Down the street from Nick's house, Vivian and Janelle sat at a table playing a massive game of Nerts, with each person having their own unique deck of cards. Vivian had introduced Janelle to Tomas and Kristi Diggersan, the Anamalian badger couple who lived three houses down and across the street from Nick. They were impressed with the bunny who showed such a fearless attitude toward predators, especially since Vivian explained how Janelle might be staying with her son for a bit before finding a place of her own.
Hearing how Vivian planned to introduce Janelle to more of the neighbors, Kristi had picked up the phone and called several families who she knew were usually free on Sunday afternoon. Having received a couple of positive responses to come over for an afternoon of games while meeting a potentially new neighbor, the house was soon full of noisy, happy chatter and smiling faces who welcomed Janelle into the neighborhood with open arms.
Janelle was surprised by the warm welcome, but that didn't stop her from grinning like an idiot herself at all the warm fuzzies she was feeling. Most of the neighbors were predators (this was a predominantly predator neighborhood), but there was one prey couple who came over, Benny and Sara Lodgers. They were an interspecies couple—the husband was a tall, brown beaver while his wife was a dark brown, almost black, muskrat who barely reached his chest.
Having never met a muskrat before, Janelle was interested in learning that muskrats were a dark brown, semi-aquatic rodent with semi-webbed back feet, and a long, slightly flattened tail which they used as a rudder and propulsion when swimming. It was also interesting to learn that although muskrats looked somewhat like a cross between a large rat and a beaver, muskrats weren't actually related to rats or beavers, but were close cousins to voles and lemmings. But notwithstanding the fact the couple's species weren't related, they had been blessed with a miracle baby—a little boy they named, Dayvas, which meant wonder or miracle.
His birth was actually what led them to move into this predator-dominant neighborhood. Their previous prey neighbors didn't believe that a muskrat could have a kit with a beaver and so claimed she must have been sleeping around behind her husband's back. It didn't help that Dayvas looked more like his muskrat mother than his beaver father, though the beaver in his blood couldn't be mistaken for anyone who took the time to look.
Besides being a bit taller than the biggest muskrat, Dayvas also had the larger, fully webbed back feet of his father, along with a beaver's shorter claws with his second inner back toe being double clawed. His tail, which was long, skinny, and vertically flat like his mother, was a bit thicker with the flattened part a little taller than the average muskrat. But no matter how much the couple denied such allegations of infidelity, or the proof their son carried in his blood, a lot of Sara's former friends started calling her 'that cheating slut' when they thought Sara couldn't hear them. Most of their neighbors had stopped talking to her and Benny, with a few even actively avoiding her and the family.
Benny and Sara stuck it out for just over three years, but when their sweet little boy, their miracle baby, started repeating some of the horrible things he'd heard the other kits in the neighborhood saying about them (horrible things the kits had overheard their parents gossiping about), Sara and Benny knew something had to change. And so, with their peaceful life gone, they decided to move about four years ago when little Dayvas was only three and a half years old. Leaving the only home they had known since getting married, along with the small-minded, big-mouthed hypocrites who were once their closest friends and neighbors, the Lodgers packed up and never looked back.
Moving here to this predator-dominant neighborhood had been a blessing as they were once more able to live peacefully and happily with their neighbors—their predator neighbors—who were impressed with their miracle baby. They didn't treat Dayvas any differently for being an unusual hybrid and the little seven-year-old boy had already made several friends in the neighborhood. The Lodgers would have brought him tonight, but Dayvas was visiting his grandparents this weekend and wouldn't be home until after dinner.
Janelle was happy to make their acquaintance and to learn about their little miracle baby who was only two years older than her two nieces, Cotton and Sasha. Considering Nick and Judy's own interspecies relationship, not to mention her own possible relationship should she meet the right fox, Janelle was eager to get to know the family better and even asked if she could bring her 5-year-old niece by in a day or two to meet Dayvas.
Benny and Sara eagerly agreed as they didn't have many prey friends left. They were also eager to meet Vivian's son, Nick, whom they had seen coming and going on occasion for the past 4 years but had yet to meet him as they lived at the other end of the block. Although they hadn't met him yet, Benny and Sara had heard about Nick and how he stopped visiting after the death of his adoptive mother, Honey. Learning that Nick, a fox, had been taken in and raised by a badger gave them a greater sense of belonging here as they weren't the only unusual family on the block.
Vivian was excited for them to meet her son, along with Janelle's sister Judy, who was 'rooming' with Nick. As the Lodgers were a young, interspecies family, they would make a good family for Nick and Judy to befriend so when they did adopt, their kits would have someone to play with.
Besides the Lodgers, there was also Milo and Marci Gulo, another interspecies couple. Milo was a tall, muscular black wolverine who resembled a small bear more than his weasel and martin cousins. His wife, Marci, on the other paw, was a slender, muscular white tayra who, like Sara was to Benny, barely reached her husband's chest.
Janelle thought Marci was beautiful as she had a pale golden tint to her soft, white fur. Janelle had never met, seen, or even heard of a tayra before, so she was happy to learn they were a member of the weasel family from South and Central Animalia. Tayras, along with martins, were the closest cousins to the wolverines. And since wolverines and tayras were such close genetic cousins, they were able to have 3 beautiful kits together who were all teenagers by now.
Milo and Marci laughed about their kits being in the terrible teen stage where they thought they knew everything. Their girls, Maria and Annamarie, took more after their mother in looks, with Maria being a creamy-gold colored tayra, while Annamarie was white with a golden tint to her fur, just like their mother. They were also a bit larger and more muscular than the average female tayra due to their father's wolverine blood. Marie was finishing high school next year, while Annamarie was a sophomore. The girls also frequently babysat Dayvas so that Benny and Sara could have a night out to themselves. Coming from an interspecies family themselves, they absolutely adored little Dayvas.
Milo and Marci's son Joseph took after his father and had the powerful, muscular wolverine physique, though he was a little on the small side for the average male. This didn't stop him from winning first place on his high school wrestling team and ensuring they took home the gold at last year's championship. His parents couldn't be prouder of their son, and Janelle was eager to meet him.
The Gulo's were happy to hear that Nick had finally moved back home and were eager to see him again and to meet Janelle's sister. They also hoped Nick would be open to the idea of having backyard barbeques once again. They had really enjoyed spending time together back when Honey was still orchestrating them.
Milo had bought his own barbeque grill several years back and had invited some of their neighbors over on occasion, but had never been able to get a hold of Nick to invite him. Their kits missed having the animated fox` around as he was always the life of the party, telling jokes or wild stories about his, Finnick's, and Honey's crazy adventures. The family also missed hearing Nick play his guitar. That always livened up the parties and had inspired their daughter Annamarie to take up guitar lessons herself and she was eager to play alongside Nick and maybe get some tips from him.
Vivian promised to tell Nick how much he was missed and assured them that her son would begin having barbeques at his house in about a month or so when things settled down in his life. The Gulos and the Diggersans were excited to hear they would be seeing Nick soon, while the Lodgers were excited to finally make his acquaintance. Janelle was looking forward to future barbeques, as well, and started making plans to move permanently to Zootopia. She'd have to talk to Nick and Judy before the wedding and see if she could stay here with them for a time while looking for her own place nearby.
After playing a couple of fast-paced games of Nerts where everyone was trying to get rid of their cards as quickly as possible, with paws clashing into each other while the various players tried to place their cards on the aces in the middle before someone else beat them to the same ace (this garnered a lot of laughter), they then moved on to an enjoyable game of Pit, and then a long game of Phase Ten. The Diggersans kept the snacks and sodas coming as the afternoon moved towards evening.
As the games were played, they all told funny family stories and fun events that had taken place in the neighborhood: New Year's Parties, Valentine's Day couples' dances, Irish-themed potluck dinners for St. Patrick's Day, block-wide Easter egg hunts, block-wide firework shows on the fourth of July, a water party the weekend before school started in August, Halloween costume parties with a few families hosting Haunted Houses for the kits that came by (each year, the families hosting the Haunted Houses would rotate), and then there were Christmas parties with different families hosting them each year.
