Judy stretched luxuriously as she gradually woke up without an alarm clock buzzing in her ear. Yesterday had been an emotionally draining day. Even though they got back to the station and said good-bye to Lawrence and Shelly, and Robert and Linda by one o'clock, she and Nick were so wiped out they headed for their apartment building, kissed briefly in the elevator, then went their separate ways and crashed.
She decided to take her time in the shower, lathering and rinsing, then lathering all over again until she felt squeaky clean. It was a wonderful feeling. She wrapped a big fuzzy robe around herself, tying it tight just as her phone buzzed from Nick.
“Hello handsome,” she purred as the screen lit up with his face.
“And hello yourself, angel face.” He surveyed her robe. “Did I call a few moments too late?” he grinned lecherously.
“Tsk, tsk,” she waggled a finger at him. He laughed, undeterred by her gentle reproof. “What time is it anyway. I haven't looked at the clock yet.”
“It's almost nine, but maybe you should look outside first. The press are camped out in front of the lobby,” he told her.
Her eyes widened. “What?”
He nodded. “Yep. I figure they're waiting to ambush us the moment we set foot out the door.” She started to growl, which he thought was unbelievably cute for a bunny, but he cut her off. “Don't worry, I've got a plan.”
She eyed him askance. “We're not going to parachute out the window or anything ridiculous like that are we?”
He perked up. “Hey! Now there's an idea.”
“I'm kidding,” he laughed at her horrified expression. “Get dressed and meet me by the emergency stairs at the end of the hall.” He paused as another lecherous expression stole across his face. “Unless you want me to come help you get dressed.”
“You're terrible, but . . .” her expression changed to meet his, “once we're married, I'm all yours mammal O mine, head to toe.”
He grinned in anticipation. “Come on wedding day!”
She giggled at his undisguised eagerness. “I'll meet you in ten minutes.” She hung up and made a mad dash for her closet. If he could get them away from the press they'd have the whole day to themselves and she didn't want to miss a single moment of it.
Ten minutes later she pushed open the emergency exit door at the end of the hallway. He was waiting on the stairwell landing. He was dressed as always, but he whistled appreciatively at her outfit. She was wearing black stretch pants with a soft purple blouse that matched her eyes. Black and white bracelets graced her dainty wrists. He shook his head. “Fluff, I don't know how you do it, but you get more gorgeous every day.”
She smiled brightly. “Glad you like it. Fru-Fru helped me pick it out.” She flowed into his arms for a long passionate kiss. Pheromones and the sound of his heart filled the small landing.
He pulled back reluctantly, trying to clear his head. “Come on, gorgeous, let's get out of here before we jump the gun on our wedding day,” he said unsteadily.
She tried not to moan in disappointment because she knew he was right. There was a part of her – a very large part if she was honest with herself – that wanted to drag him into bed right then and there. “Where are we going?” she forced herself to ask.
He took her paw and started down the stairs. “I called Finnick. He's waiting in his van at the bottom of the stairs. I had him move your truck yesterday. Once he gets us out of here, he'll take us to it and we'll be on our own.”
Her ears shot straight up in admiration. “Pretty slick, Nick!” She punched him excitedly in the arm.
“Above average,” he admitted.
Sure enough, Finnick, Nick's erstwhile partner in popsicle hustling, was waiting for them, the back door of his van open and facing the stairway door. They hopped in, closed the door, and they were on their way. Judy was surprised to find the inside of the van crowded with crates and packages.
“What's all this?” she asked.
Finnick glanced over his shoulder. “All of what? Oh, those.” He turned back to his driving as he pulled out of the underground garage. “After Nick went straight I had to get a job. You know, I actually make more delivering packages than I ever did working for that chump!”
“Imagine that,” Judy smirked sarcastically.
“Don't gloat,” Nick scowled. “It doesn't look good on you.”
She smirked even more. “You know you love me.”
He rolled his eyes but played along anyway. “Do I know that? Yes, yes I do.”
“If you two love birds are done making goo-goo eyes at each other, we're here,” Finnick said from up front.
