"Hmm...actually, recently! I know of one case where a meter maid bunny got this really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apprehend a savage otter. Legend has it that she traded in a whole night's worth of sleep for a gondola lift conversation with...wait here's the best part, a fox!" Judy finished her sentence with an eyeroll. Just the fox being facetious again.
"Well, you don't say? Did the fox really want to stay up and talk to this meter maid or was it just that an ego-maniac buffalo made him restless?"
"Actually, no. They say the fox is the one who started the whole thing."
"Well that would make sense." He leaned closer so that his head was more level hers. "Now I just happen to be a fox, so I can let you in on a little secret. Foxes get really talkative when they grow restless." Shrugging, he stood up straight again, speaking his next remark through a smug face. "I just hope he didn't bore the cop too much about how he was going to get back at the buffalo."
That caused Judy to let out a final groan, sent another eyeroll towards his way, and drop the matter. For some reason she was trying to get a semi-serious response from him there. Something along the lines of Maybe the fox was trying to open up to and befriend the little meter maid! But as she started to glance ahead of her once more she realized how futile it was. Part of her wondered if he could even help not showing his serious side. It seemed to only reveal when absolutely necessary. Judy recalled another incident aside from their conversation that night. She had apologized for insulting him during the press conference about predators going savage, for implying that predators were biologically predisposed to it. Even then, he had managed to make a joke with her carrot pen, but his tone had become so tender in that moment that she knew it was his rare, serious side showing.
"Either way, what I think you were trying to say was," she found her previous smile and toned her voice slightly higher, "you never know when you're needed as a cop, and now that you're dedicated to the force, you should be more than happy to wake up early."
Nick had to restrain himself from laughter. "'Dedicated'?"
"What?" The abruptly inquisitive tone of her question caused her voice to unintentionally shift up an even higher octave. As Judy twisted her head back to look at him, she noticed some eyes darting their way, and her upright ears even overheard a conversation about them talking loudly. Not wanting to start a scene, but still intending to show concern for Nick, Judy stepped an inch towards him and lowered her voice to a near-whisper. "You're not already having second thoughts, are you?"
"Carrots, until I'm sure I can trust whatever characters are in the ZPD, yeah dedicated's probably the last word we should use here."
Maintaining her quieter tone of voice, which she found not only relieving for her vocal cords but quite effective at getting her point across, Judy lightly punched him on the shoulder. "Oh shush, you. What, do you think someone'll grill you for your...former shiftiness?"
She had caught herself just in time not to say "criminal," a word too blunt and dangerous where others could have been eavesdropping. Regret filled up inside of her head just after she asked the question, knowing full well that much of their success as a team was rooted in Nick's questionable background. Judy had to wonder how she would have handled it had the circumstances been different. Even if it wasn't in her jurisdiction to arrest him for a federal offense, if she hadn't been in desperate need of help when she discovered his tax evasions, the soon-to-be Officer Wilde may have been on the other side of the cells. The lack of an immediate response told her Nick must have been pondering something as well.
After what seemed like thirty seconds, Nick broke the silence with a scoff. His full grin rejuvenated as he shook his head. which Judy took as a return to casualness and a signal to continue walking. "Well, yeah, now that you mention it. I'm sure at least a couple of my...uh, let's call them past affiliates...weaseled their way into becoming cops." Judy was about to say something, a smile appearing on her face, but he stopped her with a finger in the air. "No, not Duke Weaselton. Sure, he's a weasel himself, but if he weaseled his way into the ZPD then I might as well be a rhino."
"Actually, I was going to say he'd be a...reasonable asset to the force."
"Okay, no. Flash would have a better chance."
"Yep, cause at least he doesn't talk himself in circles and look for trouble."
"Nick, he literally barely talks! At least, not more than half a word a second."
"Oh no, that's just when he's at the DMV. Trust me. There's a reason people call him Hundred Yard Dash."
That caused Judy to shake her head with a snicker. "Why do I get the feeling you're talking Flash up so that I forget about Weaselton?"
Nick only shrugged with a half smile in return, but quickly continued his point. "He also didn't throw a toothpick in your face, so I would be A. O.K. with him joining."
Judy shot a confused look at him, stepping to the side to give a mother giraffe with her child walking room. "That's really not that big of a d-"
"N-n-n-no shh!" Nick rose his index finger in interjection. "Throwing toothpicks at you equals no ZPD. I'm afraid that's the final deal."
After an unconscious chuckle, Judy looked away and felt a warm feeling. Nick would barely ever let down his emotional barrier, but there were times when he tossed her a piece of his heart from underneath the cracks. Turning to face Nick directly, she replied thoughtfully although she didn't expect him to egg her on.
"No Weasel on the force then, got it. Thanks for looking out for me."
"Oh, it's just what we do at the ZPD, isn't that right?"
She rolled her eyes and gave a sigh that widened her smile. "I see you're already catching on." Like Nick wouldn't look out for her anyway.
"What can I say, Carrots. Foxes are quick. At least when they've had their morning coffee."
"Is that a request?" Judy glanced over her shoulder casually as they crossed the first street since exiting the station.
"Wait, it wasn't okay for me to assume we weren't automatically going to that Snarlbucks around the corner?"
"Well now that you mention it, that sounds like a plan. Roger that, Officer Wilde."
"You're going to milk that dry, aren't you?"
"Yes. Yes I am."