Disclaimer: Zootopia and all related characters are owned by Disney.
It was a dark and stormy night. No, it was actually quite the pleasant Zootopia afternoon, dark and stormy was how Nick felt. The red fox, dressed in his standard-issue khaki pants, flowered Pawaiian shirt, and tie, was standing in front of the Grand Pangolin Arms apartment building looking up at Judy's window with a pained look on his face. An overweight pig in an expensive jogging suit slowly passed the stationary tod. "Damn Fox, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, move out of the way."
Nick started walking, and within moments he was on autopilot headed towards the Metrorail station. Ever since they'd first met, he had promised himself over and over that this wouldn't happen.
When Judy had dug up some old information on him and used it to blackmail him into helping her with the Missing Mammal case, he was so impressed by her hustle that he went along with it. He'd promised himself that he'd lose her later, he didn't.
Waiting on the rail platform, oblivious to the dirty looks he was getting, Nick remembered when Chief Bogo had tried to welsh on his deal with Judy and take her badge when she still had ten more hours to find Otterton. Nick had stood up to the large Cape Buffalo and helped Judy keep her job. Afterward, he swore to himself that he wouldn't start caring about her.
After claiming a seat in the railcar, Nick knew things had gone south with Judy after they boarded the gondola car and he told her about his disastrous attempt to join the Junior Ranger Scouts. When she'd put her paw on his arm, and said she believed in him and that he could be much more than what others expected, emotions long buried started to emerge.
The railcar started to slow as he thought about how he walked out on her after the news conference. Try as he might, to hate her for what she'd said, he couldn't. He even had to give up hustling, because, for three months, all he could think about was the gray bunny and how much he missed her. When Judy found him under the bridge and apologized for what she'd done, he waited a whole two seconds before forgiving her and then they were off, best friends again, solving the Nighthowler case.
Stepping out of the railcar onto the platform, Nick slowly made his way out to the sidewalk. He remembered helping her while her leg healed after Bellwether had been arrested, and then being amazed when she pulled his old ZPD application out of her back pocket and asked him to be her partner again. That was when he knew he wanted her in his life, but as what? Friend or girlfriend? He'd sworn to himself that he'd keep that answer buried inside his heart.
Still on auto-pilot, Nick walked for a few blocks through a rougher part of town, he hadn't been this way in a while and was barely conscious of where he was going. The academy training was the hardest six months of his life, physically demanding and academically challenging. Judy was there for him the whole time. Meeting him for extra workouts, near-nightly phone calls, sharing her old study guides and testing him on the material until he knew it backward and forwards. She even kept him from giving up the day his death count on the obstacle course reached double digits.
The day Judy visited him, injured from a shooting, Nick felt like he'd been gut punched. That was the moment he vowed he'd have her back no matter what. And, since graduating top of his class was the only way to guarantee they'd be assigned together as partners, he promised himself that too.
When he actually did graduate valedictorian of his class, she was the one that pinned his badge on. When she smiled and saluted him for the first time, he gave up lying to himself, he'd fallen for her.
Unfortunately, he knew nothing could ever happen between them. She was amazing, and he was a pelt. A fox and a rabbit could never work. He decided (more promises) that having her as a best friend was more than he deserved and it was enough.
Until it wasn't.
Walking into the Foxburg Pub, Nick headed to a booth he hadn't sat in for over a year and tortured himself going over, in excruciating detail, the worst mistake he'd made in his whole life. Even the skunk butt debacle paled in comparison to this horror show of a train wreck. Six months of working together, their success rate top tier, movie nights, showing her the city on their off days and spending most of their free time together, it was the happiest he'd been since he was a kit, happier even because he was hopelessly in love.
Months of promises had held firm until they were on break eating lunch in the park one day. Judy saw an interspecies couple taunted by some speciest old bitty of a goat. That seemingly minor event started them both on a path they never expected, a path that had Nick break every promise he'd ever made to himself and ending with him sitting by himself in a bar.
"Good evening sir, what can I get for you?"
Nick didn't look at the waitress, didn't see the curious look on her face as she wondered why such a good-looking guy was in an empty bar all by himself in the middle of the afternoon.
"A whiskey, please. Make it a double."
