we are made up of our mistakes
we are falling and not alone
we will take the best parts of ourselves
and make them gold
— "Make Them Gold", by Chvrches
“I can’t see.”
“I know, I’m making sure of it.”
“Just so you know – ow.” Nick bumps into a corner. “This is the worst piggy-back ride I’ve ever given.”
“You’d cheat.” He feels Judy shift on his shoulders. “Besides, this is more fun. And we’re almost there, so relax.” They walk a few more feet before she says, “Stop!” Nick freezes, swaying on the spot and reaching out. He feels a door frame, and his steps and memory tell him they’ve walked through the new apartment and back to one of the bedrooms. He feels Judy’s mouth between his ears, the soft kiss she presses there before she says, quietly, “You ready?”
“Born ready, fluff.”
She laughs, and her paws slowly fall away. Nick blinks through the intrusion of lamplight on his senses, feeling Judy slide from his shoulders and down to the floor.
It’s…their room. And it’s entirely different from the way they’d found it. Weeks of searching and cleaning and scrubbing had led them to refurbish an old wooden bed, but the walls had been sparsely decorated and a rather awkward, burnt orange color.
The day before, Judy had kicked him out, instructed Finn to entertain him for the weekend, and obviously done…this. All…by herself.
“I sent my mom some of the paint swatches, and she helped me pick. I think the seafoam green is good, it’s really peaceful. And the curtains are from her, she mailed them to me a while ago. They were for my old place, but they really bring something out in here. It’ll look even better in the morning, the sunlight hits them just right, honestly. And I know you didn’t have many requirements for the bedspread, but I figured the green here would be nice, too. I know you like green—” Judy stops. “…Nick?”
He still has one paw on the door frame, but the world wants to tilt up to meet him, so he puts the other out to balance himself.
It’s small – his girlfriend decorated their bedroom, and she had him on her mind when she did it.
It’s miniscule – she remembered his favorite color, and wanted him to be happy.
It’s typical Judy – she probably agonized over this for days, frantically calling her mother to get paint swatch approval –
But it’s the nicest thing anyone’s done for him in his entire life. And Nick is feeling…
(overwhelmed, blessed, loved, anxious, old –)
Judy reaches out for him. “Hey.”
Nick swallows. “Hey.”
It only takes a few steps for her to close the distance, and she’s reaching up to trace the line of his jaw that meets the curve of his neck, to press herself up on the tips of her toes and bring him down to kiss him properly and –
“Happy Birthday,” she murmurs.
Nick feels the world right itself – and he’s back.
“Is the paint soundproof?” he asks, easing her further into the room and grinning.
“Nicholas, it’s paint it’s not –” She sighs. “Oh. Oh, it’s—” Nick swallows her words, lifting her onto the bed and crawling after her.
“Now she gets it,” he says –
And she laughs.
After, Judy pads into the kitchen and brings back a cupcake with a single candle in it. Nick sighs.
“You blow out the candle, and I’ll eat all the frosting.”
“Fair enough.” He blows as Judy hums happy birthday, and watches her eat the frosting from the top with a spoon. “Gross.”
She laughs and glances over to the foot of the bed where their clothes lie in an awkward mess. “This will not be a habit.”
“We’re basking in the afterglow, Carrots.” Nick takes the cake from her and pinches off a bit with his fingers. “We’re allowed to make a mess before.” He glances toward the rest of the room. “It’s…really nice in here. You outdid yourself. I thought your fancy work in the kitchen was going to be the last of it.”
“Never,” she says. “I have plans for both the bathrooms, and I want the guest room to be like a weird, creepy place where we stash all the dolls I’ve collected.” Nick chokes. Judy grins. “Gotcha.”
He coughs and grabs the bottle of wine she’d brought back, taking a long drink. “You can’t do that to me. It really throws me off when you make jokes that have the potential to be not jokes.”
She shrugs. “You’ll get used to it.”
“It’s been more than a year,” he says. “And you…still surprise me.”
Judy laughs, reaching out to swipe more icing onto her spoon. “I’m always going to surprise you,” she says, just before she climbs into his lap, shoving the plate onto the bedside table. “Always.”
The euphoria of moving in together, of making a space that is uniquely their own, lasts for a few more weeks. Two months into it, Nick starts to wonder why they didn’t do this sooner – it’s going perfectly, they’re more than happy, and they live in circles around one another like they were meant to be. It’s organic, it’s natural – even Finn’s impressed.
