Judy shivered as she showered, getting ready for the day. She'd come so close to kissing Nick in public last night it scared her. Whatever their feelings for each other – and she wasn't going to deny them – the reaction of the general public to a predator-prey kiss, in the middle of the fish market no less, was one she didn't care to tempt a second time. He'd put his arm around her waist while looking over the selection, she'd turned to ask him his opinion at the same time he turned toward her, and they'd wound up less than an inch apart. She been able to taste his breath, flooding her senses with his presence. She'd nearly closed the remaining distance between them when she heard a gasp of disbelief from a female pig waiting in line behind them. Realization washed over both of them and they jumped back, laughing nervously about how they'd nearly run into each other. They couldn't tell if the pig, her eyes wide and staring, had believed them or not, but she left without saying anything. They hadn't dared look anyone else in the face.
They spent the rest of the night barely speaking. They sat on opposite sides of the table, taking care not to touch. The fine food tasted like sawdust in her mouth. Several times she'd started to talk about what happened, about their relationship, but she could never make herself take the first step. A couple of times she thought he was about to, but if so, he stopped himself. After he left she went to bed and cried herself to sleep for the first time she could ever remember.
She forced herself to eat breakfast, then trudged down the hall to the elevator, dreading but anticipating his presence when the doors opened, but it was empty. Not sure what to feel, she pressed the button for the lobby; she'd wait for him there. It was probably safer that way.
The doors opened and she saw him immediately. He was standing by the front window, looking out, hands in his pockets, slumped and dejected. Her heart went out to him and she wanted to run throw her arms around him, but she forced herself to take her time and walk. She saw him sniff the air. He greeted her without turning. His voice sounded dead and dry. She fought back tears. When she reached him she found he was hiding behind his cop glasses, the dark, wrap-around shades obscuring his eyes and much of his face. He turned for the garage, leaving her to trail miserably behind.
“Nick!” she called desperately. “Please, don't do this to us!” She hurried after him, nearly blinded by the tears she could no longer keep back. He disappeared through the door and she sobbed trying to catch up with him.
She ran through the door and a sudden paw grabbed her by the arm, another one covering her mouth as he pushed her up against the wall, his glasses forgotten on the floor. “Do you have any idea what you do to me?” he whispered fiercely. “Do you have any clue how much it ripped me apart to have to pull away from you last night? How ashamed I felt when I saw that pig staring at us like we were a couple of monsters?” He stopped abruptly, shaking his head. He pushed himself away from her and staggered over to lean against one of the support columns for the ceiling. He shook his head again. “That's not what I wanted to say,” he gritted between clenched teeth. “I stayed up rehearsing it all night last night . . . and the moment I saw you it all went right out the window.” He pounded his fists on the concrete pillar behind him. “Look at me, I'm a mess,” he declared with a miserable laugh. “I can't even say the right thing!”
She took one step toward him, then couldn't remember taking the others, but suddenly she was in his arms, her head on his chest, hugging him for all she was worth, hanging on for dear life, crying and sobbing. Her whole body was shaking from the force of her sobs. His arms were around her. His voice whispering in her ears, his breath hot on her face. They stood that way, feeling their hearts beating as one for an unguessable time. They would have gone on standing there if not for . . .
Beep, beep, beep.
Judy glanced at her phone then gasped in fear. “Nick! We have five minutes to get to roll call!”
“Fang it!” he cursed. He scooped up his glasses and shoved her toward the truck. “Let's go!”
Thanks to their apartment's proximity to headquarters, they made it with only seconds to spare, sliding into their seats just as Chief Bogo pushed through the door into the bull pen. They were huffing and puffing from their run up from the employee parking and through the building. If he noticed, he chose to ignore it.
After going through a few notices he paused. His scowl deepened. “Doug Ramses, former Mayor Bellwether's assistant and partner in crime, was spotted in Tundratown last night.” A shock ran through the room.
Nick and Judy exchanged worried glances, their personal problems forgotten for the moment. Doug was the chemist who'd synthesized the night howler serum that had driven mammals savage. He was also the sniper who'd delivered the serum from long range to his targets. His two cohorts, Woolter and Jesse, had chased the train car when they'd taken off with it, but they been defeated in the fight and eventually arrested. Doug however, stayed behind and managed to slip away. He was still at large but everyone assumed he'd left town. The idea he was still in Zootopia was deeply troubling.
Bogo was still talking. “A night guard spotted him robbing a company called, Cold Times, the refrigeration company that helps maintain the Environment Wall between Tundratown and Sahara Square. As far as we know, the only thing he took was a cylinder of liquid nitrogen.” A confused babble filled the room. “Shut it!” Bogo roared. “We don't know why he wants something like that, BUT, he's an experienced chemist, so it could be really bad. Whatever he's up to, it isn't good. So . . . before any of you go out today, I want to know if you've all got your antidote shots? Raise your paw if you have.”