For a moment Judy panicked realizing he'd heard everything, but Nick shushed her. “It's alright,” he said. “Finnick and I go way back; he's cool with it, or at least he won't say anything.”
Finnick met her eyes in the rear view mirror. “It makes no never mind to me,” he shrugged. “It's not my cup of tea, but neither is being a cop.”
She smiled in relief. “Thank you, Finnick.” He nodded.
Nick gave him a quick pat on the shoulder. “Thanks big guy. See you around.” He opened the back door and they jumped out. Her truck was right in front of them. Nick closed van and Finnick took off.
Nick pulled out the truck keys. “Mind if I drive, Milady?” He unlocked the passenger door and held it open like a chauffeur.
Judy played along, lifting her nose in the air like a rich snob and holding out her paw so he could help her into her seat. “Thank you, Jeeves,” she sniffed disdainfully. The moment was shattered though when he pinched her bottom. She jumped and nearly hit her head on the roof of the cab of the truck. “Hey!”
He grinned as he trotted around to get in the driver's side. “You were getting into the part a little too much,” he explained. She stuck out her tongue. He started the truck and pulled out on the street. His expression changed as he glanced sideways at her. “I want to go see my Mom.”
Her face softened. “Nick, I think that's a great idea.”
“Even if I tell her about us?”
She hesitated. His decision to get married in full view of the world at the new race track was still off in the future a ways, but this was today, this morning in fact. She didn't want to wind up like Gazelle and Tyrone, hiding in their ivory tower, but was she ready for this? Other mammals had found out about them by accident one way or another; this would be the first time they'd deliberately told someone.
She took a deep breath. “We have to tell her, Nick. She's your mother.”
He reached over and squeezed her paw. “Thank you, Judy.”
She smiled briefly at him. When he tried to let go she held on tighter. “I want to tell her, Nick, and my parents too but I'm scared. Promise you'll help me?” she pleaded. He nodded. To take her mind off it she changed the subject. “You've never said anything about your father.”
His eyebrows climbed. “He died in a car wreck when I was three or four. I barely remember him, sort of this big lovable presence in the house. Then one day he was just – gone.”
“I'm sorry, Nick. I didn't know.”
“It's alright,” he reassured her. “Mom was always there for me.”
He was heading south in Savannah Central toward the bridge over the lake. A few blocks from it he turned west onto Livery Avenue, two blocks later he turned left into an older, but tidy neighborhood of single family homes. He turned onto Oak Street then into the driveway of the second house on the right.
A chain link fence decorated with plastic flowers surrounded a cut lawn. Short well-trimmed bushes lined the walkway up to the front porch. The house was white with red trim around the windows and doors, topped by black shingles. The porch was fairly spacious, sporting a double wooden swing hanging from the roof. Some throw pillows gave it a splash of color. A gray, older model sedan was parked in the driveway.
Nick shook his head at the sight of her car. “She's gonna drive that thing until it falls apart.” He got out and opened the door for Judy. He led her through the fence gate to the front door. He rapped smartly on it.
A faint voice from inside called out, “Just a minute.”
Nick straightened his shirt and tie nervously. He turned to ask Judy how he looked when the door opened and his mother, about an inch short than him and just starting to show some silver around her muzzle, came out.
“Yes?” Then her eyes widened as she realized who it was. “Nicky!” she screamed in delight. She grabbed him in a hug, laughing and crying at the same time. “It's been ages since you've come to see me. How dare you make me wait so long! Let me look at you.” She pushed him away to run her eyes over him then immediately pulled him back again. “Come here! Oh my goodness it's so good to see you!”
Judy tried to smother a smile. Typical mom, she thought.
“I saw you on TV Mister Big Shot Detective,” she exclaimed. “Meeting with the Mayor, and Gazelle!” She tried to pull him into the house, “Come on, you have to tell me everything!”
Nick planted his feet. “Whoa Mom! There's someone I want you to meet.”
She blinked and saw Judy for the first time. “Oh my goodness! You're that famous bunny cop. I heard you're partners with my Nicky. Is it true?”