“I figured she’d have your ass on the street.” They’re browsing the Famer’s Market downtown – Finn is entertaining Nick for the purposes of conversation, and the potential of pickled garlic, he claims – Nick is here for root vegetables so his girlfriend will stop complaining about the shriveled parsnips at the little mom ‘n pop place up the street.
And for pickled garlic.
They pop open a jar and split it between them. “I thought she might, too,” Nick confesses. “But it’s going really well.”
“I give it another week. Two, tops.” Finn reaches for another piece. Nick pulls back. “Hey.”
“Your lack of confidence in me does not inspire sharing.”
“I paid for those.”
“No.” Nick waves the two bucks in change still in his hand. “I paid for these. You offered to pay for beer, later, which I will inevitably buy. Just like always.”
“It’s important to maintain tradition,” Finn insists, and manages to get the jar back. “But seriously. You’re kind of an asshole. She’s definitely gonna get real sick of your shit, real quick.”
“And the day she does, I will call you and tell you you’re right.”
“Don’t call me. Text me.”
Nick shakes his head. “Nope. Definitely calling.”
“See?” Finn sighs. “Fuckin’ asshole.”
Nick feels it’s important not to make a big deal out of nothing. It’s why he lets it slide when a perp calls him slick-bellied two-faced scum bucket, or when someone at the precinct takes the last of the coffee and doesn’t make a fresh pot. Nick Wilde is a reasonable fox – he knows when to fight a battle, and when to avoid a war.
The thing about Judy though – everything is a big deal, and there is no such thing as nothing.
Everything is something. Everything matters. Anyone can be anything – typical Judy.
And she wants to share – which is fine. Nick appreciates the gentle push and pull of a relationship. He gets it. He’s happy to do it for her, even if he sucks at it. A lot of their talks end up being about Judy, or about Nick’s least favorite things.
(he has a grand total of eleven and a half million pet peeves, and Judy has been trying to catalog them over the last two years in some kind of attempt to appease him. it’s…not working.)
But she wants to know about the Past, beyond what he’s confessed, and she wants to know about his Feelings – and Nick is really bad at talking about both of those. Potentially the worst in the history of relationships.
So it is sort of inevitable that, in his quest to not make anything out of nothing – nothing becomes something, and something becomes everything, and everything spins wildly out of control.
And it starts with a handkerchief.
“This is the one you had at the museum.” Judy lifts the square of fabric from its place on coffee table, haphazardly and irresponsibly strewn with clothes and now, take-out.
“It’s the only one I have. Can you pass the dim sum?”
“Mmhm.” Judy hands the box to him and continues staring at the handkerchief. “I have some, you know. If you wanted a new one.”
Nick shrugs. “Hadn’t thought about it.”
“This one’s a little old.”
“Had it for a while. Soy sauce?”
“Yeah.” She hands him a packet. “You always have it?”
“I do. Are you gonna finish your rice?”
“No.” She passes it over. “I could get you a few more if you needed a rotation. That way they’re always clean.”
“I never get that one dirty. Carrots, it’s fine, it’s just a handkerchief.”
Judy shrugs. “I mean, it’s not just a handkerchief, if you carry it everywhere and won’t discuss that with me.”
“We’re discussing it right now, for reasons I literally cannot fathom.” He reaches out to take it from her, but she pulls back. “Carrots.”
“You say it’s not a big deal, but frankly your actions indicate otherwise.” She sits up a little straighter, folding her arms over her chest.
Nick scrapes the last bit of rice into his mouth. “You’re being ridiculous,” he mutters, tossing the box onto the table. “It’s just a handkerchief.”
“Then it would be perfectly acceptable for me to toss it. It’s old, it has holes in it—”
“I said it’s just a handkerchief, what part of that means I want to get rid of it? I like it, it’s mine, I want to keep it and I don’t need—”
“Nick, I’m just asking for some honesty here.”
“And I’m just asking you to give it back.”
“If you calm down and maybe start telling me about it, I think we could—”
Nick reaches forward, snatches the thing right out of her paw and snaps, “Dammit, Judy, I am not a suspect anymore.”
Whatever they’re watching on TV chooses to right then to play a laugh track, and Nick absolutely fucking hates himself.
