hold on to me as we go
as we roll down this unfamiliar road
and although this wave is stringing us along
just know that you’re not alone
‘cause i'm gonna make this place your home
The door slams, rattling one of the photos hanging on the wall. “That went well,” Judy snarls, and who would have thought she was so capable? Nick turns the lock and waits, unsure if she’s planning a tirade or simply expressing her general opinion on the night overall. Silence follows, and he risks a glance up, expecting her eyes to be fire on his own, but –
She has one paw bracing herself on the wall, the other pulling off her flats, and she is…immaculate, even when she is living fury.
Nick makes a noise, and she looks up.
“Uh-uh. No bedroom eyes, slick.”
“You look great in that dress.”
“Let’s talk about the other thing,” she snaps, tossing both shoes into the little basket they keep by the door. Very homey, very domestic. It’s all like that, now. “About how that was the worst dinner experience of my entire life.”
“You know, I could not have predicted that at all.”
“If you’re lying to me, about this—”
“Judy.” Nick clips his tone, physically snaps to attention. She can accuse him of a lot of things, and he doesn’t mind. She can interrogate and berate him (she doesn’t, not unless he asks for it) –
But she won’t call him a liar. Not tonight. Not about…
“I didn’t know she’d be there,” he says, softer now. Judy’s ear twitches and Nick closes the distance between them. “My own mother hasn’t spoken to my grandmother in years, I barely knew her growing up.”
“Then why now?”
He shrugs. “Situations change. Ever since my mom and I patched things up, it’s been different. I guess she was feeling her own parental tensions. But I got lucky, my mom is…perfect. My grandmother had it a lot harder.” Nick frowns. “I’m sorry for what she said. That wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“A hollow-headed, baby-making, serial seductress with nothing on my mind but a growing warren.” Judy laughs. “I guess it could have been worse.”
Nick toes off his shoes. “How, exactly?”
She sighs, reaching out and pulling him down, kissing his jaw. “You could have just let her say it.”
Nick remembers visiting his grandmother’s house once while he was growing up. He was probably six, and it was definitely summer. He remembers because they had poured asphalt on the road in front of the apartment, and it was still sticky with heat, leaving a mucky, rubbery smell lingering in the air. His mother had held his hand at the cross walk, tighter than usual. She kept saying the same thing to him, over and over – “It’ll be just fine, Nicky. You just hold mama’s hand, and it’ll be just fine.”
He hadn’t understood, until they crossed the threshold into his grandmother’s house and sat on her pristine sofa, covered in a noisy, obtrusive plastic. The woman in question was small, smaller than Nick had expected. In his mind he pictured her like other peoples’ grandmothers. He’d met a few – they came to school plays or field day, baked cookies for his class and sometimes chaperoned their trips. His own had been a constant mystery to him, obscured by the shadow of the lone photo of her that his mother kept in the house. Just the two of them, perched on a stoop similar to Nick’s own, staring into the lens of a camera. No smiles – just a rigid pose of a fox and her daughter being asked to stand still for a moment.
Later, his mother would tell him that the photo was a reflection of all their interactions. Stoic, placid, tinged with anxiety just along the edges. His grandmother had felt if the world was going to expect one thing from her, she would give them the very opposite. She was devoutly religious, obsessively clean, and respected by her neighbors and peers. She worked the same job at a dentist’s office for forty-two years, and retired when it was time. She married one fox, and when he died, she memorialized him each year on their wedding anniversary.
She was habitual, complacent, and stubborn. And when she had met Judy Hopps for the first time the night before, she’d had nothing good to say.
The moment the words – those terrible, awful words – left her mouth, Nick stood, put a paw on Judy’s shoulder, and said, “I think we have to go now.” He’d turned to his mother and apologized, offered to take her home or call them both a cab, but she declined.
“It’ll be fine, Nicky.”
You just hold mama’s hand, and it’ll be just fine.
“I suppose I never…thought about it. The other way around. But I did know,” she murmurs, shifting in his arms. “I did, didn’t I?”
Nick nods. “We went through it. We made it to the other side.”