“Mom! Slow down,” Nick laughed. “At least let me introduce you before you give her the third degree.”
His mom laughed. “Sorry dear, you know how excited I get.”
“Yeah, I know. Mom, this is Judy Hopps. Judy, this is my mom, Faye Wilde,” he said formally.
They shook. “Any friend of Nick's is a friend of mine,” Faye said, pulling her in for a hug. “Come in, come in!” Judy let herself be led inside. The house was neat and tidy. A ceiling fan whirled silently, creating a slight breeze. “I was just having some lemonade, come on into the kitchen,” she told them.
Nick and Judy exchange amused glances and let her hustle them to the kitchen and seat them at the table while she grabbed glasses and poured some lemonade. She sat down then paused briefly as she noticed them sitting side-by-side. “So, Nicky, tell me everything,” she insisted.
Nick saw Judy watching him expectantly. She nodded slightly to encourage him. Faye picked on it and went utterly still, sensing something going on between them. Nick took a deep breath. “There's a lot of things to tell you, Mom, but I think I should start at the top and work my way down.”
“Okay,” she said slowly, her eyes cutting back and forth between them.
Nick took Judy's paw and put it on the table, displaying her ring. “We're engaged to be married,” he told her, bracing for her reaction.
Faye's eyes started to fill with tears. “Oh Nicky, I thought I saw Robert and Linda on TV with you yesterday. I couldn't tell for sure, but it was them, wasn't it?” He nodded. “If you found them then you've talked to them and you know what you're letting yourselves in for,” she sniffled, reaching for a handkerchief.
“I'm not giving her up, Mom,” he said firmly. Judy clutched his paw tightly.
“Baby, I'm not asking you to,” Faye reassured him weakly. “Robert and Linda were the same way.” She eyed their clasped paws on the table. “I'm just sad it's going to be so hard on you. Look at what they went through!”
“She's worth it,” he answered.
“But it may not be as hard on us as you think,” Judy put in. “Chief of Police Bogo has already offered to perform our wedding.”
Faye stopped in mid-sniffle. “You mean . . . he knows?”
They both nodded. “He not only knows, he's okay with it,” she told her. “A friend of his went through the same thing years ago and Bogo did their wedding too.” She leaned forward earnestly. “I'm not saying it'll be easy but there are others out there like us, we've met them, and times are changing. But even if it wasn't, even it's was worse for us than it was for Robert and Linda, I still wouldn't give Nick up. I can't!” she wailed softly. “He's my everything.”
Faye's eyes glowed with both sadness and joy. “It's every mother's dream to hear someone say that about one of her children,” she smiled faintly.
“Then maybe you can help my mother when she hears Nick say it about me,” Judy replied delicately.
Faye gave her head a tiny shake, almost a shudder. “Are you asking me to come to your parent's house when you tell them about you and Nicky?”
Nick sat bolt upright. “Fluff, are you sure about this?” He had a worried expression on his face. “Your parents are going to be harder to convince. You don't have to do this yet, you know. There's still time before the wedding.”
“You've already set a date?” Faye asked in astonishment.
“Uh, yes and no,” Nick answered, stalling for time.
Faye got a mother's frown on her face. “Nicolas Paul Wilde, you answer me right now!” Despite the seriousness of the situation Judy had fight off a case of the giggles at the sight of her irrepressible Nick being dressed down by his mother.
He sighed. “The date is whenever the new race track opens. We're going to ask Bogo to marry us at the track right before the first race.”
Faye was horrified. “But everyone in the world will know!” she protested.
“That's kinda the point, Mom. We're not going to hide like the rest of them. I'm not ashamed of loving Judy, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise either.” His voice was hard as steel.
Faye gaped at him wordlessly. “You're,” . . . she licked her lips . . . “you're not the Nicky I used to know. You've grown up big and strong just like your father. He didn't back down from a fight either.”
Judy felt her heart swell with pride at Faye's comparison of Nick to his father.