Nick swallows. “You—”
“I get it.” She stands and starts gathering up the empty boxes. “Really, Nick. I do. I shouldn’t have pushed. Obviously it doesn’t matter to you.”
Her eyes lock onto his. Nick knows the line has been drawn.
“You need to take a walk,” she says, and takes the boxes into the kitchen.
“Make it quick, then.”
“Judy, what are you—”
“I am not asking you to roll out your entire life for me to pick over, Nick, or to tear apart. I’m asking you to share something with me. I wanted to know about the stupid handkerchief, and you act like I’m interrogating you.” She chucks the boxes into the trash. “Dammit, Nick you just…you make me so angry, you know that? I need to be able to tell you things, and I need to know you’re going to be able to tell me things, too. I love you, and I am only asking you to be my partner in this, okay?” She picks up his jeans and tosses them at his chest. “Go. Take. A walk.”
Finn picks up on the third ring and says, “Told you so.”
“I hate you, did you know that?”
“It’s stupid and I don’t want to talk about it.”
Finn snorts. “You’re being a whiny shit baby, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I am being a whiny shit baby.” He pulls the hood of his sweater over his head. The rain is a soft drizzle, nothing to write home about, but uncomfortable enough to make him regret pretty much everything. “Can I come over?”
“Nope.” The p pops, a little too bright for Nick. “I’m hotboxing the van.”
Nick groans. “Finn you can’t tell me these things.”
“What, you gonna call the cops?”
He sniffs. “No.”
“Well you better find a dry spot to sit your ass down until she wants you back.”
“Thanks for the advice. I feel stunning.”
“Peace, Nicky.” The phone beeps.
Nick sighs and slips it back into his pocket. He starts walking.
He could go to a few places. The old dive he used to haunt, Lenny’s, is open til four, and she’d probably be asleep by then. He could at least get in and sleep on the couch – slip out in the morning again.
(she’d know. she always knows.)
His eyes droop as he stops to wait for the light to change at the cross walk, and he seriously contemplates riding the bus ‘til the line runs out, or even going to the precinct to get some work done. He blames Judy for that, completely.
When he can cross the street, he figures walking is probably best. Clear his head, get the frustration out of his system, maybe burn off that useless energy he always seems to have after they fight. Nick lets his mind go blank, lets his feet carry him where they will. He knows this city, and it knows him. The ground rises up to meet his feet, the sidewalk moves along with him as he weaves through the late night crowds. All white noise, all background imagery in the landscape of his childhood. From the weasel hocking coupon books on the corner, to –
That neon sign, floating in the distance in a haze of rain and street lights. Nick’s let his feet carry him, and they’ve decided here’s the place to go.
Or maybe his brain always knew this was what he wanted (needed) and he’s simply answering the call.
Vixen’s Fixin’s, a twenty-four hour diner, home to the city’s thickest biscuits and gravy, the greasiest eggs, and mile-high pie. Nick’s mouth waters thinking about silver dollar pancakes and blueberry syrup, about bottomless orange juice and soft serve with caramel. He grew up doing his math homework in the corner, rolling in late after a night out in high school, dragging his track team here after a big win –
The bell still rings the same, and he almost expects the usual bustle – but it’s past midnight, and the drunk-munchies crowd won’t settle in until after last call. Nick’s alone.
Alone – except for the brown bear cook throwing bowls into the sink in the back. And a fox, leaning over an empty table and piling her arms high with dirty dishes and cups.
“Take a seat anywhere you’d like,” she calls, doesn’t bother looking over her shoulder.
“Think you could sit with me?” he asks. His voice absolutely wavers, and the waitress stops, keeps her back to him. Nick’s heart pounds in his chest.
The awkward jukebox music wails in the background – other than that, one might call the moment poignant.
“Sure,” she finally says, and heads toward the kitchen.
Nick exhales, sliding into a booth and pulling down his hood. He shakes the water from his fur, immediately reaches out to play with the salt shaker. A mug lands in front of him.
“I’d take something stronger,” he says.
“Coffee it is.” She fills the mug.
Nick leans back in his chair, gets a good look at her.
She is exactly as he remembers, exactly as she has always been. His mouth goes dry.
He manages: “Thanks, mom.”
She nods, filling her own mug and taking the seat across from him. Nick waits for it – the solitary sugar packet that she stirs in with a spoon, the one puff before she takes a tentative sip, pulls a face, and sets the mug back down.
Always the same, his mother.
