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 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 in 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 rearview 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 way, 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 shorter 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?”