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Zootopia: Partners in Crime

Chapter Text

Big Steps

"You've got to be kidding me," were the first words Olivia grumbled upon entering the crime scene of the Natural History Museum.

She wasn't sure what to expect when walking into her first murder case. She had no expectations, not like Smith did. Since Olivia was sans vehicle, she had to carpool with Smith to the museum. During the drive, Smith began to theorize the possibilities as to why someone might try to kill someone else in a museum, consequently Remaining silent and observant for the duration of the ride. She offered her occasional opinion, but it was clear to her that Smith was just excited and was only bouncing off ideas to keep his cool, So she happily entertained his thoughts. She jokingly threw in a scenario that they were possibly in a live adaptation of Night at The Museum, and this victim was just a case of someone who saw something he shouldn't have.

Smith quickly learned during that drive that Olivia was a definite wisecracker. He started to lessen his bombardment of inquiries and focused more on humouring Olivia's antics. Smith listened to her ridiculous theories and laughed at her detailed descriptions of the possible scenario of lively mannequins massacring mammals. He soon realized that having Olivia as a partner would prove to be an enjoyable bonus, one that would definitely make their task at hand at least a bit more bearable.

Shortly after arriving, the two went straight to the staircase leading to the main entrance. They walked in and asked one of the uniforms on guard where they needed to be, from which they learned the murder took place near the subway entrance to the museum. Of course, Olivia was racking her brain for an incentive that would have prompted the murder, but she forced herself to see some evidence before concluding anything. Olivia was poised and competent that she was well prepared to tackle whatever this first case would throw at her. But lo' and behold, out of all the detectives in all of Zootopia, the one standing in the middle of the crime scene was none other than the Gray Wolf himself—Freddie Wolfstein.

Life was hilarious sometimes.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Smith questioned as he ducked under the police tape. Olivia shot him a look, trying to play innocent (though she knew he had probably heard what happened, but she had to try). "What you just muttered right then," he questioned, "what's that supposed to mean?"

She knew it didn't have to be awkward. But she also didn't know if Freddie held the same mindset. Olivia shook her head. "Nothing… I hope," she cryptically replied. The Polar Bear could only raise his eyebrows in confusion as they neared Freddie. "Yo Wolfstein!" she hollered.

The Wolf in question whipped his body around and stared at her with shocked eyes. "Venisont?" he responded, clearly shocked. "What, uh, what're you doing here?" he stammered out.

She mentally rolled her eyes. So that was how it was going to be. "I'm a DR," she simply replied She gestured to her attire, which consisted of the ZPA uniform they were issued. No one had time to change out of their outfits, so the gang decided to wear them to work. Freddie's face washed over in realization (and slight embarrassment), after noticing how obvious such a detail was. Olivia's thumb jerked over to Smith and to acknowledge him, "Danny Smith, and I, are shadowing you."

Freddie's eyes remained wide, as his lips pressed into a thin line. "Oh… huh, I didn't expect you when Bogo said I was mentoring." Freddie muttered in suprise, but Olivia knew what he was gunning for.

She shrugged. "Life is full of surprises!" she replied with a chuckle.

Smith glanced between the two, sensing their strange tension. He awkwardly cleared his throat, causing their ears to perk toward him. "So uh, what's the case?"

Freddie stared at Olivia for a moment before walking off, assuming the two would follow. "Vic's name is Edward Mauled, a Black Panther, late thirties," he introduced as he led the two to a the body. "And was shot in the back, twice," he added before stopping. "Before he fell in," he ominously said as he stepped aside, only to reveal a large pit right before him. Inside was a display full of stuffed animals and tall grass. Olivia hadn't read the display stand, but the pit was most likely representing a predator and prey scenario from the Stone Age. But none of that could catch their eye like the giant deceased Black Panther lying in the middle of the pit.

He had his legs and arms sprawled out, and he had landed face first. It was very noticeable from his white dress shirt that there were two entry wounds. As his shirt was stained with small splotches of blood—one on his upper back, to the right and another in his lower back. Around him, stood the CSI team, with a female cheetah stood above the deceased panther.

"Huh, guess his trip to the museum resulted in him being history," Olivia quipped, earning a few chuckles from the uniforms gathered at the scene as well as a suppressed smirk from Smith.

Freddie chuckled as he crouched down on the ledge. He sat down on the edge, letting his legs hang. "Linda, whattya got?" he questioned. Smith and Olivia mimicked the same action, sitting on either side of him.

The Cheetah looked up from the corpse and frowned at the three. "Nothing pretty. Face is a bit bruised from the fall. The entry wounds look to be old fashioned bullets," she stated monotonously, "judging by size, probably a nine mil. Time of death clocks in around noonish, twelve to one."

"Wait, wait a minute," Olivia spoke up, a smile crept up on her lips. "A nine mil? As in the nine millimeter round? As in, the very ammunition designed for assault rifles? For pistols? I thought those things were like, issued out to the military?" She looked to Freddie and Smith in alarm. "Aren't they like, also rumoured to be the standardized weapons of the ZIA?" she curiously asked, with a hint of excitement in her tone. "Did you know that a standard AR could fire up to six hundred rounds per minute? That's about hundred times the fire rate of our tranq revolvers. Like, that's crazy!"