Nick takes one of the creamers from the little bowl on the table and then pours three in, gives it a quick swirl and lets it rest.
For a long while, neither says anything. First to draw, first to give in. Like they’re still duking it out with one another, after all these years.
Nick’s always waited for her to speak, but his mother is steel (a lot like a certain rabbit he knows), and they once sat at the kitchen table in their apartment for three hours without talking, before she got up and went to bed.
So he opens his mouth.
“Why’re you here, Nicky?”
Nick flinches. She speaks first when she’s angry, when she’s scared, when she’s feeling something. He remembers that, and he makes himself smaller in the booth. Thirty-three years old, still a damn child under her gaze.
“I…needed to talk to you.”
She snorts. “You don’t talk to me for four years, don’t bother to come home, probably don’t even think about me, and now you roll in here at twelve in a morning and you wanna talk?” His mother shakes her head. “Go home, Nicky.”
“You get evicted again?”
She narrows her eyes. “What’s happening with you? I know you’re not getting arrested anymore.” She leans back in the seat, folding her arms over her chest. “I know what you do now.”
Nick stares into his lap. “How?”
“Darcy’s son. He’s a courier, he delivers packages to the precinct sometimes. Said he saw you dragging some wolf down a hallway in cuffs.”
Nick glances up, smiling. “I did do that.”
Now, she smiles. “Look at you.”
“I should have told you.”
“Yeah.” She takes another sip of her coffee. “You should have.”
“I’m…sorry. For a lot of things.” Silence. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you, and I’m sorry for what I said any time that I did. It was stupid. I was stupid.” He runs a paw between his ears. “Fuck, I’m still stupid.”
“Don’t say fuck, Nicky.”
Nick looks up. “If I’d told you would you have come?”
“Of course I would have.”
“Even after everything?”
She nods, reaching out to cover his paw with her own. “Even after everything, baby.”
Nick tells her about the academy, about Bogo and the other cops and actually being accepted.
For some reason he can’t talk about Judy. Not yet.
“Are you mad I didn’t tell you?” he asks.
“I was,” she admits. “I was…feeling a lot of things, when I found out. Angry, that you didn’t include me. Sad that you didn’t feel like you could, or didn’t want to. Proud, of course. That part hasn’t gone away yet. The anger stayed for a while, though.”
“I just…kept thinking about what it was like, right before you were born. Because I had thought back then that the hardest thing I was ever going to do was lose your father. I mean…that hurt. I was a kid,” she mutters. “We were both kids. But it was going to work, you know. The two of us…I loved your dad more than I loved my own family. He was my family, he was everything.” She breathes. “And then he was gone. And it was just me. And then it was just us. And for the longest time, that’s what I believed. Nothing was ever going to be harder than losing him.” She looks right at Nick. “And then I bailed you out of jail the first time. And all I could think was what did I do wrong?”
Nick shakes his head. “You didn’t—”
“No, but that’s the thing, Nick. That’s the part of this that you never understood. Every single time you got picked up, got kicked out of school or busted for something stupid, they always looked at me. They always wanted to know what had gone wrong. What could I have done better for you?”
“That’s not true.”
“Maybe not anymore. But you were a kid, Nick. So it was true. It was absolutely true. It was what I lived, every single day. And then I had to make it stop. And then you stopped asking. And then you stopped calling. And I…stopped pushing.”
(I shouldn’t have pushed. Obviously it doesn’t matter to you.)
Nick hates approximately everything about himself. He reaches out to her.
“Please don’t cry. I’m sorry I was an asshole.”
She wipes her eyes with a napkin. “Don’t say ass, Nicky.” He laughs, and she smiles. “God, I’m sorry,” she mutters. “Total mess in front of my kid.” She sighs and squeezes his paw. “So why’d you come in here, honey? What’s on your mind?”
Nick shrugs. “Girlfriend stuff.”
“You have a girlfriend?” His mother smacks his paw.
“We’ve been sitting here the entire time and you’re just now telling me that you’ve got a girlfriend?”
“Yes! Stop hitting, oh my God—”
“Who is she, what’s her name, what’s she do—”
“Uh, calm down. Okay?” Nick raises his paws. “No more hitting, please.”
His mother huffs. “What’d you do, what happened?”
“Why are you assuming I did something?” She raises a brow. “Okay, okay. Fair enough.” Nick sighs, leaning back. “It’s…kind of a long story.”