Janelle couldn't believe all the events that were going on each year, but she was all excited to be a part of them, especially after learning Honey and her husband David had started the barbeque parties to get to know their neighbors as the neighborhood filled up (the Badgersens and the Diggersans were two of the first families in the neighborhood). Once enough families moved in, then Honey started orchestrating the different block parties to keep the neighborhood strong. Several of the original families had moved out or passed away allowing new families to move in, like the Lodgers, but several of the newer families were stand-offish, so the neighborhood wasn't quite as tight as it once was.
Regardless, Janelle was super excited to move into the neighborhood and to get to know everyone better. Vivian was happy to see how well Janelle integrated with the families here, most of whom were predators, though she was glad to meet the Lodgers and was looking forward to meeting their miracle son and hoped it meant that Nick and Judy might also have a miracle baby of their own.
As afternoon turned to evening and they had to return home for dinner, Vivian and Janelle said their goodbyes and that they'd be seeing each other again soon. Janelle was whistling a happy, little tune as she skipped back to Nick and Judy's house while trying to picture her life here. She had several new friends and so many exciting things to look forward to. As she continued to skip and whistle, Janelle wondered how soon she could move to Zootopia.
Vivian followed behind at a more sedate pace while smiling as she followed after the overjoyed little rabbit. Life was truly strange, she thought. Not in a million years did she ever think that she would be friends with a family of rabbits. Of course, she never expected her son to marry one either—not in a billion years. But Vivian was happy: her son had finally found his mate and they were now part of a much bigger family. Her son had finally come home, and he would no longer be alone or just coasting through life.
Smiling widely, Vivian closed her eyes briefly and enjoy the feel of the light summer breeze ruffling her reddish-orange fur. Nick had finally found his family and purpose in life, and she couldn't wait for the wedding in a few days! And then there was Nick's ZPA graduation next spring! She was so excited! Opening her eyes again, Vivian glanced around the neighborhood and thought of all her friends who still lived here while thinking of how well her son and his bunny would be welcomed even after they learned of the two's unusual love and marriage.
Vivian was seriously thinking of moving back to Zootopia, if not this year, then next year after Nick graduated and received his badge. If for no other reason than so she could have a front row seat to the love she saw growing between Nick and his lovely bunny. Well, that and the fact she really wanted to spoil her grandkits rotten. Cotton and Sasha first, and then any other grandkits who might follow. With her tail swishing happily behind her, Vivian started humming the same happy tune as Janelle.
As they neared Nick's house, Janelle and Vivian spotted Finnick's van parked in front of the house next to the jeep. Janelle was excited to see how the fishing trip went and wondered if Cotton had been able to catch anything. The next time they went fishing, she was hoping she could join them.
Vivian, on the other paw, wondered if Nick and Judy left for their dinner with Daphyd on time, or if they had lost all track of time. As newlyweds, Vivian knew from personal experience how easy it was to get lost in her mate's eyes, touch, and taste. Forgetting about everything going on around them was all too easy to do when the bond was first formed. There was a reason red foxes took 3 days to themselves after claiming their mates for the first time.
As Vivian's long reddish-orange tail with its white tip swished behind her, she was looking forward to congratulating her son and his new mate on their marriage and officially welcoming Judy into the family. Smiling brightly, she followed Janelle up the front porch steps and into the house.
About 45 minutes earlier, Finnick drove up to Nick's house and parked his van before turning to his new friend and her niece. With a wide, toothy smile, he asked, "You ready to cook up some fish?"
"Yes!" Cotton said while bouncing in her seat, even as Amy laughed, saying, "I was born ready," before she leaned over to grab the cooler full of fish.
During their whole fishing trip, they had only caught one measly, little catfish that was way too small to be worth cooking, so they had tossed it back. Finnick promised them that the next time they went catfishing, he'd have live bait, so they'd be sure to catch a whole cooler full of catfish. Amy told him she looked forward to their next fishing trip, but she wasn't put out for not being able to have catfish for dinner tonight. She and Cotton had a blast hanging out with him which made the trip well-worth it in and of itself. They also had plenty of crappie and bluegill fish to make up for their lack of catfish and she couldn't wait to taste them fried.
Cotton, for once, was even eager to give fish a try. This left Finnick feeling a little strange to be cooking fish for two rabbit does, but at the same time, he was very much looking forward to it. Watching prey, like bunnies, eating something off the carnivore menu was a rare occurrence, so being with a couple of bunnies who did was a refreshing occasion. Plus, Finnick would use any excuse he could to spend a little more time with Amy and her adorable little tagalong who looked up to him with so much trust—him—a fox! This made Cotton alright in his book any day of the week!
As they entered the house, they hollered a 'hello' to anyone in the house but found the house to be empty. Finnick knew this meant Nick and Judy had already left for their dinner with Daphyd. Seeing as Vivian and Janelle were missing, too, he assumed they had gone to visit some of the neighbors. This left him wondering if they were having dinner out or if they would be home for dinner? Not worrying about it as his only job was frying up the fish, Finn watched Amy carry the fish into the kitchen even as he took Cotton's paw and led her upstairs to the bathroom.
The downstairs toilet was a bit on the big side to better accommodate larger guests and Finn feared the little bunny kit might fall in it. He only made it halfway upstairs, though, before pausing on the middle step. With his nostrils flaring to catch the strong scent of pheromones in the air, Finn slapped a paw over his face while muttering, "Oh, for the love of Pete!"
With her ears cocked and her brows scrunched up, confusion was written all over Cotton's face. Tilting her head, she asked, "What's wrong, Mister Finnick?"
Having put the fish in the sink, Amy was passing the staircase on her way to the downstairs bathroom herself, but hearing Cotton's question, she looked up to see Finn standing still as a statue halfway up the stairs. "What's happened?" she asked as she started up the steps.
Finn shook his head and sighed heavily. Turning to glance down at Amy while nodding towards Nick and Judy's room, he then glanced at the cute ball of fluff holding his paw. Squeezing her paw reassuringly, he then glanced back at Amy and answered with an uneasy grin, "Let's just say it's a really good thing you didn't take my bet earlier."
Stopping on the step just down from them, Amy's eyes widened and her nose started twitching at the mention of Finn's earlier bet. "You don't mean…" She could hardly believe what she was saying. "They couldn't have already…could they?" Nick and Judy had already mated!?
Nodding his head, Finn jerked his thumb towards Nick's bedroom door, saying, "Unless my nose has failed me, Loverboy and Cottontail, upon finding themselves alone this afternoon, didn't waste any time in signing their marriage papers." Rubbing his nose, Finnick added, "Nick definitely claimed your sister." Several times going by how strong the scent was, Finn thought to himself.
Amy's paws rose up to cover her mouth, but they couldn't hide her wide smile or the sparkle of happiness and excitement dancing in her eyes. Nicholas Wilde was her brother-in-law! She was now related to a Jeep Rally legend! The fact he was a fox just made everything all that more interesting. Oh, she couldn't wait to talk to Judy later about how it was to be with a fox. She wanted to know what to expect in case she was lucky enough to win her own grumpy fox's love and affection.
Looking back and forth between her friend and her aunt, Cotton finally asked, "What? What you talkin' about? What did Aunty Judy and Uncle Nick do?"
Looking down, Finnick rubbed the little bun's downy, soft head in comforting circles while explaining, "Nick and Judy performed the private fox wedding, so now they're married. Nick is really your uncle now."
Cotton's eyes lit up at this news, even as her nose and tail began twitching a mile a minute in an attempt to keep up with her overflowing happiness. After a moment, though, her ears drooped as a new sense of dread crept in like a weed in her grandma's garden to smother her newfound joy. "They already married? I not get to be a flower girl now?"