The two boys threw her some bewildered looks while those gathered around them spared some surprised glances.

"What? I like my toys," Olivia defended. "I've always been fascinated with machine guns." A sudden look of realization set in. "But… weren't these all decommissioned for within Zootopia?"

"Yup," Smith nodded. "That happened just before I enlisted I believe. The police force turned in all standardized lethal weapons."

"Dang, you are an old timer! Eh Smith?" Olivia teased. The Polar Bear only smirked silently in response.

"Regardless of the rumours or their current existence," Freddie spoke up, glancing between the two, "these are illegal. Factories don't manufacture these things anymore, the military takes care of it's own equipment." He crossed his arms his chest as a blank expression fell unto him. "Which means, whoever did this must've dealt with the blackmarket."

Olivia questioned right away, "How does the black market get its hooves on these?"

Freddie snorted. "It's the blackmarket, those lowlives can get their sticky mitts on anything." He clasped his paws together. "Point being! Our suspect's got some connections, so we might be able to chalk this up to some serious payback. Possibly a hitmammal."

"Makes sense," Smith agreed. "Of all places, a museum is a strange place to commit a murder, but for hit, a place like this is not a problem for them."

"Well, that's assuming this happened in a large crowd, the museum's closed on Tuesdays," Olivia pointed out, "Why was he even here?"

"According to the staff here, Mauled was teacher at Tundratown's Northern District Middle school," Freddie explained, "he was checking out the exhibit in preparation for a class field trip."

Olivia placed her hoof on her chin. "Hmm, middle school teacher planning a field trip a few days before end of the school year?"

The Gray Wolf nodded. "Suspicious indeed. Might be a last minute trip." He stood up. "Linda, wrap up your investigations and head to the morgue." He took a few steps back and said, "We're heading to the Precinct. I got one of the uniforms to collect the security footage. We'll get tech to scrub through it," he informed them.

Olivia and Smith hurriedly rose up to their feet. "Uh, I'm assuming you already questioned staff before we got here?" Olivia clarified in a curious tone.

Freddie nodded. "Yeah, I had no idea if you were making it on time or not, so I begun my questioning. There was no staff nearby, they only heard the gunshots and investigated soon after. Mauled was left by himself to inspect the displays." Freddie continued as he walked away with the two DRs trailing after him. "We can assume that those are convenient alibis, or that someone in the staff was responsible, but nothing really proves either of those theories yet." As he headed toward the crime scene tape, a male Tiger rushed toward him and pawed him a USB file. "Thanks Fredrick," he acknowledged. "Wrap up the scene here, we're heading back to Precinct One."

The officer nodded and departed from the three.

As they passed through the police tape, Olivia asked, "That's it? We aren't going to case the rest of the crime scene?"

"Uniforms took care of it," Freddie dismissed. "A scene like this, with a murderer this careful and calculating doesn't leave a lot to be discovered," he lamely replied.

"Fur traces?" Smith inquired.

"None, the suspect must've worn a suit, didn't leave anything to trace," Freddie flatly replied. "Everything we can gather from the scene has already been swept, right now, we need to get to the Precinct and start building up our case."

Olivia mocked up a salute and said, "Yessir."

The two continued to walk down the corridors of the museum, heading toward the main entrance. As they walked, Freddie deterred from the group as he spied a male Snowy Leopard out in the hall talking with a Doe. "Mister Shaun," Freddie spoke up.

The Leopard threw his attention over to Freddie. "Ah, Detective Wolfstein, how can I be of service?" he inquired.

Freddie flashed a quick smirk. "We're wrapping up the crime scene. The uniforms and CSI should be outta your fur in half an hour most likely more, give or take."

A look of relief washed over Shaun. "Thank goodness. So we'll be able to reopen that part of the exhibit tomorrow?" he said hopefully.

A sheepish look fell on Freddie. "I wouldn't count on it yet Mister Shaun." The Snowy Leopard's excited expression quickly diminished. "That part of the exhibit is still a crime scene. CSI will try to document everything as quickly as they can, but if needed, we may need to come back to case the scene once again." Freddie noticed Shaun's look of disappointment and half-smiled. "But," he added, "I think it'd be safe to say everything should be wrapped up by today."

Shaun grinned. "So you're saying there's hope?"

Freddie chuckled. "Don't worry Mister Shaun," he placed his paw on the Snowy Leopard's shoulder. "I doubt our investigation will impede on your showings." He left with a wink and reunited with Smith and Olivia, leading the two out the main entrance. Once they got out the doors, Freddie asked, "Liv, you riding with me?" Having thrown her an inquisitive look, but followed up with a small smirk.

Olivia glanced over to Smith with sheepish smirk and let out a small chuckle. "Nah, I'm riding shotgun with Smith," she jerked her thumb over to said Polar Bear. "I kinda was gonna help him get to the Precinct. First time there, y'know?"

Freddie raised a brow. "Seriously?" he questioned Smith. "You don't know the route?" he confusedly spoke, "in downtown Savanna Central?"