About half of them raised their paws, Nick and Judy among them. The night howler antidote provided an immunization to the serum Doug had concocted, protecting them from going savage if they were darted with it.
Bogo growled with anger. “I told you weeks ago to get those shots,” he roared. “They're provided free of charge to all police officers, so there's no reason for you not to get them. If Ramses still has any of his serum, or has made more, the last thing we need is one of you going savage out there on the streets!” He paused to collect himself. “Those of you who've had your shots, get out there by and patrol the city You're gonna be spread thin so stay alert. Hopps! Wilde! The two of you are the only ones who've had any contact with Ramses. Take the lead out there. Any and all sightings are to be reported to them. Clear?” He ran an angry gaze over the room. They all nodded. “Good. The rest of you slackers, get down to medical for your shots. It's gonna make you weak as a kitten for the rest of the day so go home . . . BUT you're getting docked THREE days pay! One for today, and two for not following orders to get them when you were told!” Subdued groans filled the air. “Now get going!” He turned and stomped out.
His voice floated back down the hall. “Hopps! Wilde! My office! Now!”
They exchanged a Now What? look and scurried after him. As soon as they came in he slammed the door and locked it. He saw their expressions and waved them to a chair. “Oh sit down,” he grumbled in a tired voice. “I'm not going to tear your heads off.” He plopped himself in his own chair behind his desk. He stared off into space for a long moment before speaking. “Contrary to all that . . .” he inclined his head toward the bull pen, “. . . I'm not really worried about Ramses, at least not today. Whatever he's up to, it's going to take him some time to get it ready or prepared. But, it gave me an excuse to A) make sure everyone got their shots, and B) talk to the two of you without raising any suspicions.”
They stared at him, then each other, completely lost.
He smiled sardonically, then reached around behind him and pulled a picture off the wall. He set it before them. In it, a younger Bogo and an unusually handsome tiger stood side-by-side in patrol uniforms, their arms slung around each others shoulders, a squad car behind them. They were grinning like fools at the camera. “Tyrone Stripeson,” he told them. “My old partner, the best police officer you'd ever want to meet. Until he met Gazelle,” he added sadly.
Judy blinked with surprise. “Gazelle?”
Bogo nodded. “It was before she was famous, didn't even have her stage name back then. She was a part-time waitress and lounge singer. Tyrone liked to dance. Always did. After work he'd drag me to these night clubs and bars to go dancing. The ladies loved him,” he said with an amused shake of his head, “he never sat out a single dance. Then he found this new place, called the High Spot, and Gazelle was there, waiting tables and singing. She watched him dancing while she sang, and one night when it was slow, she invited him up on stage to dance with her while she sang.” Bogo shook his head fondly at the memory. “Even then you could see they had something special going on between them. Between sets they spent all their time together. He even started helping her carry stuff when she was waiting tables, just so he could be with her. Predator-prey couples aren't exactly popular, so I kept telling him to cool it, but he wouldn't listen.”
Nick felt frozen in place. As soon as Bogo mentioned predator-prey, he felt himself go stiff as a board. He couldn't move. Beside him, Judy stiffened as well.
If Bogo noticed their reaction he ignored it and kept going. “One night there was this polar bear from Tundratown, a creep named Hund Gunter; he kept after Gazelle to sing one of his favorite songs and she wouldn't do it. Tyrone was getting mad and it was all I could do to get him out of there before he did something stupid. We were working graveyards that month, so as soon as we hit the street, he insisted on going by the bar to make sure Gazelle was alright.”
Bogo sighed deeply. “You know, I can still see it as if it just happened. We drove up right as she was coming out. She and Tyrone waved at each other, and then we saw Gunter coming up the street in his car doing ninety to nuthin', heading straight for Gazelle like he was going to run her over.” Judy gasped, her eyes wide, her paws over her mouth. Bogo nodded at her. “Tyrone saved her, but the way he did it was like something out of a movie. We were still rolling, doing maybe 25 or 30, and he threw open his door and lunged out the car right at her, roaring like death on steroids, all claws and fangs. She happened to look over her shoulder; heard Gunter's car I guess, and saw it, then turned back and there was Tyrone flying through the air like he'd gone totally savage. She screamed like nothing you've ever heard.”
Nick knew the kind of scream Bogo was talking about. He'd heard it himself when he pretended to attack Judy at the Museum of Natural History. She'd screamed that way.
“You know, I told you Tyrone was the best police office you'd ever want to meet, and I wasn't exaggerating. He wrapped himself around Gazelle like a cocoon; arms, legs, tail, even his head covering hers when he knocked her out of the way. Gunter couldn't have missed them by more than an inch. They rolled across the sidewalk and slammed into the front of the High Spot. I heard two of his ribs break from the impact. He cracked a couple others, and his whole side was bruised for days, black and blue from top to bottom. But Gazelle didn't have a scratch on her. Not one.” Bogo pulled a poster out of his desk drawer and held it up beside the picture of him and Tyrone. “Notice anything?”