“It was easy to work through it all, once I knew you. I shouldn’t have had to in the first place.”
He sighs. “Judy, your grandfather asked if I could tone the fox down. The only surprising thing is that you didn’t actually bring the taser.”
Judy snorts. “Please.” Then: “Will she like me?”
Nick doesn’t really have an answer to that. By now, they understand each other’s silences well enough to know when to push or pull back. It’s a pull-back moment, so Judy stays quiet. Nick can’t let it rest there. He feels her tension coursing through him like it’s his own, and he kisses between her ears. “I like you.”
“Well I know that.”
“Your grandfather is never going to like me. Just like Bogo is never going to trust me with planning a surprise retirement party ever again.”
“You ordered ice cream cake.”
“And it was delicious,” he says. “But the point is, there are some things that are never going to happen.”
Judy sits up. “Did you just tell me that it was impossible to get your grandmother to like me?”
“No. I suggested that she might not come around—”
She laughs. “I can’t tell if you still don’t really get me, or if you’re just pushing my buttons, but it is on, Nicholas Wilde.”
He smiles. “Then I guess it’s on.”
Nick had decided it wasn’t worth it to bring Judy’s grandfather over to his side. He’d given it a shot, and whenever they visit the Burrow, he’s respectful, which Pop-Pop makes a note of, very loudly.
(Nick is, apparently, the most respectful fox he’s ever met. Judy’s mother points out that he’s met a grand total of two foxes, and Nick counts as one of them. That usually shuts him up.)
But while Nick is perfectly happy to let his relationship with the elder rabbit lay where it may, Judy is not ready to let her own, essentially non-existent relationship with Nick’s grandmother end on the worst dinner in the history of dinners.
“I’m making a point,” she says, checking her sweater for the fourth time. “Does this look alright?”
“Looks great. You look great. Would look great on our floor, if you catch my drift.”
She pushes him away. “Later.”
“I’m not doing this with you before I go to church with your grandmother.”
Nick snorts. “Ten bucks says you can’t sit still for five minutes.”
“Bet I can.”
“Not one foot thump.”
She smiles, sliding her sunglasses over her face. “Not even one,” she says.
Ten minutes into the service, Judy starts fiddling with the hem of her sweater. She passes him a ten on their way to breakfast.
Breakfast goes…better than dinner, objectively. Nick’s grandmother is mostly silent. She makes a noise when Judy asks for the vegetarian breakfast skillet, hold the eggs, please, and then orders the Seafood Delight breakfast platter.
Nick makes a move to say something, but Judy puts a paw on his leg.
I can do this, this is fine, let me—
The smell of the oysters has her gagging, though, Nick can see it, and on the way home he buys her the vegetable peeler she’s had an eye on for weeks, just so she can shave their carrots down to look like noodles.
“What we do for love,” he murmurs.
“What you do for me,” she corrects.
Nick chews on that. “Same thing,” he says, and kisses her shoulder. “You should let this go though, Judy.”
She shakes her head. “I won’t.”
“I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Judy turns, taking his paw and putting it over her chest. “I’m tough, Nick. I can handle this.”
He sighs. “You don’t have to be so tough, Carrots.”
“Don’t have to be,” she agrees, and goes back to stirring her carrot-noodles in the skillet. “But I want to be.”
The second time, Nick isn’t there to smooth things over. He’s pulling extra hours at the precinct with Del Gato, trying to wrap up this serial bank robbery case that’s been giving them ten kinds of hell. So when he gets home, he’s all about a long hot shower and reheating some of that vegan mac ‘n cheese that’s finally grown on him and making Judy watch old spaghetti westerns with him –
But she’s curled up on their bed, her phone turned to face her, video chatting with her mom. She doesn’t even hear him come in.
“—is going to love you, sweetie.”
“That’s stupid,” Judy mutters, sniffing. “I’m perfectly lovable.”
“Well I know that, and Nick knows that, too, hon.” Bonnie sighs on the other side of the call. “Some folks are just…set in their ways.”
“You and dad changed.”
“Your father and I aren’t old, Judy. We’re aware that the world is shifting. What did Nick call it?”
