Nick sat bolt upright in surprise at Judy’s determination to talk to her parents about their upcoming marriage. “Fluff, are you sure about this?” He had a worried expression on his face. “Your parents are going to be harder to convince than Mom. 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 to 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 with the Mayor after meeting with 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 backward 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?” His face lit up happily. “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 shook his head. It was too much too fast. “Proud of her? Well, of course, we're proud of her,” he spluttered. “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 wordlessly 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 mammals’ case so 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, roughhousing 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 anymore, Daddy,” she whispered.
He smiled fondly at his oldest daughter. “No honey, not anymore.” 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 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!”