Faye sagged in her chair. “You're sure about this? Both of you?” Judy and Nick nodded in tandem. She nodded wearily. “In that case you have my blessings, and I'll come with you to your parent's house if you think it'll do any good,” she added to Judy.
“Can you come now?” Judy asked.
Faye blinked. “Right now?”
“Ah, alright. Sure, why not?”
Nick put a paw on her arm. “This is our first day off in a while. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Nick, the more time they have to get used to it, the easier it will be when it happens,” she told him. “Besides, doing it on our day off is best. It gives us plenty of time to answer all their questions.”
“Where do they live?” Faye asked inquisitively.
“Bunnyburrow,” they answered together.
“Good,” she said firmly, drying her eyes. “That gives us enough time on the drive out there for you to fill me in on everything that's happened.”
Nick knew when to surrender to the inevitable. “Bunnyburrow, here we come,” he said with good grace. “Get your stuff together and let's go.”
The trip was long enough not only to tell Faye all that had happened, but gave her additional time to ask questions and fill in the blanks. By the time they arrived she was as up to date as possible. “Gracious you've done a lot in a short amount of time,” she exclaimed as they pulled into the driveway at Judy's parent's house.
Stu and Bonnie must have seen the truck coming up the street; they came out while they were still getting out of it. Bonnie hesitated at the sight of Faye, a wondering look on her face. Whatever she thought she pushed it away to hug her oldest daughter and gush over her. Stu was so overjoyed to see Judy he even shook paws with Nick and gave him a sort of half hug. He was fighting “the waterworks” as he called them the whole time.
Nick was introducing his mother to them when Judy's multitudinous brothers and sisters began pouring out of the house, overwhelming them with a cacophony that made conversation impossible. It took several long minutes to quiet them down and herd them back inside, especially since they all said she was famous now for being on TV a second time – with the Mayor and Gazelle! They kept wanting to know what she was like and if she sang for them and how big her apartment was and how high it was above the city and was it true she had gold bathroom fixtures and and and.
Inevitably though one of them noticed her ring and commented on it, just as the last of them were trailing into the house. “What kind of ring is that?”
Judy froze as her mother saw it, realized what it was, and nearly fell over backwards in shock.
“What ring?” Stu asked. He spotted it and whistled. “Good grief, Judy! The ZPD must pay better than we thought.” He grabbed her paw to examine it better. “Hun, look at this,” he called to Bonnie, unaware of her alarm. “You know it almost looks like an engagement ring.”
“Uhm, Dad, it is an engagement ring,” Judy told him softly.
“It is?” He lit up like a billboard. “Hun! Judy is getting married! Who's the lucky fellow? Is it that tall one from Podunk? I really like him, he's a farmer pure and simple . . .”
“Nick and I are getting married,” she half-shouted to stop him.
He was puzzled. “Nick who? I don't think you've introduc . . .” He ground to a halt. He looked from her to Nick then back to her in dawning realization. “You . . . you're . . . you're marrying a fox?”
She slid an arm around Nick's waist. This had to be a nightmare for him, she thought, almost like the Junior Ranger Scouts all over again. But before she could say anything he beat her to the punch, and proved it wasn't like the Junior Range Scouts.
“Mister Hopps, you and your wife raised Judy to be the most wonderful, caring mammal I've ever met. I love her with all my heart and I'm going to spend the rest of my life doing everything in my power to make her happy – no matter what it takes.” He pulled her close. “You should be proud of her.”
Stu was lost. It was too much too fast. “Proud of her? Well, of course we're proud of her,” he sputtered. “But –”
“And I know you love her as much as I do, don't you?”
“Hunh? Well, yeah, sure we love her as much as you do, wait, I mean more . . .”
“And so you understand how desperately I want to keep her safe and happy,” Nick pressed him. Judy knew what he was up to, but for once she didn't mind his little word games because he was about to trick her father into giving them his blessings.
“Well who wouldn't?” Stu stammered, trying to keep up with Nick's rapid fire patter. He had the classic “deer in the headlights” look on his face. Behind him, Bonnie's mouth worked wordless as she tried to butt in.