Smith let out a chuckle, but spared a glance over to Olivia, who was down to his left. "Of course I do," he dismissed casually. "Venisont just told me she knew a better route from here to the Precinct. I was just aching to see if she magically discovered some hidden street or something."

Freddie managed a smirk as he threw a brow at Smith. "Heh, well alright then." He turned his body and began walking down the steps. He threw a peace sign over his shoulder as he said, "See ya at the Precinct!"

As the Gray Wolf retreated further away from the two, Smith took the liberty of saying, "Not if we see you first!" He offered a wave, even though Freddie couldn't see it, and smirked. His smile immediately dissipated as he felt a stare from Olivia.

She raised a brow at him and wore an amused smile. "Seriously? 'Not if we see you first'?" she repeated, stifling a snicker.

Smith rolled his eyes. "Hush up." He began walking down the steps and over to his car, with Olivia trailing fast behind him. "You didn't exactly give me much to go off of," he snipped in addition. "You're lucky I even threw a bone at all," he knowingly reminded her.

Olivia shrugged at Smith. "True," she simply said. They lingered in an awkward silence, and Olivia knew she had to be considerate. She let out a quick sigh and shook her head. "I… thanks."

"No problem," came his sympathetic reply. They reached the car and upon unlocking the doors, Olivia began making her way around to the passenger side before Smith halted her progress. "But," he spoke up, "can you tell me what the heck this is all about?" Smith's gaze fell down to Olivia's sheepish frown. He frowned back, noticing how she shyly hid behind her bangs of fur. He let out a sigh, and slowly nodded his understanding. "Never mind… I get it—personal, right?" he murmured softly.

Olivia nodded back. "Yes."

Smith grunted back his understanding as he sat down in the car.

Olivia quickly made her way over to the passenger side and hopped in. As she buckled her belt, she looked at Smith and smirked. "Listen, I get that it sucks not to be in the loop, and I know what it's like to just join a group and get along with their dynamic but," she paused, allowing her smile grow whilst she waited for Smith to look at her, "I personally think you found yourself involved with a good group."

Smith raised his brow and chuckled. "You seem sure, Venisont." He shook his head. "Honestly, I don't mind drama or this dynamic your squad has… just, at least promise me none of this will impede our investigation?"

Olivia let out a snort. "I'll try," she compromised.

Smith rolled his eyes and started the car. "Do I even wanna know what this is about?" he reluctantly asked as he drove out of their parking space. "Because… if you like, need to talk about this, I'm all ears."

The small Moose shook her head. "Nah," a smile grew, "I've already got someone to talk to."

Daily coffee, takeout lunches or cafe outings, fancy restaurants—simple day-to-day transactions for a well paid Zootopian. Then there came the occasional service payment to his gardener, but that was two months ago. Judy found nothing of interest as she sifted through Albert Pawl's financial records. He sure had a high income to dig into, but it seemed like there wasn't anything out of the ordinary so far. He relied on his debit and credit cards immensely, but considering how much he earned as a finance manager she understood why. Judy smirked at the thought of Nick having that type of cash, and knowing what he'd do with it.

Or rather, when he did have that type of cash.

She knew he played things close to the chest and was smart about his spendings, but considering how all he had was a paper trail she assumed he never had any trouble. But if he were to have that type of cash now, he would definitely go berserk and spend it all on her and Emma. There was no doubt about it.

The knock on the cubicle disrupted Judy from her deep focus. She glanced away from her monitor and looked at the entrance, to find Boris standing there smiling at her. "Nothing of interest," she simply stated.

A brief frown fell on Boris' face as he raised a brow. "Nothing?" he repeated.

"Not yet, anyways," Judy compromised with a shrug. "Typical expensive buys every now and then, but nothing I can fish out. Yet." She hovered her mouse over to the record she recently left off at. "He did make a biweekly withdrawal from his bank." She quickly scrolled up and scanned over his other withdrawals. "Seems like they ranged from four hundred to five hundred in cash."

"Great, so a paper trail…" Boris acknowledged. "Hopefully something will turn up," he shrugged. "For now, let's head over to the whiteboard. Nick's got something."

With that, the Bunny followed after the Hybrid over to the open area of the office. Upon arriving, Judy had to task herself with holding back her snickers at the mere sight of her mate standing before the large white board. The board was propped up on a stand of casters, and was about two meters wide with about two and a half in length. And in contrast, a very small Red Fox atop Freddie's office chair—adjusted to its highest height—was still just short of the midsection of the board. Nick helplessly grunted as he attempted to stick his photos on the board. Judy knew she was shorter than Nick, but the sight of his height struggles was still amusing.

"Having trouble, Slick?" Judy quipped as she neared the Fox.

He threw a glare down at her and pouted. "Har, har, Shortstack," he retorted. "I was trying to pin up our vic's family photos and friends." Nick raised the stack of photos in his paw, and allowed Boris to take over.

As Boris pinned one of Nick's photos, Judy hopped up beside Nick and asked, "So what do you got?" She started to eye up the photos on the board.

The board already had a pool of photos from the crime scene, those of interest at least, gathered at the upper right corner. There was a wide shot of the kitchen, broken door included, taken from the entrance. One of the stairs, taken from the base. With another of Pawl's bedroom. Everything about these areas had something to note: broken door, Pawl's fall, untouched goods. All factors they had to look into.