With a soft laugh, Amy reached over and hugged her niece. "Don't worry, Cotton, their wedding this afternoon wasn't their official wedding. It'll still take place on Tuesday evening, and you'll still get to be the prettiest flower girl around, I promise!"
"Really!?" Cotton asked excitedly. She truly hoped she could still be the flower girl for Judy and Nick's wedding and that she could get lots of pictures of them together. The wedding was going to be so pretty! She couldn't wait! It was too bad Sasha couldn't be there, too. She'd make a really pretty flower girl, too.
Rubbing Cotton's head again, Finn answered, "You bet. They still need to hold the official wedding with Judge Princeton so specist idiots can't claim their marriage is invalid because your Aunt Judy isn't a fox."
"Oh," Cotton said quietly as she thought over his words. She didn't want anyone saying that Uncle Nick wasn't her uncle. Realizing that Nick was actually her uncle now had Cotton's smile brightening again. "I glad! I really, really want to be Aunty Judy and Uncle Nick's flower girl!"
"And you will…" Finnick said with a sage nod of his big, floppy ears, "but for now, you need to take that potty break you were asking for earlier."
"Oh, right," Cotton answered bashfully. She had already forgotten she needed to use the bathroom. Hopping up the rest of the stairs, she disappeared behind the bathroom door.
Amy and Finnick chuckled after her, then Amy said she was going to use the downstairs bathroom. Flicking his ear in acknowledgement, he watched her turn around and head downstairs, though he didn't immediately head upstairs. Something about watching that cute, fluffy bunny tail of Amy's bobbing back and forth was making his mouth water. He and Amy were just friends, weren't they? Just a couple of great mechanic friends looking forward to working side-by-side together at the jeep rallies…and mud wrestling. Why was he suddenly wanting to compete against Amy in the upcoming Bunnyburrow mud wrestling competition?
Afraid to pursue that line of thinking (he didn't really want to put his paws all over Amy's slick, muddy body…did he?), Finnick shook his head, his large ears flopping back and forth, and then turned around. Climbing the stairs, he then stood staring at Nick and Judy's room. The door was closed, but with the strong scent of pheromones in the air, there was no hiding what the two had been up to. Rubbing the spot between his eyes and then his small black nose, Finn muttered, "Nutsy. Those two are nutsy. A couple of twitterpated nuts."
Once Cotton finished in the bathroom, Finn used it to wash up himself, then met the two bunnies downstairs in the kitchen where he got down to business. Amy helped him gut and clean the fish while Cotton sat at the breakfast bar, watching them. Finn had offered to put a movie on for her until dinner was ready, but Cotton wanted to watch them instead. She had never watched Amy prepare the fish they'd caught in the past, but now that her aunt was helping Finnick prepare the fish, Cotton was suddenly interested in seeing how it was done.
Seeing the intense look of curiosity and concentration mixing on the young bunnies cute, little face, Finnick was once more thrown for a loop. Amy's desire to prepare, cook, and eat fish was one thing (she was an adult!) but Cotton was something else altogether. She was just a little thing and yet she was still open to learning and trying new things—things prey were taught to fear and hate. Finn was happy, though, seeing how willing the little bunny was to learn something few prey were comfortable with.
Watching them cut the heads off the fish before cleaning and gutting them, Cotton felt a little sad for the fishies, but knew they weren't intelligent like mammals, and Finnick assured her they died without feeling any pain when they were taken out of the water (they had essentially drowned in the fresh air during the ride back to Nick's house).
While preparing the fish, Amy asked more about some of Finnick's likes and dislikes, the things he liked eating, stuff he couldn't stand, along with some of the things he liked to do when he just wanted to kick back and relax.
Finnick's tail began wagging at Amy's interest in him, and Finn had no problems answering her questions. With a wide, toothy grin, he explained how blackberry cobbler was his absolute most favorite food in the whole world, closely followed by fried chicken, though fried chicken wasn't always easy to come by for the simple fact that plain, raw chicken wasn't easy to come by in the city—there were chicken products (canned chicken soup, canned chicken chunks (boiled), chicken lunch meat, chicken hotdogs), but whole chickens used for cooking could only be afforded by the rich and famous.
Amy found this interesting and a little confusing as the meat shop back in Bunnyburrow had lots of plain, raw chicken for anyone to buy. Of course, only predators ever bought it, but Amy had some predator friends she'd overheard talking about it. Thinking about how much Finnick enjoyed it but rarely got it, Amy figured she might have to buy some and learn how to fry it, then they could share some, perhaps while he was helping her restore her classic car.
Continuing on, Finnick told his two bunny friends that he disliked anything with horseradish in it and that he absolutely detested beets, especially pickled beets. He had taken a bet once to eat whole jar of pickled beets—a large jar meant for medium mammals—and had regretted it ever since. Finn had initially thought that it would be the easiest two hundred bucks he would ever make—it was just food! So what if he didn't like it? It wouldn't kill him. Wrong! Worst decision of his life! Eating pickled beets was one bet he will never—never—take again.
Winning this bet had taught him that some things just aren't worth the money—no matter how much is being offered. He had won the bet, yes, but he had then spent the rest of the night with the worst belly ache of his life, and it had taken a week—a week—to get rid of the horrible taste in his mouth. If anyone offered him pickled beets again, he was going to bite their face off!
Cotton giggled at Finnick's story. He was really funny for an adult, but she had to agree with him. She didn't care for pickled beets, either, but a lot of her cousins and aunts and uncles did. Cotton promised to make sure no one offered him pickled beets when he came to visit. Amy promised, as well.
Finnick thanked them in advance for saving him from an awful death at the paws of the 'evil pickled beets' which sent Cotton into a giggle fit. Smiling at her laughing, bubbly-self, Finn then turned back to Amy and wondered how to answer her last question. There wasn't any particular thing he liked to do to kick back—mostly he just watched tv or went fishing—but that was more because he didn't have anyone to do things with, and he said as much. After Honey died, Nick stopped doing a lot of the fun stuff they did and the two kinda drifted apart. But now that Nick was back and had Cottontail, he figured they'd get back into doing all the fun stuff they once did—provided Nick could tear himself away from his bunny.
Amy nodded, and by that time, the fish were ready to cook. After they washed their paws, Finnick whipped up some fry batter while Amy poured a large amount of oil into the frying pan before joining Cotton at the breakfast bar.
Finnick had just coated the first fish in batter when he suddenly paused and said, "Stargazing."
Amy and Cotton were confused by his sudden, out-of-the blue word, especially since he didn't elaborate, and so the two rabbits both said, "Huh?" at the same time.
Glancing over his shoulder, Finnick repeated, "Stargazing. That's what I like to do when I just want to kick back and relax." He then explained that stargazing was something he enjoyed doing when he was a kit, back when his dad was still a dad and his family was still whole and happy.
Amy was saddened to hear that Finnick's happy childhood hadn't lasted, but she was happy to learn of something she and Finn could do together—just the two of them. There were several places back in Bunnyburrow she'd like to take him, where the stars could be seen by the billions and no one would bother them. Of course, she was sure Cotton and Sasha would want to join them some of the time, but they couldn't stay out too late, and then it would just be her and Finn. While biting her lip, Amy wondered if Finnick would ever want to kiss a rabbit?
Facing the stove, Finnick had just thrown the first fish in the pan to cook when Vivian and Janelle walked through the front door. Amy was sitting at the breakfast bar with Cotton and talking to Finnick as he cooked, and seeing this, Janelle quickly joined them. Sitting on Cotton's other side (there were four stools at the breakfast bar), she asked about their fishing trip to which Cotton happily launched into an animated telling of their fun-filled trip and how she had caught the first fish!