It was a picture of Gazelle in her classic “Predators Protecting Prey” pose, where her four tiger dancers surrounded her, the two in front facing out to protect her and the two in back, gazing watchfully down on her. She'd hit upon it by chance early in her career and fallen in love with it so much she used it at least once in every concert she did. She done it at the concert in city center right after the missing mammals case was solved, at the end of her song, Try Everything. The tiger in back on the right side of the picture was Tyrone.
“It's your partner,” Nick whispered. “It's Tyrone.”
“He was with her during her peace rally too,” Judy added quietly. “I remember them standing up there together on the rocks, holding paws. At the time I thought it was just her way of showing support for predators.”
“They're married,” Bogo said flatly.
“What?!” Judy exclaimed. “But . . . how? Who would agree to perform the ceremony? Everyone hates predator-prey couples.”
He smiled faintly. “Not everyone. He was my partner, my best friend. As Chief of Police, I have the authority to perform weddings. When I first got the job, I did it for them, using her real name so no one would know.” He put the pictures away as they digested that. “Which brings us to you two.”
Nick reached out blindly and took Judy's paw. She gripped him tight.
Bogo watched them with a sad, little smile. “I've had my suspicions about you two every since Wilde intervened when I wanted your badge,” he told Judy. He looked at Nick. “Predators and prey can become friends, but only after years of working together, like me and Tyrone. But you, you jumped in and defended her after knowing her for what, a day and a half?” He shook his head. “I saw it happen with Tyrone and Gazelle, so I knew it when I saw it with you two. And . . .” he sighed, “. . . you need to be more careful about where the traffic cams are, and where they're pointed. There's one that points right inside the lobby of the Downtown Covington Arms, right at the elevators in fact.”
Nick and Judy gulped as they remembered exiting the elevators last night, arm in arm, like lovers.
He nodded at their guilty expressions. “You're just lucky it was me who saw the traffic cams and not someone else. I erased the footage, but I knew right away you were going to get yourselves into trouble so I followed you. I got to the fish market just in time to see your little near miss, and the reaction of that pig. I thought she was going to scream.”
He glanced at the clock. “We need to wrap this up, so I'll make it fast. 99.9% of all mammals don't like predator-prey couples, but there's a few of us who don't care. Also, since there's no actual law against predator-prey couples, marriage may be your safest option. No one in government could do anything about it, you'd get a number of benefits, and they couldn't talk about it because of confidentiality. If anyone else found out, it would protect you from being fired or evicted . . . or at least make it harder for someone to justify it. BUT,” and his voice hardened, “you have to watch yourselves in public. If you start kissing in public, married or not, it could start a riot. It's not fair, but it's the way it is.” He stood up, walked around the desk and unlocked the door. “You've got a lot to talk about, AND, I still expect you to do your jobs no matter what you decide. Understood?”
They nodded together.
“Good. Now get to work.” He paused. “And if you find Ramses, turn him into a wool rug!”
Nick saluted smartly. “Yes sir!” Judy echoed him and they headed downstairs.
They waited until they were in the car and on the road before saying anything to each other. Nick radioed that car 63 was 10-8, in service. Clawhauser 10-4'd them and Judy headed for Savannah Central for the day. Nick glanced around. “Pull over in that parking lot,” he told her. She gave him an unreadable look but did as he asked.
He decided that for once in his life he wasn't going to beat around the bush, be sarcastic, or teasing; he was just going to say it straight out. “I love you,” he said quietly. Her eyes shot wide. “I don't know exactly when it happened or how, but it did. I love you and I can't imagine my life without you in it.”
“Oh, Nick,” she whispered, taking his paws in hers, wishing they had somewhere private to go. “I love you, too. I don't know how it happened, but I know exactly when it happened.”
She nodded. “At the Museum of Natural History, when you pretended to attack me, when you had my throat in your teeth.”
“Ah, uhm, okay, look, you're gonna have to explain that one,” he stuttered.
She smiled, some of her old fire returning. “Gideon Grey scared me when I was a kid.” He nodded; she'd told him the story. “I thought I got over it, outgrew it, but when I first saw you at the ice cream parlor, all those old feelings came back and I nearly used the Fox Repellent on you before I saw Finnick pretending to be your son. Then I felt ashamed of myself. And then, I couldn't help but notice how handsome you are, and I was attracted to you, and all the sudden everything got all jumbled up inside. I guess that's why it hurt so much when I discovered you'd hustled me, then when you tore my dreams apart with just a few words, it hurt even worse.” She took a deep breath. “Then we started working together . . .”
“After you hustled me,” he interrupted with a teasing smile.