Nick nodded over to the Lioness placed beside Pawl. "That's his sister, Liona," he informed, "only family he's got in Zootopia. And well, only one who'd be of any help to this investigation." Nick shrugged as Boris picked up a marker and wrote sister underneath her photo. "Parents are long deceased, relatives are all out in the meadowlands. No spouse, no mate," he plainly stated.

Boris placed the next photo, a male Lion, small build but a beautiful mane. "Alex Mane," Boris supplied, knowingly.

"The neighbour? Right?" Judy clarified.

"He's been our Vic's neighbour for ten years apparently," Nick stated, "mostly everyone in that neighbourhood's been there for at least that long. Tight knit rich community." He smirked. "And lastly," he prompted, leaving Boris to pin the last photo, "Sheena Shiva," another Lioness, beautiful fur and sleek fit. Standard appearance for a female of her species. "Pawl's boss. So far, these are only ones I can get into contact with. I've already phoned the sister, she's on her way here."

Nick nodded over to the boss, "And she already gave me all she could. Said that Pawl wasn't particularly close with anyone in the office. Apparently he was a bit of a 'sleazebag' as she put it." Nick's grin grew at the insult. "But she said she'll cooperate with the investigation; provide us any and all info she has on Pawl."

"So I guess a rich sleazebag would make someone's hit list," Judy addressed. "I'm convinced this is a premeditated homicide."

Boris turned away from the board and grinned at Judy. "Oh? I actually have some conclusions of my own, but please, enlighten us Hopps," he gestured to the board expectantly. Though his tone was fairly high and may have seemed patronizing, they all knew it was in good fun.

Judy smirked, "Gladly!" She took a step forward, nearing the edge of the office chair, and pointed over to the photos in the top right corner of the whiteboard. "So from what we know of the broken door, majority of the glass gathered were found out on the patio rather than inside, so our suspect must've been looking for a quick exit after the murder, but was also trying to make it seem like a B and E." She tucked her paw underneath her chin and contemplated the rest. "Also, we found a kitchen knife was missing from the knife block—"

"Which Honey said might've been a possible murder weapon," Nick addressed.

"And we found nothing missing from Pawl's bedroom, or anything missing from the first floor," Judy reminded, slicking a knowing brow. "If Pawl took a fall like Honey said, then that'd have to mean our suspect was gunning straight upstairs for him specifically."

"And if it was a robbery," Nick pointed out, "our suspect would've barged through the bedroom to swipe something. No signs of any of that really. Nothing happened up there."

"Nice work DRs," Boris announced, clasping his paws on his arms as he crossed them against his chest. "A great a deduction, simple, but it's smart of you to address the evidence first before making a claim." He grinned at the two. And it was strange. It must of been since they hadn't really hung out with Boris much, but such a smile of pride felt weird from him. But then again, he was ranked to be the best detective of his precinct, so they had that going for them.

Nick threw Boris a smug smirk. "You had this down from the start, didn't ya?"

The Hybrid silently shrugged. "Your skills hone in quicker over experience." He turned back to the board. "Now, working with our connections our best approach would be—"

"Establishing our vic's background!" Judy interjected. Immediately, sheepish regret washed over her. "Sorry," she amended. Nick snorted in amusement, which caused Judy to retaliate with an elbow nudge.

"It's fine," Boris assured her. "But essentially, yeah." He nodded his agreement. "We gotta work out relatives first, easier to build from." He looked over to Nick, expectantly waiting for some info.

Nick smirked back, "Sister's on her way, as stated," he threw up a mock salute, "sir."

Boris rolled his eyes whilst Judy lightly chuckled at Nick's mockery. "That's great, but I'd prefer you getting what you can from our vic's current story. Once she gets here, you and I are taking her into the break room and interrogating her there," Boris ordered in a casual manner. He didn't sound too authoritative—Judy chalked it up as his status with them, he probably didn't want to sound too rude. "We're taking an easy approach. Remember, she's a relative, so we gotta permit some time to grieve and to understand all of this."

"Taking her in the break room also alleviates her nerves, right?" Judy spoke up, expressively smiling through her excitement. "If she would be a suspect, a more tranquil space lulls her in a more trusting sense of security."

"Bingo Hopps," Boris snapped his fingers at her with a wink. "Although it is 'innocent until proven guilty', we still have to accommodate for all possibilities," he addressed in a careful tone. "Taking chances on homicides is risky. That said however," he glanced back to Nick, "I'll let you take the lead."

A smug smirk fell on the Red Fox. "Ahh, you wish to see my ways of interrogation? Smooth and slick, finally in action!" he dramatically announced, throwing his paws around with jazz.

Boris chuckled. "Sure. That and because it's kinda my job to analyze you, Wilde." He shook his head and rolled his eyes. Nick showed no signs of deterioration in his elated expression, so Boris looked back to Judy.

Before he could even open his mouth, she blurted out, "I-can-look-into-phone-records!" Another look of embarrassment, she quickly covered up her mouth as a minor blush grew. "I-I mean, if that's what you—"

"Yes Hopps," Boris sighed, smiling at her. "You can dig through Pawl's phone records."