Having entered the house, Vivian didn't immediately follow Janelle into the kitchen. Instead, she stopped at the bottom of the stairs and sniffed the air coming down from upstairs. Knowing what scent to look for, she knew right away that her son had followed through with his plans and had claimed his bunny as his mate. With a wide smile on her face, she then followed Janelle into the kitchen and listened to Cotton talk about her amazing fishing trip. Although they had only caught one tiny little catfish, Cotton thought it was so cute with its little whiskers and wide mouth that kept opening and closing.
As Cotton finished her story about how many crappie and bluegill they had caught, Vivian then announced, "I'm going to be having dinner with an old friend tonight, but when I return, I think we should have a girls' slumber party over in the apartment loft. What do you girls think?"
Listening in, Finnick flicked his ear as his tail swished behind him. It was obvious Vivian was in on Nick's decision to claim Judy early seeing as she took Janelle and left the two lovebirds alone this afternoon. Furthermore, she was now making plans to ensure they were left completely alone tonight and tomorrow morning. Shaking his head again while turning the fish over, Finnick muttered under his breath, "Twitterpated nuts."
Upon hearing about the slumber party, Cotton clapped her paws together and squealed happily, after which, she threw her paws up in the air. With her nose and tail vibrating excitedly, she then cried, "Slumber party! Yay!"
Amy immediately agreed, but Janelle was still left in the dark and asked if leaving Nick alone with Judy was a smart idea. Janelle really couldn't see Judy joining them and leaving Nick alone in the house—not when she was so pawsy with him.
Finnick snickered from where he stood on a stool at the stove, even as Amy and Vivian had wide, knowing smiles on their faces. This left Janelle confused at their responses, but it was little Cotton who finally answered her question.
Putting her paw on Janelle's arm, Cotton beamed brightly up at her confused aunt and answered in a matter-of-fact voice, "Uncle Nick claimed Aunty Judy today. They married now and need their special night together." Being raised around so many older rabbits who were getting married, Cotton knew they always had a special night alone together on the night of their wedding. She had no clue what they were doing—the adults never told her—but she knew it was a special night where they adjusted to sharing a bed again (kits shared beds, but stopped when they got older, but started sharing a bed again when they got married). Cotton always wondered if they were reading each other their favorite bedtime stories.
Hearing Cotton's words, Janelle's jaw dropped as her ears stood ramrod straight. Turning to Vivian, she exclaimed, "But you said Judy and Nick were too sore to get up to any trouble if we left them alone!"
With a soft laugh and a shrug, Vivian replied, "Once they signed their marriage papers, it's all legal so it can't be considered trouble anymore, now can it?" With her white-tipped tail swishing behind her, Vivian waited for Janelle's reply.
With her ears drooping, Janelle opened and closed her mouth several times before finally saying, "You're right, we really can't call it 'trouble' anymore, can we?" With a shake of her head, she then asked, "Nick really is my brother-in-law now?"
"Yes!" Amy excitedly spoke to her sister over Cotton's head. "Nicholas Wilde is now our brother and Judy is now Mrs. Judith Wilde." With her nose and tail twitching, Amy added, "Can you believe it!? Judy always swore she'd never get married, but she's now married to Nick! This is so exciting!"
Janelle was starting to smile at the idea. Since she was already interested in dating a fox, it would be a smart idea to grill Judy on the perks of being with a fox, just so she knew what she was getting into. Seeing how interested Amy was in Finnick, it would do them both good to interrogate their newly married sister tomorrow after getting back from town.
Seeing Janelle's smile return, Vivian asked again about the slumber party to which Janelle readily agreed. Vivian smiled happily, then informed everyone that she needed to change her clothes before taking the jeep out. Finnick and the girls wished her safe travels, and after grabbing the jeep keys from the key holder by the front door, Vivian made her way out to the apartment loft.
While packing her clothes for this trip to Zootopia, Vivian had considered the idea of visiting her old friend Silvano Bigg, and so had packed a warm outfit just for such an occasion. She hadn't been sure she would make the visit but considering what she had learned from Nick about his sudden termination of employment from the Bigg's residence, Vivian knew this visit was long overdue.
Pulling out the thick, plush-lined outfit, Vivian shook it out to dislodge the few wrinkles it had acquired. The outfit was a pale silvery-blue and white—the colors of a glacial cave—and was a button-up shirt/jacket and pants ensemble, but was much nicer than a business suit as the material had a slight sheen to it, further giving the illusion of glacial ice. It also had sapphire blue buttons and trim the same color as her eyes.
Furthermore, this was one of the last outfits John had made for her before his untimely death when her whole world shattered. Vivian had cherished this outfit, along with the many others she received from John, all these years as it was a gift from her mate and husband. Oh, how she missed John!
Seeing Nick with Judy reminded Vivian so much of Nick's father, for John had the same loving, hungry gleam in his bright green eyes whenever he looked at her as Nick did whenever he looked at Judy. Nicholas had taken so much after his father that it was uncanny. Nick was almost a carbon-copy of John when they were both kits, and as Nick grew older, he looked more and more like John with each passing year. Sometimes it hurt to look at him, but not having him around hurt even worse, especially when Nick had stopped calling and visiting.
But all that was behind her now. Vivian had her son back and he had finally found a mate and wife of his own. Furthermore, he treated Judy the same way his father had treated his mother—like a princess. Vivian enjoyed watching them interact, as it brought up so many warm memories of when she and John were newlyweds. Taking a deep breath, Vivian closed her eyes and imagined John looking at her with so much love and adoration in his emerald, green gaze. She missed him so much!
Taking a deep breath to prevent any tears from falling, Vivian then opened her deep, blue eyes and looked at the outfit in her paws again. Now wasn't the time to be losing herself to the ache of John's passing. She had an old friend to visit who had some unjust dealings to account for. Slipping into the outfit, Vivian knew wearing it would remind Silvano who his and Francesca's benefactors were all those years ago when they first arrived in Zootopia from Russia. The old shrew needed to be reminded of old debts he still owed.
Straightening the outfit while looking in the mirror, Vivian gave herself a nod, then grabbed the jeep keys and her purse, then headed out the door.
Back in the kitchen, Finnick continued frying fish while Amy and Janelle discussed their dinner options. Amy was going to have a salad with her fish, while Janelle was looking forward to eating some of Nick's veggie lasagna, though she did want to try a few bites of fish. If she was serious about finding herself a fox for a boyfriend, it wouldn't be a bad idea to try different meat dishes and see if she actually liked any of them. Since Amy found several dishes she enjoyed eating, Janelle was confident she'd find at least one or two she liked as well.
Cotton, on the other paw, wanted to eat a salad with fish, too, just like Aunty Amy. Amy said she could, but she could only have a little fish in it as Cotton was still young. Too much solid protein like fish might give her a belly ache if she ate too much at once. Cotton readily agreed—she trusted Amy explicitly—and once dinner was ready, they all sat down to eat.
Cotton and Janelle tried a bite of fish, and at the unfamiliar and weird taste neither knew what to think of it. Amy suggested they wrap the fish in lettuce and give it another try. Cotton liked it better with the lettuce, but Janelle still wasn't too sure about the fish. But they tried one more bite, this time with a large forkful of salad smothered in ranch dressing. Janelle said the salad and dressing made the fish more palatable but wasn't something she would eat if given another choice.
Amy suggested she should try salmon and shrimp whenever the opportunity presented itself as they had a milder flavor. She also told Janelle she might like the turkey sausage Nick had used in the second lasagna he had cooked the other night. Janelle said she might try it tomorrow as trying one meat dish a day was about her limit. Amy didn't press her but was happy her sister was at least willing to try something new. Finnick was impressed with Janelle, as well. For a bunny, she was pretty gutsy, which made Janelle an A-okay rabbit in his book. One that he wouldn't mind getting to know better.
Cotton, on the other paw, really like the slight taste of fish mixed in with her salad and ranch dressing. Using her fork to point at her plate, she asked for fish to be put in her salad like Amy had. With a bright smile, Amy reached over to the plate of fish but Finnick beat her to it (Cotton was sitting next to him while Amy sat across the table next to Janelle). Putting a small piece of fish on his own plate first, Finn broke it up into flakes, then lifted his plate to scrape them over the top of Cotton's salad.