“. . . after I hustled you,” she agreed, returning his smile, “and I got to know you. The more I knew you, the more I liked you.” She laughed self-consciously. “It happened so fast! You stood up to Bogo for me, and told me about the Junior Ranger Scouts, and something melted inside me.” She looked down at the floorboards. “Then I hurt you, drove you away, without even meaning to, but you took me back!” She looked up, almost wildly. “After all I did to you, you took me back! On the train you fought right beside me against Doug and his goons. We could have been killed in the wreck, but you didn't leave me. You didn't leave me when I was wounded. You stayed with me the whole time.”
She took a deep breath, “Then, when you had to pretend to go savage, it was the most terrifying moment in my life.” She looked at him. He was hanging on to her every word. “I saw everything I'd ever been afraid of in foxes, coming right at me. When you lunged at my neck, I screamed and,” she took a deep breath, “it wasn't a fake scream. It was real.” She bit her lip in shame. “But you didn't break the skin, you didn't even put any pressure on me. Your teeth were around my throat, and it was the gentlest thing I'd ever felt.” She met his eyes. “That's when everything changed. That's when I knew. That's when I fell in love with you.”
He put a gentle paw against her face and she leaned into it. “I wasn't pretending as much as you think. There was part of me that wanted to cut loose and go savage for real.”
She smiled into his paw, then opened her beautiful eyes to meet his. “I know,” she whispered. “Bunny hearing is sharper than you realize. I could hear the undertones in your growls. You really meant them.”
He nodded, “And I could smell your fear.”
She glanced around quickly to make sure no one was looking their way, then sat up, taking his face between both paws and kissed him, quickly and lightly. It sent a shiver right down to her toes. She saw his whole body shudder and his hair stood on end then lay down, in wave after wave across his body.
He blinked. “Wow!”
She laughed shakily. “Yeah. Wow!” She shook her head to clear it. “But we got through that moment,” she continued. “Somehow we got through it, and on the other side, was this. Us.”
He leaned back in his seat, her paw clasped in his. “Us. Hmm. You know, Fluff, I kinda like the sound of that.”
“Kinda?” she laughed. “You know you love me.”
He pretended to consider it. “Do I know that? Yes, yes I do.”
They smiled and leaned forward for another kiss when a red car with white racing stripes suddenly went zooming past them at high speed, quickly followed by a green sports car and another, this one white and black.
Nick blinked in surprise. “Was that Flash and Lance?” He flipped on the lights and siren.
Judy tromped on the gas. “Along with someone else,” she growled angrily, furious at being interrupted, and furious that Flash and Lance would keep racing the streets even after getting a ticket just the day before.
Nick grabbed the radio as they fish tailed down the street after the errant threesome. “Car 63, need immediate 10-78 with 3, 10-94's, Savannah Central, eastbound on Acacia.” He was asking for immediate assistance with 3 street racers. Moments later 2 cars radioed they were on their way. Two more radioed in seconds later.
Nick gave a quick description of all three, but included the plate numbers for Flash and Lance, since they already had them. “10-4,” they all responded, “10-76.” It meant, in route. He could smell the anger in Judy's pheromones, coming off her in waves. “Catch 'em, don't beat 'em up,” he yelled over the noise of the siren.
She gritted her teeth, then nodded. “You're right,” she admitted. “It's just, the timing.”
“I know, I know,” he agreed. “Hey! They're splitting up!” The three cars ahead of them had come to a Y in the road. Flash and Lance took the east branch toward Sahara Square, while the white and black car took the other fork toward City Central. “Follow Lance and Flash!” She nodded and wrestled the wheel around. Tires squealed. He grabbed the mic; “Car 63, 10-80, two suspects eastbound toward Sahara Square. Need 10-93 at bridge. One suspect, white and black vehicle, northbound toward City Central.” He was asking for a blockade on the bridge for the suspect they were pursuing. Flash and Lance weren't playing around today. They knew they were in trouble and were gunning it for all they were worth. Their souped up cars were pulling away from them. Calling ahead for a blockade was their only chance of catching them.
“Car 17, 10-80, white and black suspect vehicle,” the radio crackled. He grinned at Judy. Francine, the elephant officer, had picked up the third car and was in pursuit.
He keyed the mic. “They're too fast!” he warned. “Anyone, help car 17, with 10-93 at first opportunity.”
“10-4,” someone responded. It sounded like Grizzoli, the polar bear officer.
“Car 46, 10-53 at eastbound bridge!” It was Snarlof, another polar bear officer, blocking the traffic lanes on the bridge.
“10-4,” Nick responded. “Suspect ETA, 1 minute!”
Judy slid around another corner. Flash and Lance were definitely getting further ahead of them with each passing second. “If they turn off while they're out of sight, we'll lose them,” she worried.
“I know, I know!”
Fortunately, they didn't. They hit the bridge like a runaway freight train. Moments later they saw both of them fishtail as they hit the brakes. The radio crackled, “Car 46, 2 suspect vehicles turning around on bridge. Better get here fast, 63.”