Judy happily grinned. "Gladly!" She hopped down the chair. "I'll get into contact with his carrier company and put together a file asap!" she shouted as she backed away. "I'll try to get it before—oof!" Suddenly, Judy collided back first into something big and fell straight to the floor, paws and knees first. "Ow…" she mumbled. "That's my bad," she apologized as she turned herself over. Judy was met with a small hoof right in front of her face. "Liv?"

The small Moose toothly smirked back, shaking her hoof. "Need a hoof? Or is your shoulder so sore that you're afraid I'll yank it off?" she teased, molding her smirk into a smug grin.

Judy snorted as she accepted the hoof, rising up to her feet easily. "Please, we've yet to settle that match." Judy hastily looked over to her left and up at Smith, whom she collided with, and sheepishly seethed. "Sorry 'bout that Smith."

The Polar Bear waved off her concerns. "Relax Hopps, barely felt it," he assured her. "You guys doing well on your case?" he asked as he nodded over to the whiteboard.

"Barely started," Boris supplied, "and we should get a move on so…"

Judy's ears perked as her eyes lit up. "Oh right! Sorry, I should go back to my desk—"

"Which is the other way," Olivia pointed out, "right?" She pointed over Judy's shoulder and over to the cubicle in middle of the offices.

Judy frowned as she slowly looked over to the office chair, and up at the sly Red Fox standing atop it. "Didn't want to say anything?" she inquired.

Nick shrugged. "Why would I when I saw where that was going!" he gestured before him.

Judy rolled her eyes as she trekked towards the correct destination. "Easy there Hopps, with skills like those you might impede on your investigation!" Olivia quipped through her cupped hooves.

"You're one to talk," Judy quipped back, "who's your mentor again?" She turned around and flashed a smug smile.

Instantly, Olivia was met with regret and a faint flush. She sighed and muttered, "Yeah, yeah."

"Whoa!" came Freddie's voice from behind Smith. The Polar Bear moved aside and revealed the Gray Wolf standing with a few files in his paws, and look of horror. He hastily passed by his two DR shadowers and approached the whiteboard. He gestured to the board animatedly as he waved his arms around in silent anger.

Boris, amused, stepped forward and slicked a brow at his partner. "You okay Wolfstein?" he asked through his grin, clearly biting back his snickering.

"Convel, buddy, what is this?" Freddie asked demandingly, throwing a shaky index toward the whiteboard.

Boris snorted. "That's a whiteboard Fred. We, uh, we post all clues related to our case on there." His raised brow remained as did his smirk. "You should know this, considering how you're a detective… and a mentor, as it seems." He nodded over to Olivia and Smith.

Freddie rapidly shook his head along with his finger. "No, no, no, no, I mean, why is your investigation taking up ninety percent of the board!" He proceeded to angrily gesture toward the large amount of photos splayed out across the board.

Boris made a look of confusion as he processed Freddie's question. "Uhh, 'cause we're trying to build a case here?"

The Gray Wolf irritably sighed. "Yes, but where am I supposed to build mine!" he asked through his gritted teeth, pointing to himself with the files in his paws.

"You mean 'we'?" Olivia objected, motioning to herself and Smith. The Polar Bear chirped a happy smile at the inclusion, crossing his arms defiantly.

Freddie silently nodded back his amends and glanced back to Boris.

His partner only chuckled in response. "Seriously? C'mon dude, you know that's hardly an issue. Just use the back! Both sides are useable."

Freddie opened his mouth to object, but hesitated. He clearly saw Boris' solution as logical and conceded. "Fine then," Freddie nodded, walking over to the other end of the board. "But we get to use the red and blue markers!" he hastily shouted as he grabbed the aforementioned markers and twisted the board ninety degrees. The sudden action collided with the chair Nick was standing on, which sent him back, and caused Boris to stumble back a few steps to avoid a collision with Nick's face.

"What!" Boris exclaimed. "No, no, those are our markers! Those are the good ones!" he shouted back as he peaked around the board.

On the other side, stood a smug looking Freddie, a confused Judy and Smith, and an amused Olivia.

"Nope!" Freddie denied. "You got first dibs on the board already, it's only fair we get the good markers!"

"How does that make any sense!" Boris rebuked, "we got dibs on those markers too!"

Judy took the moment to break away and turn back to her comrades. "So how was your scene?" she asked the two.

Olivia nonchalantly waved her hoof. "Barely spent time there. Wolfstein had most of everything done before we showed." She shrugged. "As we were passing through the lobby, he was telling us to get started with contacting the school and his family."

"He said he'd review the footage with your tech consultant, Kathy Mittens," Smith chimed in. He spared an amused look over to Freddie and Boris' bickering, and said, "But I think that's taken a back seat in priorities."

"At least you have your tasks," Judy compromised cheerfully.

Olivia snorted. "I guess," she agreed whilst she walked over to her desk. She hopped onto her chair and grinned at the two detectives. "So how long until Wolfstein realizes that his desk and chair is on the other side of the board?"