“A constant flux,” Judy mumbles.
“See? He gets it. And so do we, but pop-pop and Nick’s gramma…life was different for them back then. Things are always changing, and they’re just not ready to catch up.”
“I’ve met plenty of older mammals who don’t have any problem—”
“Sweetie. You can’t change everyone. You can’t make her like you if that’s not the way it’s going to go. And that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.”
Judy nods. “I know. I guess I just…don’t want anything to get in the way of what we have.”
“Honey, what you have with Nick is a lot stronger than an old woman’s opinion of you. Don’t ever doubt that.”
Nick smiles. He goes to the bed, and Judy jolts, startling a laugh out of her mother.
“There he is,” she says. “Hey, Nicky.”
“Hey there Mrs. H. You give good advice.”
“Tell her I’m right, please? Crackers, it’s like arguing with a teenager again.”
Judy rolls her eyes. “Bye mom. Love you,” she adds quickly.
“Love you, too, baby.”
The screen goes dark and Judy groans, shoving it onto the floor.
“That kinda day, huh?”
“Nick. It was awful.”
“That explains the eleven texts from my mother asking if you’re okay.”
“I’m…going to be.”
Nick kisses her neck. “You wanna talk about it?”
Judy shakes her head. “Not tonight. I’m so tired,” she murmurs, and wraps her arms around him, holding him close. “I should have listened to you.”
“Nah.” He breathes her in, the scent of her anxiety strong in the air. “You’re exactly who you are, Carrots. No one could say you didn’t try.”
“What if we get married?” she says suddenly.
“I’m serious. I love you, and objectively, I’ve got no interest in leaving you or meeting anyone else.”
“Shit, Judy.” He laughs, running a paw between his ears. “I guess…we cross that bridge when we come to it. You can’t plan for everything you know.”
“That is not a can-do attitude, Nicholas.”
“It isn’t,” he says, and kisses her nose. “But it’s realistic. And hey, my mother loves you. I feel like that counts for something, right?”
She’s silent. Nick reads it.
He knows what it means.
“You know that this is never going to change how I feel about you, right?” Judy’s gaze snaps to his. “That’s why I’m not worried about your granddad. Because I know it doesn’t matter to you. His feelings are never going to change your feelings. And hers will never change mine.”
She exhales. It trembles. She says, “I don’t know what I’m afraid of.” Then: “Well. I do.”
“It’s alright.” Nick settles his chin between her ears, feeling the tension ebbing away. “I’m afraid of it, too.” Her paw grips his shirt, and he feels her shake, knows she’s crying. “Judy…”
“I want it to be okay.”
“It is okay.”
“I want everyone to be okay.”
He shakes his head. “That’s never going to happen. You’re one bunny, and it’s the whole wide world, Carrots.” Nick pulls back to tuck his fingers under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I’m going to love you for the rest of our forever. And I know that’s cheesy as hell, but it’s the truth.”
Judy blinks, stares, then smiles. The tension breaks. A flood of laughter spills forth, and she is herself again, pushing herself up to hover over him, trapping him between her paws. Nick grins.
“I like this development.”
She laughs again, head tipping down so her ears touch his own, nose brushing his as she kisses him. “I’m glad, because I definitely plan on developing it a little bit more.”
“Yes. First thing’s first, though. Shower. Food. In that order.” She releases him, and Nick bolts for the shower. “Hey, guess what?” Nick stops, paw on the light switch, brain an hour ahead of himself already.
Judy grins, jumping from the bed and heading out the door. “I love you,” she says, and disappears.
Nick blinks after her, waiting for something, but not knowing what. After a few minutes he realizes he’s still staring after her, and she calls out, “Get in the shower, Nick,” snapping him from his meditation.
She surprises him, sometimes. The affection is a jolt to his normal senses, even after settling into a gentle pattern of domesticity. He fights to wipe the grin off his face as he showers, but gives up after a while.
Even when it feels like the whole world is against him, he knows he’s at least always got her on his team. And that’s enough to make the rest of it completely okay.
the trouble it might drag you down
just know you’re not alone
‘cause i'm gonna make this place your home