The waitress returned a couple of minutes later and slid the glass of amber liquor in front of Nick. "My name is Holly. Please let me know if you would like anything else."
Holly made her way back to the bar and took up her station by the cash register. After a few minutes of trying not to look bored, Holly cleaned a few glasses and then wiped down some tables. Checking her watch as she looked at the fox in the corner, she realized that he hadn't moved an inch in the last ten minutes. As far as she could tell, all he was doing was just sitting there staring at his whiskey glass.
Holly started to go over and check on the fox when Mr. Blackpaw, the owner, stepped out from the kitchen. "How are we doing Holly? Looks dead."
Holly waved her paw towards the fox sitting in the corner booth and replied. "Yeah, the only customer is in booth eight, and he hasn't moved a hair in ten minutes, ordered a double whiskey, but he hasn't touched it yet. I was just about to head over to see if he wanted something else."
Ned looked around the corner of the bar and saw Nick unmoving, with a blank look on his face, staring at the shot glass as if daring it to move. "I know him, leave him be. I'll take care of him for you."
"Sure, Mr. Blackpaw, no problem."
Ned pulled out his phone and sent a quick text. You don't tend bar as long as he had without knowing when something was seriously wrong. The tension was coming off Nick in waves as he debated the drink sitting in front of him. Ned grabbed a clean glass out of the sink and started rubbing it dry. All he could do now was keep an eye on Nick and wait.
Twenty minutes later a small fennec fox with outsized ears, wearing shorts and a red and black bowling shirt pushed open the door to the pub. Finn pulled his aviators off and let his eyes adjust to the dim light for a moment. He gave a nod to Ned behind the bar and headed over. "How is he?"
The old fox nodded his head towards one of the booths in the rear. "He still hasn't moved."
"Send over his regular."
Finnick slid onto the bench across from Nick without saying anything. A couple of minutes later Holly placed a blueberry seltzer in front of the small fox, he nodded without looking at her, and she left without having said a word.
After waiting a few minutes for Nick to acknowledge him, Finnick finally broke the silence. "Nick, you know you aren't going to drink that. So, what the hell are you doing here?"
"Maybe today's the day I do it."
"Yeah, and I'm going to drink this horse piss that you usually order. Spill, what's going on?"
"Finn, I screwed up bad."
"What, 'hide in my van for a night or two' bad?"
"Don't tell me it was, 'skunk butt rug' bad."
"This is so way worse than that, I'd take being iced by Big over this any day."
As Finnick took a quick look over his shoulder to make sure there weren't any hit-mammals bursting into the bar, he suddenly realized what was going on. "Alright, what happened with your bunny girl?"
Nick groaned, head still down. "I asked her out. I called in my favor with Martinelli and went all out. I was in his kitchen all afternoon preparing the perfect meal for her. I made her favorite dishes and then surprised her with something special I cooked from one of Martinelli's secret family recipes."
"Whoa, Martinelli let you into his stash? I don't even want to know what you gave up for that."
"Yeah, you really don't because that's not all he did for me." Taking a couple of breaths, Nick continued, "When Judy arrived at the restaurant, Martinelli led us both up to the private table on the roof. As we sat there, watching the sunset, he had someone bring up the meal I had cooked so I could serve it to her.
Finnick leaned forward, "So, she accepted the meal, didn't she?"
A slight smile played across Nick's face. "Yeah, and then we went back to her place. It was amazing, she was amazing."
"So why do you look like crap? She accepted your meal and then you played tonsil tag. You're golden!" Nick flinched at that which caused Finn to pause, something happened. A visual popped into his head, and he started to laugh. "No way, did the two of you rut? Did she wake up pissed and throw your ass out? You must be a hell of a lot better cook than I remember."
That got a reaction, "Screw you, Finn! We didn't rut, you of all mammals know I would never disrespect a girl by trying something like that. "
"Okay, okay, I was kidding, don't bite my face off. I'm shutting up now."
"Everything was going so much better than I could have dreamed. Finn, she told me she liked me. We made out, and it was great. I knew, one hundred percent, we could make it work between us. When I left her apartment last night, I was the happiest fox ever until, barely fifteen minutes into my walk home, I got a "we need to talk" text."
"Is that where you were this afternoon?"