“You walked here in the rain at midnight. You’ve obviously got the time.”
Nick laughs. “Right.” There’s a part of him, still, that wants to keep Judy a secret, wants to keep her to himself. He doesn’t know what his mother will say, what she’ll feel or how she’ll react. All these years, and Nick comes rolling in, drops the apology bomb, and says, Oh, by the way, I’m dating a rabbit. We live together and I probably want to marry her, but she’s emotionally stable and I’m a fucking mess.
“We work together,” he says.
Nick shrugs. “Not really. She’s…too professional for her own good, honestly, and we make a good team. She’s whip smart, you’d really like her.”
His mother leans forward, resting her chin in her paw. “Keep going.”
“Um. Okay.” Nick plays with the salt shaker again. “Do you…remember that crazy missing mammal case a while back?”
“Sure, they all went nuts or something.”
“Savage,” Nick corrects automatically. His mother shrugs. “Okay. So there was this…this officer. She sort of broke the case. Made a big speech. All that.” Nothing. “She was a rabbit.”
“…Oh! Oh, I saw her. She was cute, they put her on those recruitment posters.”
“What’s she got to do with this?”
His mother stares.
“…Oh.” She clears her throat. “Well…that’s something.”
“I know it’s not necessarily orthodox.”
“Not even a little, Nick.” She sighs. “But you never were, frankly. Guess it doesn’t really surprise me. How’d you upset her?”
Nick blinks. “…That’s it?”
“Am I supposed to be angry? You come here and you have a full time job and a perfectly wonderful young woman who cares for you and you’d like me to be upset? Because she’s a rabbit?”
“I don’t care about that. I care about you. And if you’re happy, then that’s all that matters. And if you’ve done something that’s made both of you unhappy, then we need to work on that.” She looks behind her. “I think we need pie. Hold here. I’ll go get some, and you can start from the top.”
Half-way through his slice, his mother takes it away.
“You shouted at her because of a handkerchief?”
“It’s this handkerchief!” he insists, yanking it out of his back pocket and tossing it onto the table.
His mother frowns. “Oh, Nick. That’s not from—”
“Yes,” he snaps. “It is.”
She shakes her head. “I thought we’d moved past that.”
“Past which part of it? The part where I was hazed and abused by my peers? Or the part where they muzzled and humiliated me?” He ticks them off. “Let’s sort through this.”
“You told me you were fine. We talked to that woman—”
“Oh my God, it’s like you weren’t even paying attention—”
“How could I when you were running full speed ahead of me, trying to leave me behind?”
“I didn’t try to leave you behind—”
“That’s what it felt like!” she shouts, and throws her fork onto the table. “Dammit, Nick!” The tears start again. Nick stops moving. “I know it was hard for you, alright? I know it was. I know this city didn’t want us. But I just wanted to make it work for you. I tried my hardest. And I know it wasn’t good enough—”
“It was,” he says.
“It never felt that way.
Nick shakes his head. “You were always good enough, mom. You were more than enough.”
She nods, dragging a paw under her eyes. “Little late, but, it feels good to hear you say it.”
“Should have said it sooner.”
She shrugs. “You say it to her, don’t you? You let her know how you feel?”
“I…yeah. Yeah, I try.”
“You can’t ever take someone who loves you for granted, Nicky. You gotta hold on tight, baby. You know what I always told you. Find someone who makes you—”
“Feel like more than yourself,” he finishes. That’s what she always said, whenever she showed him a picture of his dad. He smiles.
“That’s right. Does she do that?” Nick nods. “Then you should go home, tell her how you feel.”
“I’m not good at that.”
“Gotta get good at it, honey.” She sighs, picking up her fork and finishing off her pie. “If you want to keep someone as good as her around, that’s what you need to do.” Nick nods. “You should both come by. If you want,” she adds quickly. “I just…well I always wanted you to meet someone. Someone who’d make you happy. She makes you happy?”
“Happiest I’ve ever been.”
“Then you hold on, and you don’t let go.” She takes his paw. “You tell her you love her every day, and you make the world better for both of you. It needs to be, you know, if you’re going live in it together.”
It’s late when Nick hugs his mother goodbye (for the fifth time, neither can seem to stop, now that they’ve started), and he finally manages to make it way back home.
The key turns in the lock, and she hasn’t bolted it shut, so that’s a good sign, at least.