Judy and Smith only laughed in response, then proceeded to look at the Gray Wolf in question. Olivia continue to chuckle at the display, leaving Judy to grin. "We're gonna be talking about this, by the way," she said in a teasing whisper. The small Moose rolled her eyes in response, remaining silent on the matter. "Liv, c'mon—"

"Hopps, we have work to do," Olivia reminded her, arching a brow down to her.

Judy sighed. "Fine. But, at least try not to stir things up?" Olivia rolled her eyes in response. Once again, Judy sighed at her. "You know what? How 'bout I call you tonight? We can talk?"

"I'll be fine," Olivia replied in a hushed tone. "It's not me you need to worry about." Her face grew in confusion as she pointed behind Judy and Smith. "Yo, who's that?" All eyes immediately flashed over to the direction she pointed, effectively silencing the current argument and conversation.

Once Judy saw the nervous Lioness standing before them, she knew who she was right away. She was just staring at her picture on the whiteboard moments beforepaw. "Miss Pawl?" Judy spoke up, collecting her attention right away.

She shyly nodded. "Y-Yes." She nervously glanced around the room. "But, uh, Liona's fine."

"Liona it is," Boris declared. He pushed the whiteboard forward, practically shoving it right in Freddie's face, and walked toward Liona. "Thank you for coming. I'm Detective Convel," he introduced, beaming a warm full smile. "Officer Wilde and I just have a few questions to ask you." Boris whipped around and threw Nick a look.

Quickly, the Red Fox hopped off Freddie's chair and rushed over. "If you'd just follow me ma'am," Nick announced, motioning her toward the break room. She silently nodded and followed Nick into the room.

Boris let out a small sigh and turned toward Judy. "Hopps—"

"Phone records, on it," Judy cheerfully replied, knowingly pointing at her superior. She then vanished from the open area, rushing off back to her cubicle.

Boris turned around and flashed a smile back Freddie. "Best of luck, Wolfstein," he said before departing.

"Right back at ya, Convel," Freddie acknowledged, throwing a mock two finger salute.

The Hybrid nodded back as he entered the break room. He made sure to politely smirk at Liona upon entering the room, then shut the door behind him. As he made his way to the table they were gathered at, she said, "Sorry I took so long. The bus was delayed… twice." She wore a guilty look as she managed a shy shrug.

"It's fine," Boris assured her. He dug into his vest's inner pocket and pulled out a small notepad and pen. He grinned as he clicked the pen and said, "So, Miss Pawl—"

"Uh, Liona please," she interjected. She smiled over to Nick. "Liona is fine."

"Okay, well, Liona," Boris chirped, "thank you for lending us some of your time today." He kept his smile. There was a pregnant moment of silence, of which the two remained pleasantly quiet. It was then Nick realized Boris opened the floor for him.

"So, we just have a few questions to ask you, regarding your brother," Nick spoke up.

Liona's brows furrowed. "Al? What about him?" A look of horror took over. "Oh my god," Nick and Boris shot confused looks at her reaction, "listen, if this is 'bout those prostitutes he's been having over—I swear, I told him it'd end badly for him!" She shot her paws up in the air, gesturing her innocence.

Nick flashed a smirk, holding back on his laughter. Of course, a mammal that rich would have a few expenses in that field. He shouldn't have expected anything less of a Lion like Albert. Lions did like to be dominant. "No, Liona, that's necessarily what we meant—" then an idea birthed in his head. "But, uh, do you know if your brother ever came across any… complications with any of… his sex workers?"

Liona scoffed. "I tried to keep out of his sexual life, Officer," she assured him, shaking her head in disapproval. "But, from what I've seen when I visited, they don't seem to have any issues."

"From when you visited," Nick echoed. "So you're saying they've stayed overnight before?" he asked her.

"Oh yeah, dozens have," she nonchalantly replied.

"And has he had any of the same ones frequently?"

Liona blinked her confusion at the question, then shook her head. "No. I don't think, to be honest, I never asked." She let out strained laugh as she shrugged. "Uh, Detective," she looked to Boris, "not to be rude, but, if you really were curious, I'm sure there's some mammal of closer relation to my brother. Surely someone he'd… brag… to." She managed an awkward smile. "I, really don't see the need for me to…" her voice trailed off as it seemed thought occurred.

"Liona?" Nick concernedly addressed. "Is everything alright?"

"Has… Has something happened to my brother?" she asked in a low voice. It was laced with fear, with hesitance. It was obvious she had her own conclusion, she was just asking for the sake of clarity.

Nick took a deep breath. He really hated Boris for making him take the lead with this. "Liona… your brother, was murdered earlier this morning." He kept his face blank as he added, "I'm… I'm sorry…"

Liona's face remained blank, as if the realization hadn't set in yet. She blankly stared at the table, head lowered as she replied with a burning silence. Nick couldn't possibly imagine what she was going through, and he didn't want to assume so. Admittedly, this wasn't the ideal way to tackle the issue, nor was it the best way to break it down. He was starting to regret his approach. Nick assumed getting the nonessential information out first would help them progress in their series of questions. Of course, judging by Liona's reaction, this wasn't a good idea.