"Yeah. I was an idiot, Judy's a bunny, not a vixen, none of what happened at the restaurant meant anything to her, nothing we did together last night made a difference. She told me that her parents would never accept her being in an interspecies relationship, especially with a fox. And it wasn't just her parents she was worried about. She said her family's business would be destroyed and all her young siblings would be treated as social pariahs by the rest of their town if she were caught dating outside her species."
Nick closed in on himself, he looked even more miserable than before. "Finn, as I was leaving her apartment, I said some horrible things, I was so disappointed in her and hurt by what she said and angry at myself for ruining our friendship and pissed at her parents and their whole rutting town I went off on her. It's over Finn, there's no coming back from what happened between us."
Nick looked like he was about to break down, he dropped his head and started staring at the shot glass in front of him again. He felt like his whole life had just been flushed down the toilet. He berated himself again and again for asking Judy out on a date. Thankfully Finn was here, he'd be able to help him make sense of this disaster and come up with a way to get Judy…
Odd noises crept into Nick's thoughts, noises that were coming from across the table. Nick slowly looked up to see Finn with his phone out. "What are you doing?"
"Cat videos, the whole reason the internet was created."
"Not even three hours ago I had my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped into the ground by the girl I want to be with, and you're sitting there watching porn?"
"Uh-huh, it's amazing the different ways a feline can bend. Here let me show you." Turning the phone around so Nick could see, Finn started pointing at the small screen. "See, that? How is that even possible?"
Nick took a closer look, angled his head sideways and grunted. "Whoa, you're right, haven't seen that… NO, NO, NO." Nick jerked back in his seat and started waving his paws back and forth as if he were trying to erase the disturbing images from his mind. "Geez Fin shut that crap off, how about helping me with Judy instead of looking for your next ex-girlfriend."
Finn paused the video and put the phone down. Waving one of his paws in a circle around Nick, Finn asked, "Depends, are you done with this pity party or do you need some more time to get it out of your system?"
"Well, it hasn't been very long since she dumped me and I kind of thought I'd get a little more time to wallow in despair."
Finn reached for his phone, "Take your time, I found this cool site that posts sloth mating tips, with videos."
With his forehead on the table, Nick groaned. "I hate you so much."
Patting Nick on the head like he was a small kit, Finn laughed at the larger fox. "That's why daddy's here."
Finn straightened up in his seat and put his game face on. "Okay Nick, serious fox here now. Be straight with me. Do you really want the bunny girl or is this some sort of fanboy phase and you're just crushing on her?"
"I really want this, she's the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I don't want to lose her especially when we were so close to making it happen."
"You're sure, 'cause I can hook you up with a couple of the hottest vixens you've ever seen, one night with them and you won't remember your name let alone any of this."
"Finn, I've never been surer about anything in my life."
Finn scratched his eyebrow and grimaced, then he pursed his lips and spent a few moments lost in thought. "Assume this is a con, what would you do?"
Nick leaned back again and rubbed the back of his neck. "Judy's probably pretty angry with me, so I need to come up with a plan to fix that before figuring out how to hustle her into saying yes to another date."
Finn shook his head, "Not going to work."
Nick started to speak up but was cut off by Finnick, "Hear me out. Yes, you need to apologize to the bunny for being an asshat in her apartment today, but a couple of minutes ago you said she already likes you."
Looking like he was trying to solve a complex puzzle, Finn continued. "If the bunny is in the bag, who's the real mark and what do you want from them?"
It had been a while, but Nick started to channel his inner hustler. Finn was right, as the wheels turned, he realized all the mistakes he'd made over the last few days. Not the ones he believed he'd made that had turned him into an emotional wreck, but the ones that mattered: no research, no plan, no backup plan, and no contingency analysis. Barely a year away from the game and he'd already lost the touch. Nick chewed at his lower lip, and a smile started to creep onto his muzzle. Maybe he was rusty, but the skill was still there.
"Finn, I'm going to need your help to pull this off."
Smiling, Finn slid the untouched fizzy blueberry drink over to Nick, grabbed the shot glass of whiskey and downed it in a single gulp. Slamming the glass down on the table upside down he looked at Nick, "Hooyah, it's nice to see you're back."
As Finn left the pub, Nick pulled out his phone and started his research, he wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.