Nick gently pads through the apartment toward their bedroom. The door is ajar, but the lights are out. They would be – it’s nearly four in the morning, and Judy always sleeps, even after a fight. Nick changes quickly and slides into his side of the bed, careful not to move her. She makes a little noise, something that sounds like his name.
Nick kisses her shoulder. “It’s okay, go back to sleep.”
“Night, Carrots.” He closes his eyes and curls up against her. “Love you.”
Somehow Nick manages to be up and dressed before eight, and whatever softness was there just a few hours ago has dissipated in the steam of morning showers and coffee. Judy is precise and sharply angry when something’s ruffled her. Everything snaps on the countertop with just enough ferocity to let Nick know she’s pissed without actually breaking anything.
Ten minutes in, he can’t take it.
“We need to talk,” he says.
“Please what, Nick? Because I distinctly remember respectfully and graciously asking you to share some information with me last night, and that ended swimmingly.”
He frowns. “You pushed. And I know you’re a pusher, but sometimes I’m not ready. Sometimes I need more time.”
Judy stops, her paw gripping the edge of the little countertop – lower, specifically for smaller mammals, a must-have on their rental list, Nick remembers the little twitch of their agent’s ear every time Judy would measure the height of the cabinets, see how much hopping and clambering she’d have to do –
“Please understand,” he says, and moves toward her. “Because I’m not trying to keep myself from you. I’m just not where you are yet, and now I’ve gotta play catch-up.”
She nods. “Okay.” A sniff, and she’d definitely crying and Nick is really tired of making the women he cares about cry. “Ugh, I’m so sorry, Nick.”
“Please don’t be,” he says, and brings her in. “I was an ass.”
“And I was a huge jerk.”
He laughs. “Not huge. And not even really a jerk, Carrots. Give yourself a break, alright? You just wanted to know and I’m very aware of just how stubborn you can be.”
Judy sighs, turning her cheek against his chest. Her ears fall back, a good sign that she’s calmed down, and she wraps her arms around him. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
“Pushed, actually. Until I stopped believing it could never work.”
“See?” She pulls back. “Sometimes the pushing leads to good things.”
“And I will never say it doesn’t.” He kisses between her ears. “Can we be late for work today? There’s some stuff I need to talk to you about.”
Judy grins. “We can totally be late today. I’ll go get the sharing tissues.” She moves past him toward the bathroom.
“We don’t have—”
“We do now!” she calls. “Meet you on the sofa.”
Nick sighs, refills his coffee, and drags himself into the living room.
“This is the woman I’ve chosen to love,” he murmurs, and doesn’t fight the urge to grin.
(it takes some explaining, some rationalizing, some crying and pacing and shouting – but in the end, Nick manages to get it out. that he doesn’t keep the handkerchief to remind him of what was done to him. he keeps the handkerchief to remind him of everything his mother did for him, and all that he did not do in return. he keeps it to remind himself that there are a hundred debts he owes, and he will never live long enough to repay them all.
she doesn’t want you to feel guilty, Judy says. she wants you to feel loved.
Nick pulls her toward him, kisses her and rests his head on her shoulder.
i do, he says. i really do.)
“Are you nervous?”
Nick breathes. “A little.”
“See? See, you’re nervous, and I’m nervous. I’ve never met my boyfriend’s mom before. The internet was useless.”
“You researched this?” Judy gives him a look and Nick raises his paws. “Okay, okay. It’s not rocket science, Carrots. There isn’t going to be a test.”
“Not a written one. I’ll be graded, you know she’ll grade me.”
He scrubs a paw over his face. “You’re seriously getting way too worked up over this.”
“Oh, like she isn’t thinking the same thing,” Judy snaps, holding the daisies she’s bought closer to her chest. “Ugh, I want to meet her so bad, but I also kind of want to throw up. That’s normal. Right?”
“That’s how I felt when I met your folks.”
“I know,” she says sagely, putting a comforting paw on his arm. “I heard you vomiting on the train.”
The subway car rolls to a stop, and they get out, arm in arm, and make their way back into the light. Nick pushes his sunglasses up his snout and glances around. “This way.”
“She still lives where you grew up, right?”
“She may as well own the place. Should own that diner, but…” Nick shrugs.
“Doesn’t think she can do it. Or she didn’t at least, when I was growing up. Maybe she feels different now, who knows.”
“She put up with you,” Judy teases. “Pretty sure she could do anything.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ll both have some common ground to start with.”