Nick mentally facepawed. This was definitely going to be chalked up in Boris' assessment. He couldn't wait to hear the remarks from Olivia about how insensitive he is, or how disappointed Judy would be in him—an overall field day. And it was only his first day too. Nick really did have a way of making a mess of things. He was about to offer another condolence, but Liona sighed.

"That goddamn bastard…" she quietly uttered.

"Ma'am?" Boris prompted her.

"I knew something was up…" she whispered. Nick and Boris exchanged a quick glance, then looked back at her. "He… he spoke of how he'd change for the better. He talked about how he finally found something worth his time." She shook her head, swallowing a big gulp. "He was acting like he turned over a new leaf. As if he was… some better mammal."

"What do you think happened?" Nick quietly inquired.

"Heck if I know…" Liona bitterly mumbled. "I hadn't seen him in a month, maybe a bit more." She sighed. "I used to visit like, every two weeks… just to catch up with him. We were just trying to keep the bond alive…"

Nick and Boris exchanged a brief look of disappointment. Nick could tell Boris wasn't entirely satisfied with what information they received, but also that he wasn't about to press any further. Nick knew without a doubt that if he went at it more delicately, perhaps he would have been revealed more information. Now it was on him that their investigation was delayed.

"I do know one thing though…" she spoke up once more, this time more frailly. "Last time I was there… he had the whole place dolled up. Fancy wine, there was some candles lazily scattered away—" She scoffed. "It was definitely not his usual quota."

Nick opened his mouth, but immediately held back. She had suspicions of her own, perhaps, but was definitely not in the mood to share. "Thank you, Miss Pawl," he flashed a small smile. He glanced over to Boris, double checking if it was time to wrap up. The Hybrid nodded his head and stood up from his seat. Nick quickly hopped down and walked over to Liona. She had her paws resting on her lap, and a somber expression as she hung her head low. He reached for one of her paws, and placed his small paw over hers. "Liona, I promise, we'll catch 'em," he whispered, looking up at her seriously.

She nodded. "Sure…" a sniffle, her eyes began to water, "yeah, thanks."

Nick nodded back and took his leave, following Boris out the door. Boris hastily announced that she could have the room to herself for as long as she needed. But before that door shut, Nick saw her face. The realization had set in. He saw the slow trickle of tears starting to stream and her quivering lip. That was the look of a lady that just realized she lost her brother. That was the look of something he had to own up for. It was innocence, it was innocence that lost everything.

Great first day.

"Nick, it's okay," Boris assured him. Nick, startled threw his ears and attention over to Boris. "They could teach it all they want in the ZPA, but breaking the news to someone is never easy. I can't fault you for trying to milk something out of it, because I can actually understand what you were gunning for."

"But it could have gone better…" the Red Fox pointed out, sadly.

"Wilde," Boris stared at him with a sympathetic smile, "it always could've gone better." He nodded his head over Nick's direction whilst saying, "Why don't you go help out Hopps with the phone records?" He held up his notepad and shook it. "I'll just fix up my notes and make sure Liona has someone to escort her when she wants to leave."

Nick threw up a mock salute. "Sir yes sir," he replied.

And with that, Nick gloomily returned to his cubicle with a sullen face and moody cloud above him. As he entered, he was greeted by his mate's cheerful, "Hey how was—" but she obviously noticed his expression and stopped herself. "Nick?" she quietly called out, "you okay?"

He stopped beside her chair and looked up at Judy. "I screwed up Carrots," he kitishly mumbled as he rested his chin on her armrest. Normally, if Nick were to do that Judy would entertain his kit-like behaviour and make a sarcastic remark, followed up with a playfully pat on the head. But this time, she felt it was different.

His mate asked for details right away, devoting her attention right to him. Nick insisted she focused on her review of Albert Pawl's phone records. But Judy was more persuasive—and Nick really did need to get it off his chest. So he told her what happened. He explained his approach, how he intended to start off easy and allow for Liona to open the floor for him. Judy offered a sympathetic pat on his head when he revealed her reaction to news of her brother's murder. It was strange, at first, that Liona seemed so cooperative with them, but Nick deduced soon after she was just having trouble believing it. There was some definite family history there, something the ZPD couldn't compensate for.

Judy started to soothe Nick's worries, stroking the top of his head comfortingly as she assured him softly, "It'll be alright Nick. You did your best." Though such a reply would seem patronizing and untrue, considering the facts, Nick still found Judy's words very calming. She always had that effect on him.

"You really think so?" he asked shockingly.

Judy bit her lip. "Uhh, you tried. Isn't that what matters? You still got some information out in the end, right?"

Nick scoffed. "Carrots, you almost had the ball rolling there, but you dropped it." She responded with a light tap of her paw, causing him to chuckle. "Thanks for trying to cheer me up." He sulkily sat in his office chair and managed a shrug.

"Relax, this is still our first case," Judy reminded him. She gingerly turned back to her monitory and continued to plow through. She had her earphones plugged in and continued on her next recording. She was currently listening in on a conversation between Pawl and some unknown lady. So far, Judy only managed to get through their pleasantry greetings. It seemed like a very light-hearted conversation.

"So, you are up for it?" Pawl's voice sounded so enticing. Judy could practically hear the grin on his face. "Seven, tonight?"