Judy gripped the wheel harder. “I'll show you fast,” she muttered, bearing down on the bridge. Lance and Flash had already turned around and were headed back their way. She hit the gas as hard as she could for a moment, then slammed on the brakes, twisting the wheel at the same time. It sent them skidding sideways across the road, almost up on two wheels. They crashed to a halt, blocking both lanes. Lance and Flash had to hit the brakes to keep from T-boning them. They screeched to a stop, leaving twin skid marks behind.
Snarlof and other car came roaring up to box them in. They all jumped out, surrounding the racers. Nick turned on their loudspeaker. “Come out with your paws in the air!” he boomed over it. For a moment there was nothing, then both of them reluctantly emerged. “Down on the ground,” he told them. Again, they paused before obeying. They both went down, first Lance, then Flash. Judy jumped over the hood of the car and raced over to them, slapping the cuffs, first on Lance, then on Flash.
“You're under arrest for reckless endangerment and whatever else I can think of,” she snapped at them.
Snarlof ambled up. “Easy there, Hopps. What's got your dander up?”
“We gave these two speeding tickets for this same thing just yesterday and let them go,” she huffed angrily. “And now, here they are, doing it again. Someone's going to get hurt if they keep this up.”
Snarlof grinned at Rhinowitz, the officer from the other car. “She sounds like Bogo, doesn't she?”
Rhinowitz nodded. “Yeah, kinda.”
She tossed her head and ignored them, as well as their ensuing laughter. Instead she turned her ire back on Flash and Lance. “What is with you two?” she asked in exasperation.
Lance had a hangdog expression on his face. “I'm sorry, officer Hopps. Really, I am. But it's like giving up the perfect . . . I don't know, the perfect mate or something. You find the one who's just right for you, the one you've always wanted, and then you get told you have to give her up . . . and you just can't. You know?” he finished hopefully.
Flash added, faster than he usually did, “It's very addictive.”
Nick nodded absently. “Yeah, Lance told us the same thing yesterday.” He was watching Judy to see her reaction to Lance's “mate” analogy. She was biting her lip, a sure sign she didn't know what to say. Before he could think of anything himself, Snarlof interrupted.
“A couple of tow trucks are on the way. By the way, Francine and Grizzoli just radioed in that they got the other car.” Nick perked up his ears. “They said it's a panda named Ho Nan, who owns a restaurant in the Rainforest District.”
Judy seized on it. “Another respectable mammal, suddenly going rogue over some street racing?” she wondered. “What's going on?”
Snarlof shrugged indifferently. “Beats me. I just bag 'em and haul 'em in. I leave the deep thinking to you heavy hitter types.” Rhinowitz snorted his agreement. “Bogo loves that kind of stuff though. Talk to him when you get these idiots back to the station.” A couple of tow trucks pulled up and Snarlof waved good-bye. “My car's in their way. I'm outta here.”
Judy and Nick waved at him and Rhinowitz. “Thanks for the backup. See you at the station.”
A few minutes later they had their captives in the backseat, then directed traffic around the tow trucks until the drivers got the cars hooked up and hauled away. On the way downtown, Nick turned half around in his seat to address Lance. “Still got that thrill of the hunt thing going?”
Lance nodded despondently. “Not at the moment, but yeah, sure. It's why we do it.”
“Even after we told you to stop it?” Judy asked, looking at him in the rear view mirror.
He shrugged. “It's like I told you; you can't give up the one thing that really makes you feel alive.”
Nick and Judy exchanged glances. Not really wanting to pursue that particular topic, they dropped it and rode the rest of the way in silence. They got Flash and Lance booked in, then asked Clawhauser to see if Bogo was available to talk about the street racers for a minute. He was, and Clawhauser told them to go on up.
“Shut the door,” Bogo told them irritably. His desk was stacked high with folders and paperwork.
Nick gestured for Judy to take it. She nodded and launched into a quick explanation of the the street racers and their apparent motivation. She explained about Lance's thrill of the hunt theory and his comparison of it to finding the perfect mate. “I know the law is the law,” she finished, “but what if there was some legal way for them to race, without being on the streets? It seems pretty obvious they're not going to stop, and from what Lance told us yesterday, there's more than just these three today.”
Bogo was intrigued by her description of the thrill of the hunt idea. “A lot of patrol officers like to stay on patrol because of the excitement, or miss it when they get promoted,” he mused. “I still miss it myself. The beaver may be on to something,” he agreed. He cocked his head. “So what to do you want from me?”
Judy hadn't really thought that far ahead and started to fumble. Nick came to her rescue. “Hold off on pressing the charges against them for a few days,” he urged. “Their cars are in the impound, so they can't really do anything. Give us a chance to see if we can come up with some, alternative way for them to get their thrills.”
Bogo nodded slowly. “I can do that. But,” he added warningly, “don't take too long.”