“I planned for it.”
“Wonderful.” Nick gives her paw a squeeze at the crosswalk. “Can’t wait to be ganged up on.”
“You know you love it.”
They walk in a comfortable silence the rest of the way to the apartment. Judy keeps fidgeting with the flowers, until Nick has to spare them the torture of losing their petals. She pauses at the bottom of the stoop, looking up at the numbers on the side of the building. Nick keeps her paw in his, stopping halfway up and looking down at her. “What’s up, Carrots?”
“What if she doesn’t like me?” Her voice is quiet, tiny in the noise of the street. Nick steps back down.
“It’s not. Plenty of people don’t like me.”
“Well, sometimes your opinion of a rabbit changes after they arrest you.”
Judy swallows, looking up at the door. “She’s your mom.”
“Yeah. And she’s mostly normal, like you, and has a really good sixth sense about me. Also like you. You’re both going to get long great. I know it.”
Judy nods. “Alright. Let’s do this.”
“Absolutely, before I change my mind.”
“Okay, Carrots. No going back.”
Judy laughs. “No going back.”
Together they stand at the top of the stairs. Nick fishes in his pocket for the key without a second thought, realizes that his mom changed the locks years ago and he doesn’t have one. Paw shaking, he rings the doorbell.
It takes eleven seconds for his mother to make her way through the house and open the door. She’s wiping flour on her apron, dusting it from her paws as she takes them both in and smiles.
“Look at you,” she says, and draws Nick in. “Oh, I’m spoiled. Two visits in a week.”
“I can make it more,” he says.
“Please do.” His mother shifts, and her gaze falls on Judy. “And I know who you are,” she says.
“You can call me Marian, it’s really just fine.”
Nick looks over at her quickly – it’s been years since he’s heard his mother’s name spoken out loud, longer still since she gave someone permission to use it. He wants to somehow communicate this with Judy, that his mother has already accepted and assimilated her – but they are both being absorbed into the house, the two chatting swiftly about location and complaining about the train. Judy explains the story of the daisies, completely ignoring Nick’s advice about not going too explicit on the names and species – his mother smiles and nods, accepts the story and finds a vase.
“How clever,” she says. “Nick, did you know she knew all these things about flowers?”
“No,” he drawls. “No idea whatsoever.”
“Ignore him,” they both say, and burst into laughter.
“Oh, I like you,” his mother says, and puts an arm around Judy. “I really do. I’ve got some pictures to show you, I set them all out. They’re just in here…” Nick smiles as their voices fade out and they quickly forget him. That’s fine – he’s free to wander the hall, listen to the mingling of their voices in the sitting room.
It’s calming, he thinks. Reassuring at the same time.
He plans on loving Judy for the rest of his life – it’s nice to know his mother will feel the same way.
“As much as I love being out and about, this really is my favorite place.” Judy presses closer to his side in their bed, flipping through one of her poetry books. “And you’re my favorite fox, so.”
“Considering the number of foxes you actually do know, that’s high praise.”
She smiles, pinches his side. “It’s true.”
“Good,” he says, and kisses the tips of one her ears that’s strayed to his side. “Because you’re my favorite bunny.”
“You know more bunnies than I know foxes.”
“Only out of necessity.”
“Bunnyburrow is pretty dense.”
“Not how I’d describe it, but alright.” Nick pulls the book from her paws and rolls her over. “Have I told you how much I appreciate all your pushing?”
“You can do away with the innuendo, Nicholas. I no longer need to be seduced.”
“But I like doing it.”
Judy laughs. “Alright, you may continue.”
“Good,” he says, ducking his head to gently nip at her shoulder. Judy gives a little gasp and melts against him. “Because I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you and all the meddling and pressuring and convincing you’ve done to get me here.”
“I can only do half the work, partner.”
“I know, I’m amazing aren’t I?”
Judy hums. “Incredible. In all aspects. Ten of ten.”
“I love it when you evaluate me.”
“And I love it when you let me.”
“You just love me,” he murmurs.
“I do.” She brings him close. “You make me feel like more than myself.”
“She tell you about that?” Judy nods. “Good. Then I can just say it.”
Nick kisses her. “You make me feel like more than myself,” he repeats. “Like we are something greater when we’re together than we could ever be apart.”
“But we’ll never be apart again.”
“No,” he says. “Never again.”