With her salad properly made, Cotton dug in with gusto. Stuffing her cheeks like a chipmunk, the little bun smiled happily as she munched on her fish salad.
Finnick felt his heart throb at the cute and adorable expression Cotton was making. Who knew a little bunny could enjoy fish so much!? Pulling out his phone, he couldn't help snapping a picture. Seeing Finnick snap a picture, Amy and Janelle both followed suit as Cotton beamed happily at them and even posed with a big forkful of salad and fish raised to her mouth.
Everyone laughed at Cotton's adorableness and the dinner commenced, with smiles and laughter as a healthy side dish. As the food and drinks disappeared, stories were told and plans for the future were made.
Janelle found Finnick an interesting fox to be around. His knowledge of Zootopia was vast, and his time being a mechanic, both on the side and during the jeep rallies, left him many interesting stories to tell which had Amy and Cotton hanging on his every word. Amy shared some of her own stories, then they discussed the upcoming Bunnyburrow Classic Car Show and Annual Mud Festival. Janelle was surprised to learn Finnick would be coming back to Bunnyburrow with them on Thursday so he could help Amy finish restoring her '56 Chevy.
Seeing how he also planned to attend the Car Show and Mud Festival with Amy and Cotton gave Janelle the impression that Amy's feelings for the small, sand-colored fox might not be one-sided. Seeing how much they had in common, Janelle hoped Amy might finally find love and silently wished the two the best of luck, even as she wondered if there wasn't a fox out there for herself.
Amy was fully enjoying herself. It had been a long time since she last had a real vacation and spending time with Finnick, her sister, and her niece in such a nice, relaxing atmosphere where laughter and smiles were shared, and good food enjoyed, made this impromptu vacation the best one yet. It was times like these that made life worth living and she couldn't wait to discover more fun in the coming days.
Finnick, like Amy, was fully enjoying himself for the first time in years. Spending time with a bunch of bunnies shouldn't be this fun and relaxing, but here he was, having the time of his life. Cottontail's sisters and niece were more fun than he could ever have imagined—and he didn't even need to hide his teeth and claws or that fact he ate meat! He was with a bunch of rabbits, and he was still able to let loose and enjoy being a predator. It was unreal!
Amy had told him she liked eating meat with her salads but seeing how much both she and her niece enjoyed the fish he cooked left him feeling warm and fuzzy and fully content with his life. He hadn't felt this way in so many years—not since Honey was still alive and healthy and dragging him and Nick all over the place on her wild adventures.
But as good as it was when Honey was alive, something about being here with Amy, a female he fully respected and appreciated—and who respected and appreciated him in return—along with Cotton, a young bun who looked up and trusted him completely—it left him feeling warm and fulfilled in a way he had never felt before. Seeing the way Janelle fully accepted him, as well, left him feeling good in ways he rarely felt among prey. It was strange and a bit confusing but left Finnick longing to feel more of it. With this thought in mind, he planned to make the most of the next few days they had together here in Zootopia, plus the time he would spend with them in Bunnyburrow over the next couple of weeks.
About half an hour before Finnick, Amy, and Cotton showed up at the house, Nick had carried his honeybun out to the garage and helped her into his expensive, sapphire-blue foreign car. As she slid into the comfortable, hand-stitched seat, Judy slid her paw across the upholstery and had to admit—it was nice. Watching Nick climbed in and turned the car on, Judy liked the hum it made as it purred beautifully, especially as Nick drove it out of the garage and onto the street.
Pulling onto the main road, Nick gave it some gas and the expensive sports car took off down road and Judy was truly impressed—it rode like a dream. The Aston Martin was smooth to drive, but had plenty of power, and when Nick revved the engine to accelerate, it growled—not a purr—a growl. A growl which reminded her of her mate and that mind-numbing growl of his that always drove her absolutely wild. But putting aside how much the car reminded Judy of her predatory husband, the Aston Martin really was a dream to ride, and Nick handled the powerful machine like he was born in it. Watching the silly grin on his face as he put the high-performance vehicle through its paces made her smile—Nick could be such a kit at times!
But as much as it warmed her heart to see Nick cut loose like this, and as amazing as the British car was, Judy couldn't keep her mind off the amazing afternoon she and Nick had just shared (which the car's growl reminded her of). Lightly rubbing her belly, she couldn't forget how incredible Nick felt inside her and how he so thoroughly satisfied her time and time again. And then remembering the shower afterwards—mm-mm—it was even steamier than their shower this morning! Just remembering it had Judy blushing bright red and her scent turning a little sweeter, which brought a smug, toothy grin to Nick's face as he glanced her way.
Trying to get her mind off this afternoon and onto the important dinner they were headed for, Judy turned to Nick and asked more about his friend Judge Daphyd Princeton. With a happier smile (and not so smug), Nick told her a bit about his time with the judge, his no-nonsense way the elk judged his cases and gave his verdicts, along with the easy, laid-back mammal Daphyd became once his judge's robes came off. Judy smiled when Nick told her of previous dinners he'd been invited to and how warmly Daphyd's family had accepted and welcomed him—a small fox lawyer—into their home.
It warmed Judy's heart to know Nick did have some good prey friends, but it dampened her spirits a bit when she thought about how Nick had cut them out of his life after Nakita framed him and Mr. Bigg tossed him out on the street with a death threat hanging over his head should the small shrew ever see his face again. Talk about hitting rock bottom!
Judy was just glad that Daphyd and his family still accepted Nick into their home and didn't find fault with his long absence. But thinking of meeting the stately elk judge herself, had nervous butterflies flitting around in her stomach. Although she and Nick were now married, there were plenty of specist pricks out there who would scream and holler about their fox wedding ceremony being invalid since she wasn't a fox. Only if Daphyd officially married them could they hope to stem those vicious tides and leave the specist pricks without a leg to stand on—so it was very important that Judy made a good first impression on the judge.
As they drove ever closer to Judge Princeton's house, Judy nervously rubbed a non-existent wrinkle from her purple rose dress, the same one she wore for her first date with Nick. When she had questioned the need to wear such an expensive dress to an informal dinner, Nick had told her that for her first meeting with the judge she should dress to impress. And with his friend living in such a high-class neighborhood, with them driving such an expensive car, they should dress accordingly.
Personally, Judy thought it was all just an excuse for Nick to see her dressed in her 'fairy princess' dress again. She had always liked and appreciated these fluffy, flowing dresses in the past but never felt that she did them justice. A plainer summer dress or her plaid shirts and blue jeans always seemed to fit her better. But seeing the love and appreciation in Nick's eyes every time he glanced her way (or she caught him shamelessly ogling her) left her feeling flustered and happy, for she knew that to Nick, at least, she was absolutely beautiful. The ethereal and enchanting fairy princess who had fully captivated her charming demon prince.
Of course, Judy couldn't complain about seeing Nick in his expensive black slacks, black dress shirt, green vest and purple tie. Nick truly was a hunk and she had to lick her lips before she drooled all over herself. His black pants and shirt really made his reddish orange fur pop and his green eyes sparkle more than normal and Judy couldn't ogle him enough.
Seeing Judy's love-drunk look (and scent!) turn to nervousness at the thought of meeting Daphyd and his wife, Nick reached over and held her paw. Bringing it up to his lips, he kissed the back briefly, then turned his attention back to the road. Lacing his fingers through hers, he said, "Relax, Daphyd and Layla are going to love you, I promise."
Taking a deep breath, Judy nodded, but then said, "Are you sure? Because it was my big mouth that set the city—"
"Hey," Nick interrupted her, "we've already been over this. You are not responsible for the centuries old hate and distrust between predator and prey. You are also not responsible for Bellwether's psychotic episode or her decision to use predators as weapons of mass destruction in order to tear the city apart. You are not responsible for any of this."