Nick nodded, then winced as Judy excitedly punched him in the arm. “Good thinking, Nick!”
“I'm happy you're happy,” he grumbled, massaging his shoulder.
Bogo tossed his head at them. “Okay, okay. Enough! Get out of here and let me get some work done.”
They skipped out of his office. The hall outside his office doubled as a wide balcony overlooking the main reception area below. There was a direct line of sight to Clawhauser's desk. A few feet over though was bench surrounded by huge, potted plants. They provided cover on the back and both ends of it, creating a semi-private area in the midst of the station. Judy pulled Nick over there. “You're the smartest, sliest fox there is! And you deserve a reward for it!” She glanced around quickly, then pulled him in for a passionate kiss.
Time seemed to stop as their tongues intertwined and his breath became hers, then vice-versa. Their hearts beat as one as they pulled each other close. A shiver ran down her spine to her toes then back up again. She felt his whole body shudder against hers.
Aware they were in a public place they reluctantly pulled away from each other before anyone came along and saw them. She was having trouble breathing. She looked at him with stars in her eyes. “Oh, Nick,” she sighed “That was even better than I thought it would be.”
His voice was shaky. “I'd say thank you, but I was thinking the same thing about you.”
Her knees were weak. She leaned her head against his chest for a moment to recover, and give her heart a chance to slow down.
In his office, Bogo hit a button on his computer, turning off the camera that was aimed at the bench. No one was coming so he'd give them a little privacy. If he'd had any doubts about their relationship, watching their kiss removed them. He shook his head sadly; they had a rough road ahead of them. He opened his bottom desk drawer and fished in it until he found a small, black address book. He flipped through it until he found Tyrone's number.
“Hello?” Tyrone's voice was suspicious when he finally answered.
“Ty, it's me, Bogo.”
Tyrone did a one-eighty. “Bogo! You old sourpuss! How the heck are ya?”
“Doing good, doing good,” Bogo answered. “I'm sorry it's been so long since I called, but you know how things are around here, never a dull moment.”
“And you love it,” Tyrone laughed at him.
Bogo laughed along with him. “I loved it more on patrol, but hey, it's all good.” The levity died out of his voice. “Listen, Ty, this isn't a social call. Well, it is, but not the way you normally think.”
Tyrone's voice changed too. “I'm listening.”
There was no easy way to approach it so Bogo just told him flat out, “You two aren't the only ones anymore.”
There was a moment of stunned silence on the line.
“Two of my newest and best officers, a fox and a rabbit. I saw 'em kissing in the hall outside my office just now. It's the real thing, same as you guys.”
“Wow!” Tyrone muttered. “That's amazing. I always thought we'd be the only odd couple in Zootopia for the rest of our liv . . . wait . . . did you say a fox and a rabbit? I've only heard of one rabbit on the ZPD, the one that put Bellwether in jail, and some street hustler fox who helped her.”
Bogo shook his head in appreciation of Tyrone's detective skills. “Still have it, don't you?” he chuckled. “Those are the ones I'm talking about,” he conceded. “And, I had to tell them about you two to get 'em to be more careful. They nearly got caught last night at the Fishtown Market.”
“Yeah, wait. Hang on,” Tyrone said quickly.
Bogo heard voices in the background; Tyrone explaining something to a female, then her asking questions. A moment went by, then Gazelle's famous voice came on the line. “Thank you, Chief Bogo. Thank you for telling us.”
He allowed himself a smile, even though she couldn't see him. “You're welcome. You just take care of my old partner there.”
She laughed daintily, “Count on it.” She gave the phone back to Tyrone.
“What are their names,” Tyrone asked, “in case we meet them?”
“You mean, in case you look them up so you can have someone to talk to that's in the same position you are?” Bogo asked.
“Hmmp!” Tyrone snorted, not deigning to answer him.
“Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde,” Bogo told him. “They both live at the Downtown Covington Arms.”
“My first apartment was there,” Tyrone interjected.
“You, and about a million other cops,” Bogo snorted. He surveyed the pile on his desk. “I've got to go before I get buried under a mountain of paperwork, but I wanted to call and let you know.”
“Okay,” Tyrone agreed. “And hey partner, thanks.”
“Any time, partner, any time.” They hung up.
Unaware of Bogo's efforts on their part, Nick and Judy ate lunch at one of the lunch wagons that filled the area around the watering hole, then hit the streets again. It was a slow afternoon, giving them plenty of time to simply enjoy each others company. Late in the day they were driving past the prison where Bellwether was, and Nick had a sudden idea. “Liquid nitrogen makes things brittle doesn't it?” he asked, his ears standing up straight.
Judy saw his excitement and heard his heart racing. “Yes, it does. Why?”
“Spray some of it on the chain link fencing around the prison, maybe some on the walls and bars, and ole Douggie would have a fool proof way of breaking Bellwether out of there,” he said quickly.