“So who wouldn't fall in love with her, right?” Nick went on reasonably, nodding his head with an exaggerated movement. “Look at her, she's beautiful.”
Stu didn't have a chance, he nodded in time with Nick like a puppet on a string. “Everyone loves Judy,” he managed feebly.
“Which means you know why I want to marry her just like you wanted to marry Bonnie,” Nick pressed his advantage.
“Marry her, yeah,” Stu agreed, totally confused. “I mean –”
Nick pounced before he could finish, grabbing his paw and shaking it heartily. “Thank you, Mister Hopps! Thank you for consenting to our marriage. I won't let you down, sir. You can count on me!”
Judy couldn't help admiring Nick's tricky maneuver. She threw herself at her father too, hugging him fiercely. “Thank you, Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Over his shoulder her mother was staring helplessly at them, totally outgunned. She'd lost the battle before even it started, and she knew it.
Faye gave Bonnie a sympathetic smile. “If it's any comfort, they sprang it on me this morning too,” she commiserated. She brightened. “I guess this means we're going to be in-laws.”
Judy's brothers and sisters were explosive in their youthful exuberance. “Uncle Nicky and Aunt Foxy!” they shouted with glee, mixing up their kinship terms. They already knew and accepted Nick from his frequent visits during Judy's convalesce from the Savage Mammal case; they simply extended their affection for him to his mother, swarming around them, jumping and hugging them, dancing around in jubilation. Some of them broke into an impromptu wedding song.
Faye raised an eyebrow, “Aunt Foxy?” She shrugged. “I can live with it,” she smiled.
Bonnie, more practical and down-to-earth than Stu, surrendered to the inevitable. “Well, welcome to the family, Faye.”
“Foxy Faye,” some of Judy's older brothers and sisters shouted with laughter.
Bonnie fixed them with a gimlet eye. “None of your sass!” she returned quickly. “Now go make yourselves useful; get some drinks and snacks for us. Git!” She swatted them on the rear to get them moving. They trooped with pretended reluctance, shouting, laughing, rough housing as they went.
Stu had begun to recover his wits. He pushed Judy away. “You tricked me, young lady! You and your, your, your –”
“Fiancé,” she supplied helpfully.
Stu glanced at Nick standing by her side, a hopeful, apprehensive look in his eyes. “Part . . .” he started to say then changed it when he saw Nick deflate like a child's balloon, “. . . fiancé,” he agreed. “You tricked me into agreeing!” Nick's chest swelled and his shoulder went back as he straightened up. An ear-to-ear grin split his face.
Judy grabbed his paw blindly, fighting back tears as her father officially gave in. “But not any more, Daddy,” she whispered.
He smiled fondly at his oldest daughter. “No honey, not any more.” He held out his paw to Nick. “Promise me you'll take care of her,” he said, fighting back his own tears.
Nick shook with him, slowly and formally. “I give you my word, Sir.”
Before they could say anything else the mob of children returned, laden down with trays of drinks and snacks; cups, plates, saucers, bowls, and glasses. In the twinkling of an eye there was enough food laid out to feed an army.
The rest of the afternoon went by in a haze for Judy. Her love for Nick, out in the open and accepted by her family – perhaps not approved by her parents, but accepted nonetheless – was a dream come true. She couldn't remember being so happy since the day she graduated from the Police Academy. By sunset when they headed back to town she felt like she was floating on cloud nine.
After dropping Faye off at her house they made their way back to the apartment building. The media, tired of waiting for them, had long since departed. They parked the truck and took the elevator up to Judy's place, leaning contentedly against each other, arms around each other's waists.
They sank down on the couch. Judy laid her head on his chest, listening to his heart and feeling it's powerful beat beneath her. She sighed with deep contentment.
“That's sounds like a happy bunny,” he commented lightly.
She nodded without lifting her head. “I've never been happier. Having my mom and dad accept you is like a dream come true. In a million years I would never have imagined we'd win them over so quickly.”
“I, my dear, have the gift of gab,” he proclaimed in a fake, pompous tone.
She giggled into his shirt, “That you do, mammal O'mine, that you do!”