"Yes, but—" Judy started, but was once more interrupted by her new husband.
"No buts. What you said was wrong, ignorant, and small minded, yes, but you already know that. But that doesn't change the fact that your words would have meant nothing if the equally small-minded and ignorant prey in this city didn't want it to be true. They chose to use your words as an excuse to bully, segregate, and mob predators. That had nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own specist and bigoted attitudes."
Squeezing Judy's paw again, Nick added, "Now, that's not to say all predators are angels, because we certainly aren't—as you well know." With a flick of his dark ear, he pointed out, "Look how Lionheart was treating Bellwether. I hate to say it, but there are a lot of predators who disrespect and throw their weight around smaller prey mammals." And smaller predators, too, Nick thought to himself.
Judy could hear the bitterness in Nick's voice at the unfairness he'd experienced throughout his life. As a fox, Nick had received a bad rap from both sides—prey and predator. It truly was unfair and Judy wished she could change the world for him—but she couldn't. All she could do was be there for him, for better or worse. With a heavy sigh, she nodded while saying, "There are also a lot of larger prey who throw their weight around smaller prey and predator alike. And then there's a lot smaller prey who play the victim all too well." With a small shake of her head, she murmured, "It's too bad we can't bring this all up during the Press Conference on Wednesday."
With a shake of her head as her ears drooped, she added, "If we could just get the mammals of the city to see the real cause of the chaos and what had fueled Bellwether's murderous plan to use our own fear to stay in power, then maybe we could finally see some positive changes taking place in the city."
Hearing his honeybun's wishful thinking, Nick suddenly sat up straighter and squeezed Judy's paw in agreement, exclaiming, "Eureka, Carrots! You're a genius!" At Judy's confused gaze, he explained, "That's exactly what we're going to do!"
"Huh?" Judy said. What was Nick talking about?
Glancing at his wife briefly, a wide grin on his face, Nick said, "We need to get the city to put the blame where it belongs." Returning his gaze to the road, he continued, "You need to apologize for the words you said, but I doubt many will accept it. The predators who have lost jobs and homes will want to keep blaming you, and even some prey mammals will continue blaming you for the chaos that ensued after your infamous speech," Judy's ears dropped behind her back with guilt, but Nick continued, "and that's where I come in."
Judy's ears perked up and Nick said, "Remember what I said about talking to the media?"
With a nod, Judy pointed with her free paw, saying, "Ask them a question, then answer that question."
With another flick of his ear, Nick's tail flicked beside him as he said, "That's my girl." Kissing her paw again, he then explained, "I'll ask them several questions about whether you are responsible for this age-old feud between predator and prey, and then ask them to explain how you're responsible for Bellwether's grudge against predators. I'll make the public take a good look at themselves. We need the city to look in the mirror for the real cause of this mess."
With a small smile returning to her lips, Judy squeezed Nick's paw, saying, "Yes, we need to get the citizens of Zootopia to look at themselves and ask if they're part of the problem or part of the solution. If they're not part of the solution, then they can't blame anyone but themselves for the mess the city became."
Nick nodded his head again, but then said, "We can't do it alone though." At Judy's raised brow, Nick explained, "To make this work, we need to show a united front between predator and prey." Motioning to themselves, Nick said, "The fact we worked together to find the missing mammals and to catch Bellwether is a start, but we need more to stand up with us to show that there really isn't a divide between us."
Thrumming his fingers against the steering wheel, Nick murmured, "I can ask Daphyd and Layla to stand up with us. With Daphyd being a top judge, it'll have a greater impact if he stands united with us."
Judy nodded, but then flicked an ear as she asked, "Won't he be in court, though?"
Nick rubbed his thumb across Judy's paw as he explained, "With the Press Conference being such a big event, I'm sure they'll temporarily suspend the court till after the conference, so the judges and lawyers don't miss any new development with the savage animals case."
Judy nodded, then asked, "What about Gazelle? She's popular."
Nick shook his head, saying, "Everyone already knows Gazelle's stance on prey and predators." With a flick of his ear, he added, "We need mammals to step up that have high profile jobs but who aren't so obvious about their stance."
"What about Delilah, then?" Judy asked. "She's on the City Counsel, so if she stands up with us, she can show that she didn't approve of Bellwether's policies."
"Delilah is an excellent choice," Nick agreed. "I want to ask Landon, too, but with him being the CEO of his company, I don't know if it will cause problems with his company." With a shrug, he added, "I guess it won't hurt to ask. Our point will certainly have a bigger impact if he stood up with us."
With a smile, Judy then suggested, "We can also ask Leland and Kimberly. That's a doctor and a nurse to stand up with us."
"Perfect. Leland especially will have a big influence since he's a top doctor whose skills are highly sought after." Drumming his fingers against the steering wheel again, Nick then said, "We can also invite Benji. He's a police officer and with him being the previous dispatcher and welcoming committee to the ZPD, a lot of mammals will recognize him."
Giggling while thinking of their donut-loving friend, Judy couldn't help but agree. Benji didn't have a specist bone in his body and the way his eyes sparkled whenever he saw her and Nick showing even the slightest PDA was heartwarming. Glancing back out the front window at the high-class houses and huge, high-fenced yards and wrought-iron gates they passed, Judy said, "I can also ask Amy and Janelle to stand up with us. Having a couple more bunnies standing up with predators should go a long way to showing that the division isn't there."
Nick nodded, but then flicked his ear, saying, "Having Cotton stand up with us wouldn't be going too far, would it?"
Judy's ears perked up at the idea and her nose started twitching. "Cotton would be perfect! If a young rabbit stands up and shows she's not afraid of predators, then what excuse does any other prey have for being scared?" Squeezing Nick's paw excitedly, she added, "You can even put Cotton on your shoulders to prove our point."
With Nick's tail wagging at the idea of standing up with Cotton, they discussed the idea a little longer with each hoping that more mammals would make the choice to stand with them and show a united Zootopia. Watching Judy from the corner of his eyes as he drove the expensive Aston Martin down Daphyd's street, Nick was happy to see Judy's anxiety had been replaced with determination and hope for a much better Press Conference come Wednesday than their last conference. He was even looking forward to it, along with the look on Bogo's face when everyone started standing up with them at the end of their speech.
Nick intended to keep Buffalo-butt in the dark on what they planned so the outcome was real and not a staged media stunt. And with this in mind, Nick intended to get a recording of the event later because he knew the look on the chief's face was going to be priceless. With a wide grin on his face and his tail wagging beside him, which Judy snatched up in her paws and buried her nose in (he loved feeling his honeybun's paws and face in his tail!), Nick turned onto Daphyd's stone driveway and stopped at the black, 9-foot tall wrought-iron gate attached to tall stone pillars with bronze elk antlers topping them.
The tan stone fence to either side was lined with flowers and flowering shrubs, but Nick ignored them as he rolled his window down to look in the video camera feed that was attached to a guard house on the other side of the gate. Being a top Zootopian judge, a lot of criminals put hits out on Daphyd and his family for sentencing them, their criminal friends, or their bosses to prison, so having a high fence and guards patrolling the property was a must.
Waving to the camera, Nick said, "Nicholas Wilde and Judy Hopps here to meet with Daphyd and Layla."
"Precede," a deep, male voice said over the intercom, even as the gate began to slide open to allow them entrance. The huge gate didn't open far before it was wide enough for Nick to drive his fox-sized Aston Martin through.
As they drove down the long driveway, Judy looked out the window and saw a lioness and a hyena patrolling the property on the right who were each leading a trained monitor lizard on a leash. Watching as their long, forked tongues continuously flicked out as they 'tasted' the air for intruders, Judy was glad they weren't breaking and entering, but had been invited by the judge.