Judy gasped, “Nick! You're a genius!”
“Above average,” he smiled self-deprecatingly.
“Nick! You've got to call it in,” she said. “Tell Bogo!”
He picked up the mic and radioed Clawhauser, asking him to put the Chief on the line. A moment later Bogo's exasperated voice came over the air. “Now what?”
Aware that everyone on patrol could hear him, Nick stayed away from any personal remarks and kept it strictly professional. He quickly explained his idea about Ramses' possible use of the liquid nitrogen. As soon as he was done a confused babble broke out over the radio as everyone tried to talk at once. Through the noise they could hear Snarlof smugly telling someone, “See? I told you they were heavy hitters!”
Nick wanted to laugh at Snarlof's depiction of them, for the second time, as “heavy hitters.” He turned to see what Judy thought of it, and found her giving him a smoldering look that made his temperature rise. The air in the car was suddenly laden with a profusion of pheromones pouring out of her. His heart quickened, and he wondered if she could hear it. She reached out and ran a soft paw over his muzzle. “If you think the kiss today was hot, wait until you see the one I lay on you tonight after work!” His heart skipped a beat in anticipation and she gave him another sultry smile. “I love listening to your heart go crazy like that,” she murmured softly. Well, that answered that question, he thought disjointedly.
“SHUT IT!!” Bogo roared over the radio, breaking the moment. Silence fell. “That's a good idea, Wilde. I'll post extra patrols around the prison, and alert the warden. Good work.” He signed off abruptly. The moment Bogo was off the air, the rest of them tried to talk all at once again, congratulating him. It went on so long he started to get embarrassed.
“Sheesh!” he muttered. “You'd think they never thought of anything themselves.”
“Maybe they haven't,” she giggled. “Maybe that's why Snarlof thinks we're heavy hitters.”
It was nearly quitting time, so she steered the car back to headquarters. After finishing their paperwork, they jumped in Judy's truck to go do some grocery shopping. Their aborted trip the night before hadn't netted them very much. They still needed to restock their respective kitchens. Going out in uniform helped remind them to maintain their distance from each other in public.
Back at the Covington Arms, Judy grabbed some spices out of Nick's bag as she got off at her floor. “Dinner will be ready in about 45 minutes,” she said. “Bring the wine.” After a quick check to make sure they were alone, she gave him a quick kiss, shivering at the powerful reaction they both had from it. “45 minutes,” she said as the doors closed. “Don't be late.”
Exactly 45 minutes later her doorbell rang. She opened it and her heart skipped a beat. He was wearing a black tuxedo with a crisp bow tie. He handed her the bottle of wine with a flourish. “Bone,” he said with a fake accent, “James Bone, of Her Majesties Royal Secret Service.” During her convalescence he'd learned about her fondness for James Bone movies.
Judy, wearing a flowing purple dress that matched her eyes, curtsied. “Do you have a license to kill?” she asked as she closed the door.
“Only to protect a damsel in distress,” he answered smoothly, standing dangerously close to her.
“I'm a damsel in distress,” she muttered, swaying toward him. “I'm distressed I haven't been kissed in over 45 minutes.”
“Easily remedied,” he replied, taking her in his arms.
Able to kiss for the first time without checking to make sure no one could see them, they lowered their defenses and sank into each others embrace. Their lips opened and tongues met. Time spiraled down to a stop, and there was nothing left but the two of them. Their hearts were like kettle drums in their chests. They kissed until they were gasping for air. Judy felt like her knees were about to give out, and she could tell he wasn't doing much better. She rested her head on his chest while he ran a tender paw over her head and down her ears.
“You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen,” he whispered.
She closed her eyes with a contented smile. “You don't have to say things like that, but I love hearing it anyway.” She snuggled closer. “And I love hearing your heart. So strong and powerful.”
“I can smell certain things about you too,” he remarked lazily. “Yum.”
She wound her arms around his neck and pulled him down for another kiss. “We can't keep many secrets from each other, can we?” she whispered against his mouth.
“Almost none,” he agreed, loving the taste of her lips. “Well, except for one.”
She looked up in surprise. “What?”
“When dinner is going to be ready,” he said smoothly. “You're keeping that a secret.”
“Dinner!” she exclaimed, breaking away to grab the pans off the stove before the food burned. “Whew! Just in time.”
When he finally left, several hours later, she thought it was the best dinner she'd ever had. They'd eaten, drunk wine, fed each other, drank more wine, and laughed and giggled like a couple of school cubs. And between everything, they kissed. Then they kissed and hugged. And then for good measure, they kissed some more.
She leaned against the door with a contented sigh, listening to his footsteps heading down the hall. She didn't think she'd ever get tired of his kisses. They were pure magic.