Looking out Nick's driver's side window, Judy caught sight of a couple of big-horned sheep who were leading 2 cassowaries on their rounds along the opposite fence. As she pointed out the birds to her foxy mate and commented how they were used in the rodeo back home, Nick explained how cassowaries were trained as an attack bird here in the city and used to guard the properties of the wealthy elite, along with trained monitor lizards. Both were fast and fierce when it came to taking down intruders and would-be thieves, assailants, and assassins.
Judy was intrigued by this idea and Nick explained that Daphyd didn't originally want all this high-end security, but several attempts on his family's lives made him change his mind. He had put away too many key players of criminal organizations to take security lightly. Judy was sad to hear how Daphyd's choice to see justice done had forced him to take such drastic measures to ensure his family's safety, even as she once again felt grateful to have been invited to the Princeton residence.
Pulling up in front of the large mansion (massive to a fox and rabbit, though still modest compared to most of the other homes in the neighborhood), Nick turned the luxury car off and turned to his wife. "You ready to meet the mammal who will be officially marrying us in a few short days?"
Judy's nervousness came back full force, making her ears droop. Taking a deep breath, she didn't have a chance to answer Nick's question before her husband leaned over and pressed his warm lips to hers. With her ears popping back up and her lips parting, Judy wrapped her paws around Nick's neck and pulled him into a deeper kiss. Nick growled at the intense kiss but didn't hold back. With one paw holding the back of her head, the other gripped her flickering, cottony tail.
Being able to kiss Nick like this reminded Judy of all the times they'd spent together since she returned to the city a few days ago. The good, the bad, the dangerous, and the heaven-defying moments all replayed themselves in her mind. And in each one, Nick was there to keep her safe. In his arms was the safest place in the city, no, the safest place in the world. And he was with her now, which meant she had nothing to worry about. Nick was here, he was her husband, and they were meeting his friend—everything was going to be just fine.
Finally breaking the kiss off to catch her breath, Judy said, "Okay, I'm ready now. Let's go meet your friends."
Nick grinned widely, then pecked her lips again before opening the car door and hurrying around to her side. Being a gentlefox, he opened her door, then leaned in and scooped her up before grabbing the large envelope containing their marriage papers. With his precious cargo secured in his strong arms, Nick carried Judy and the papers up the wide stone steps to the front door.
The door opened before Nick had the chance to ring the doorbell, and Daphyd was there to greet them on the other side. Since he knew Nick and Judy were keeping their relationship hush-hush for now, Daphyd had dismissed his servants after dinner was prepared and set on the table. Smiling down at the two small mammals, the judge said, "Welcome to my home, Nick and Judy."
Nick and Judy both said 'hello' as they followed the stately elk into his large home. The entryway was grand, with white and gold decorative molding and trim around the walls. There was an antique, intricately carved, wooden coatrack at the right of the door and a white statue of an elk in a judge's robe. Seeing Judy's gaze, Nick leaned over and whispered that it was Daphyd's grandfather whom Daphyd had looked up to and who inspired Daphyd to become a judge himself.
Judy nodded, then glanced around. Beyond the statue and coatrack, the entryway opened up to a sitting room on the right where a black grand piano sat in front of two large windows and several comfortable looking sofas and chairs. Nick always got the itch to play the beautiful piano whenever he saw it, but alas, it was much too big having been built for an elk.
There was a formal dining room to the left of the entryway with a large, elegant mahogany dining table which sat twelve people and where a crystal chandelier hung above it. No food was laid out on the table, which made Judy wonder where they were eating, though she was glad not to be eating at such a large and expensive table—coming from the country, she felt completely out of place in this huge, grandiose house—even if she was dressed for the occasion.
At the back of the dining room and sitting room, halfway along the walls, were two grand staircases that curved around and up to the second-floor balcony that overlooked the entryway, dining room, and sitting room. Glancing up, Judy saw a hallway open up in the center of the balcony that led further into the house, even as a couple of doors could be seen at either side of the hallway.
Wondering what all was hiding upstairs, Judy turned her attention back to where she and Nick stood with Daphyd. Directly in front of the entryway were two decorative glass doors that stood open, revealing a wide hallway that led to the rest of the main floor of the house. Seeing it made Judy wonder if they would be eating in one of the rooms hiding down the hallway.
As Daphyd turned to lead them deeper into the house, Nick stopped him, saying, "I have something for you to take to work with you in the morning, Daphyd." As his large friend looked down in question, Nick handed over the envelope which appeared tiny in Daphyd's much larger hoof.
With a raised brow, the judge asked what the envelope contained, to which Nick replied, "It's our marriage registration papers." Daphyd's eyes widened at what Nick was admitting to, even as Judy's nose and ears blushed a dark pink and Nick's grin widened to reveal his sharp canines.
"Everything is in order, then?" Daphyd questioned. Hearing that Nick planned to marry quickly had already been a shock, but seeing as he'd already taken the rabbit as his mate was even more shocking. Nick was a red fox todd and they normally didn't move this fast. But this was Nicholas Wilde, and he wouldn't have signed the papers if he wasn't committed a hundred percent.
With a nod, Nick answered, "The papers are signed and dated, we said our vows and scent marked each other, and did everything else that a fox wedding ceremony entails."
Giving Nick a nod, Daphyd then met Judy's amethyst gaze. "Is this true? You completed the fox claiming ceremony?"
Judy's ears were bright red now, as was her twitching nose, but the blush couldn't hide the happy smile on her face or the joyful twinkle in her eyes. "Yes," she replied confidently, "Nick and I are husband and wife in every sense of the word, and I could not be happier."
Daphyd's grin covered his whole face as he said, "Well, then, I guess congratulations are in order." If he had doubts before about Judy's intentions towards Nick, they were laid to rest. The small rabbit in Nick's arms was bashful but beaming up at her new husband. There was no awkwardness or fear at being in a predator's arms, nor was there any regret showing in her eyes at having been claimed by Nick, that a fox had made her his in the purest sense of the word.
Nick's tail was wagging behind him as he replied, "Thanks, Daphyd, having you congratulate us means a lot to us." Knowing that there was a rocky road ahead of them once the general populace found out about his and Judy's marriage, Nick was grateful to have such acceptance from one of his oldest and best friends.
"Yes, thank you, Daphyd," Judy murmured. She was still blushing, but happy that the first person they informed about their new status, accepted it with such warm congratulations. It made her earlier nervousness seem pointless.
With a happy nod, Daphyd said, "Well, it's about time Nick found someone worthy of him."
Blushing again at the sudden compliment, Judy murmured, "Thanks."
Chuckling lightly, Daphyd waved the envelope in the air and said, "Let me put this in the office so it doesn't get lost and then we can move on to dinner."
With a nod, Nick and Judy followed the elk down the hall and turned in at the first door on the right. This was obviously the judge's study, as the walls were lined with bookcases and wooden filing cabinets. There was also a large desk with a computer and printer, along with photos of his family and friends. There was even a family photo of them out on the lake, with Nick using one of Daphyd's sons' nose as a diving board.
Judy giggled softly to see Nick having so much fun with his larger prey friends and was looking forward to meeting the whole family, not just Daphyd and his wife.
After securing the small envelope in a much larger one to ensure it wasn't misplaced or overlooked, Daphyd scrawled 'Wilde' across the front of the envelope, then set it in the center of his desk so he could look through it later. With that done, he then led his guests into the smaller, cozier dining room they used for everyday use. The large kitchen was situated between the two dining rooms, but this one had a much friendlier, laid-back vibe to it, as the wooden table was much smaller and covered in a friendly flowered tablecloth.
Daphyd's wife Layla, who wore a nice baby-blue evening gown that matched her light-blue eyes, was there to greet them, as was their second son Erick, whose wide antlers were almost as impressive as his dad's. As Daphyd introduced Judy as Mrs. Judy Wilde, Layla clapped her hooves together and warmly congratulated them, saying that Nick and Judy made such an adorable couple. Erick was surprised Nick finally found a female who made him want to tie the knot, but he was happy for them. When his dad had first told him Friday evening that Nick Wilde was bringing a special lady friend by for dinner on Sunday night, he just had to come home and meet her. Since Nick was such an interesting fox, Erick knew the girl who stole his heart would have to be just as interesting.
Seeing as it was Officer Judy Hopps who finally stole Nick's heart and tied him to her, Erick at first thought he was seeing things, but he soon accepted their relationship when he saw the way Judy and Nick looked at each other. There was so much love and adoration shining in Judy's violet eyes that he couldn't find fault with Nick falling for the small, controversial police officer. At the same time, the predatory, possessive look Nick gave Judy, which was filled with so much love and belonging, let Erick know that Nick was truly at home with Judy—his mate and wife.
After they sat down to eat (there was a smaller table set at the end of the tall elk table for Nick and Judy to sit at comfortably while still being part of the group), the Princeton family asked Nick and Judy to retail their time finding the missing mammals and catching Bellwether red-pawed. Nick and Judy happily told their tale as they worked their way through sautéed potatoes and vegetables, a veggie-rich salad, and large, fluffy dinner rolls. The elk family eagerly listened to every word, even as Nick acted out some of the more theatrical aspects of the story—nearly getting eaten by Manchas, sneaking past the guards of the Asylum, the train blowing up, and then tricking Bellwether—which had Judy giggling and the others laughing. Erick was especially hanging onto their words and knew his earlier guess about Nick's girl was right on the money. Talk about finding an interesting mate!
Dinner went by quickly as everyone shared interesting stories of their time with Nick back when Honey was still alive, and Nick was still taking clients as a lawyer. Judy was excited to learn more about Nick and see how he was around his other friends, even as she looked forward to spending time with this interesting elk family in the future (they promised to invite them to the lake the next time they went).
After dinner was finished, Layla brought out a pineapple-upside-down-cake for dessert. Judy found the moisture-rich cake delicious and asked for the recipe which Layla eagerly promised. After their dessert had been eaten, they moved to the sitting room where they discussed wedding plans. Layla and Erick were eager to attend, even as Daphyd agreed that Tuesday evening would be a better day for him to officiate at their wedding as he had things going on after work the rest of the week.
Nick was glad his mother had suggested they get married a day earlier and was stoked to be finally nailing down his and Judy's official wedding. When Daphyd asked about their venue, Judy texted Delilah and got the okay to have the wedding at hers and Landon's place. When the Princetons learned that Landon Tiogair, the famous CEO of Hybrid Innovations—the most eligible predator bachelor in the city—was actually married to Delilah Aukstas of the City Council, they thought Nick was pulling their tails, but when Judy verified Nick's claim, they had to accept it.
Erick could just imagine all the heartbroken females when their marriage finally came to light. Since his dad was a top judge, they were invited to various functions—fundraisers, city parties, government functions—where he had rubbed shoulders with other wealthy elites of the city, including Landon Tiogair. He had seen quite a number of ladies who wished to go home with the tall, black and smokey gray Tigard, all to no avail. Although Landon would talk to them, even flirting at times, he always left the party alone, or with one or two friends—but never with a female he picked up at the party.
There had been rumors circulating about a mystery lover he kept hidden away, but no one could ever verify it. Some even claimed he might be gay, but Landon had never shown any interest in males, either, not even the slightest hint. But now Erick new the truth—Landon did have a mystery lover and she was prey in a high-profile job. His wife was on the City Council! No wonder he kept her a secret!
Erick wasn't about to blab about their relationship, but knowing something this big which the city had been buzzing about and speculating on for so many years had him tickled pink! He had never been privy to such a huge secret before! And he was going to meet them at Nick and Judy's wedding! Erick couldn't wait! Of course, being a part of Nick and Judy's wedding would be a night to remember in and of itself, but seeing Landon Tiogair with his okapi wife was something he couldn't wait to see.
Layla was also looking forward to the wedding and promised to get lots of pictures for the adorable couple. She was even thinking of calling Delilah up and offering her help in decorating for the wedding. Since Daphyd and Delilah both worked for the city, Layla had gotten to know Delilah quite well over the years and considered her a good friend. Knowing that her friend was happily married put some of her worries to rest.
Over the years, Layla had fretted about her friend being alone all the time and encouraged her to date and find a male to settle down with. Delilah had always sidestepped the conversation, claiming she already had someone she liked but would never say who. But now, Layla knew her friend refused to date because she really did have someone she liked—the perfect male—who was waiting for her at home each and every night!
Oh, Layla couldn't wait to meet Landon again and for Delilah to introduce him as her husband. This wedding was going to be amazing! Such a unique and loving couple getting married while their wedding was hosted by an equally unique and loving couple! Layla couldn't wait to start on the decorations with Delilah. With another clap of her hooves as her imagination ran away with her, she knew the wedding was going to be magical!
With the wedding plans out of the way, Nick then brought up his idea for the Press Conference on Wednesday. Daphyd and Layla found the idea intriguing and agreed that it would get the city off of Judy's retched speech and onto the real problem that brought the city to its knees—the unreasonable fear that so many prey still harbored towards predators, along with some predators who still used that fear to take advantage of the prey they had dealings with.
Knowing this was a major issue that needed to be addressed in the city, Daphyd and Layla readily agreed to stand up with Nick and Judy at the end of their speech. Erick also promised to attend the conference and stand up with his two small friends. As Nick wasn't his only predator friend, Erick didn't want to think about what would've happened to them if Bellwether hadn't been stopped.
They spoke a bit more about the issues the city was facing and what had allowed Bellwether's reign of terror to take hold and spread, but then seeing the time, Daphyd suggested they call it a night seeing as it was Nick and Judy's wedding night and Daphyd assumed they would like to return home so they could enjoy it. The judge's words caused Judy to blush bright red and her nose to twitch furiously, but she couldn't deny the fact that she was itching to get her new husband home so they could further…discuss…the joys of being married.
Carrying Judy out to his sleek, blue sports car, Nick said goodbye to his friends and told them to take care until he saw them again on Tuesday evening. The elk family waved them off at the door and told them do drive safe. Nick helped Judy into the car, then waved his friends goodbye as he walked around to the driver's side door. Once he was inside, Nick asked Judy if she was ready to enjoy their wedding night?
Blushing furiously at the idea of getting Nick back down to his fur, Judy met her mate's emerald, green gaze and said, "Yes." With a cheeky smile, she added, "I was born ready."
Nick's wide, hungry grin had Judy's scent spiking, even as Nick put the car in gear and coasted out of the Princeton's driveway. Growling low to further arouse his mate, his grin couldn't get any wider as Judy groaned in response. Watching her bury her face in her paws while moaning his name had Nick gunning the engine as he blew out of Daphyd's upscale neighborhood, even as the powerful Aston Martin Roadster growled along with him.
As Nick turned onto the main road, though, it wasn't towards home that Nick turned the sleek machine, but towards a secluded lookout point up in the hills where they could make some noise without anyone disturbing them. With Judy's delicious, intoxicating scent filling his nose, Nick gunned the engine again and the powerful car roared as it raced through traffic, even as Nick kept an eye out for any black and whites who would want to ruin his fun.
Nick was in luck, for no flashing lights appeared to stop him and he soon came to the turnoff that would lead him to the seldom used sideroad that wound through the hills to their secret getaway spot. Which was good because Judy now had her face buried in his tail and running her dull claws along his tail bone. Shifting in his seat, Nick mentally complained about how tight his pants were getting. But they were almost there, and then Judy could give him the relief they were both dying for.
WingedKatt here. This chapter was much longer than I anticipated, especially since I started writing this chapter Monday afternoon, so in about 5 days. I'm tired now, but it's finished. I hope you all enjoyed it. Next time, we'll see how Vivian's dinner with Mr. Big goes, and then the slumber party.
Ch. 92: Old Friends, will post in 2 weeks. Have a great weekend. If you have any thoughts or comments, let me know.