After changing into her pajamas, and cleaning up after dinner, she found she wasn't sleepy. Her body was still tingling from his arms and lips. She curled up on the couch with her phone and opened her web browser. On a whim she Zoogled “predator-prey relationships” and was surprised at how much there was. On closer inspection though, most of them turned out to be gossip sites dedicated to rumors about suspected couples; first and foremost on every one of them was Gazelle and her lead dancer, Tyrone. Any other time Judy might have been fascinated, but knowing the truth about them, and understanding from personal experience what it must be like for them, she found she had no interest in the output of the rumor mills. She went back to the listing of web sites and paged through them looking for something a little more substantial. Buried deep on the last page of the list was an 8-year-old study from Zootopia University. She clicked on it and was hooked after only a few sentences.
The article, “A Historical and Contemporary Study of Predator-Prey Romantic Relationships,” by Dr. Lawrence Huffer and Dr. Shelly Fürlong, Zootopia University, Department of Anthropology, opened by stating that predator-prey romantic relationships were rare, but not unknown. It discussed the legend that among the founders of Zootopia, there was a lion and zebra who fell in love after escaping from a brush fire that nearly killed them both. To date, all verified cases of predator-prey romance have involved a male predator and a female prey. It said there were only five confirmed cases; two historical and three contemporary, although there were probably more who were in hiding for fear of pubic disapproval. The researchers claimed to have interviewed the three living couples, and compared their answers with what was known about the two in the history books to arrive as some tentative conclusions.
In order for predator-prey romance to work, four things seemed to be required:
These four things didn't guarantee a romantic relationship would emerge, they simply laid the necessary groundwork and foundation upon which one can be built. But without them, no romance would ever be possible.
Judy was dumbstruck as she read the outline in the article. It was a near perfect encapsulation of her and Nick's relationship. She'd even recited an abbreviated version of it to him this morning when she told him when she fell in love with him. And now that she thought about it, it was also a repetition of the progress of Tyrone and Gazelle's relationship; at least the way Bogo told it. She sent Nick a text.
JUDY: Are you up?
NICK: Yeah. Why?
JUDY: Go to this web site and read it!!!!
She included a copy of the URL for him. After sending it she kept reading. It concluded with the two paragraphs she thought were incredibly fascinating, as well as a footnote at the bottom. The two paragraphs read:
The existence of predator-prey romance is difficult, if not impossible, to explain in terms of evolutionary biology. The parallel rise of intelligence in multitudes of different mammal species all at the same time – but only in mammals – is equally difficult to explain, particularly since all the evolution happened apparently at the same time and in the same direction; giving rise to intelligent mammals talking and walking upright, yet retaining all their primitive appearances and features.
Another aspect of modern mammals that is difficult to explain evolutionarily is that predators now enjoy many vegetables in their diet, while prey have learned to enjoy sea food and fowl. This simultaneously occurring overlap between their preferred diets is baffling to evolutionary theory.
She thought the footnote was equally fascinating. Part of it said:
Recent discoveries in the last year or two, may point to a alternative explanation for the rise of intelligent mammals other than ordinary evolution. A large meteor, or small asteroid, may have exploded in the sky over Zootopia's current location some 2000 years ago, catastrophically flooding the atmosphere with radioactive, mutagenic gases that affected only mammalian DNA, mutating it and adding to it, in order to produce today's intelligent, walking, talking mammals.
A common addition to the DNA of all mammals would explain why predators suddenly stopped hunting mammal prey and eating them, since it would now feel like cannibalism. It would also explain the existence of predator-prey romance, taking it from the realm of evolutionary impossibility, to the realm of the rare and unlikely, but now possible, although always childless. Additionally, the common mutagenic DNA added to both predator and prey would explain their new, common dietary preferences.
Support for this possibility comes from trace samples of unusual minerals found all over the world at approximately the same depth in the soil, indicating an age of about 2000 years. The concentration is strongest around Zootopia, which perhaps not coincidentally, is where the first predator-prey treaty was forged to begin a common civilization. While the available evidence is tenuous at best, the explanatory power of this theory is impressive.
She couldn't contain herself anymore and bounced to her feet, pacing excitedly around her apartment. She sent Nick another text.
JUDY: Read all the way to the bottom and don't forget to read the footnote too.
Was it really possible, she thought? Everything about her relationship with Nick argued that it was true. It even hinted that Lance's thrill of the hunt idea was valid. If they were only 2000 years from the jungle, all those old drives would still be there, alive and well, strong as ever. If their civilized intelligence and manners were the result of a cosmic accident, it might even account for the night howlers being able to drive them savage. After catching Lance yesterday Nick had theorized the two might be related. Maybe he was right.
Her phone buzzed with a message from Nick.
NICK: Wow!!!! Unreal!!!!
JUDY: I know!! It explains a lot!!
NICK: Even Lance's “thrill of the hunt” thing.
JUDY: I thought about that too. ☺
NICK: Getting tired. Go to sleep, angel face. Talk to you in a.m. I ♥ U
JUDY: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