"Seven?" came the sultry, interested reply. An elegant voice. "Isn't that a little early? Unless," a quick pause pause, clearly meant to rise the tension, "you think you can handle me for that long?"

Judy's face immediately shifted into blank disappointment. This was a hookup. Judy Hopps, working her first (non-official) detective case, was listening in on a phone call hookup.

A sudden feeling caused Judy to pause the recording, and glance over to Nick. "Nick," she called out upon noticing his still sullen face. He raised his head from the depressed comfort of the pads of his paws, and looked over to her.

"We can talk about it later," she replied, "when we're home." A thought occurred, and Judy followed up with a seductive smile. "Alone," she whispered afterward.

He silently nodded back, obliviously missing her enticement. Or rather, her attempt at it. Managing a smile, he added, "Along with that other thing." Judy's confused face caused him to add, "Remember? Whatever it was you and Olive talking about?" The look of sheer embarrassment on his mate's face was something Nick hadn't seen in a while.

"Ri-Right!" Judy stammered out. She let out a sigh, attempting to compose herself. She must not have been well versed in the art of seduction as she thought. It was worth a shot at least. She shook off the nerves. "Nevermind that!" she dismissed, she pulled out her earphones from both her ears and out of her computer. "Listen to this," she waved him over. Nick inched his officer chair a smidge then leaned forward in his seat, perking his ears toward his partner.

Judy hit play.

"—lready doubting my skills?" came Pawl's excited reply. "Looks like I'll have to… educate you."

"Great, can't wait," the lady had replied.

Nick's expression remained confused. Judy could tell he was having trouble piecing the conversation together. She gestured him to be patient. "You want me to bring anything?" she asked, still laced with seduction in her voice. "Wine? Condoms… toys?" she huskily enticed.

Nick's brows raised in interest, a sly smirk accompanying his light chuckles. Judy rolled her eyes at his reaction. Of course he'd react like that. When it was blatantly obvious, he had no trouble seeing it.

"Not necessary Sweetheart, I've got the wine," his voice fell into a deep whisper, "and trust me when I say you won't be needing any toys."

"Confident, eh?" Nick mused, holding back his laughter. Judy held up her finger to shush Nick.

"Well I'll hold you to it," the lady enticingly replied. "See you tonight."

"What about the Cockblock?"

"Overtime."

"It's settled then," they could hear the excitement in his voice and the smug smile accompanied with it. "Until seven."

"Huh, I wonder what time they meet," Nick sarcastically quipped.

Judy rolled her eyes, but she was glad he was cracking jokes again. "Pawl didn't have any records of being romantically affiliated with anyone."

"But we did just learn he couldn't keep it in his pants," Nick reminded her.

Judy nodded as she bit her lip. "What if, this change his sister was talking about, what if he met the one? Maybe this lady is some semblance of a serious relationship."

Nick's brows raised in interest. "And they might've been on the path to something real, but 'Mister Commitment-issues' decides to back out before it gets too real."

"Thus, creating an emotionally unstable, bloodthirsty ex," Judy concluded.

"Sounds plausible," Nick addressed, "but then again most love homicides usually are."

"Exactly," his mate nodded, "it's definitely a good lead to start off on." Judy happily turned back to her monitor. "I'm gonna start digging into the rest of his call history, you go tell Convel."

Nick smirked as he hopped out of his chair. "Copy that!" The Red Fox eagerly rushed out of their cubicle, and out into the rest of the offices in search of their mentor. He found him walking around Freddie and Olivia's desks, notably because the whiteboard had obscured the other path. Nick noticed Freddie was standing on the other side of the board, most likely jotting down notes, whilst Olivia sat on the edge of her desk, on the phone, with Officer Smith in her chair, skimming over some files.

"Convel!" Nick called out as he rushed over to the Hybrid. "We got something."

His face lit up in interest as he replied, "Already? Great, what is it?" The elated shock in his voice only encouraged Nick more.

"Carrots found a conversation between Pawl and a… lover," he added, struggling for the proper word choice. Boris' confused face only left Nick to bluntly add, "It's a hookup."

Boris' face immediately shifted into wide eyes as an amused grin fell upon him. "Alright, gotcha," he chuckled. "So, what are you doing about it?"

"Hopps is working through the rest of the call history, but we both surmised that this was a recent relationship that got serious," Nick explained, "It's possible there was some sort of divide between the two—commitment issues or personal ones—and they split because of that."

"Ahh, so ex-mate out for revenge, eh?" Boris concluded. "Nice call." He grinned at Nick. A flush of relief overwhelmed the Red Fox. "Alright, see what else you can dig up from his workplace—might've found himself a fling from there no doubt."

"What, like a saucy Doe of a secretary?" Olivia chimed in, glancing over at the two. She had the phone resting against her chest, as if she was on hold, and she held a smug smirk. "Sounds like a cheesy gimmick out of a romance tragedy film."

Nick scoffed. "Who said it had to be the secretary? A Vixen from accounting could just be as interesting!"

"Of course you'd say that Wilde," Olivia mused, "your standards are as cliche as it gets." When Nick furrowed a brow, she added, "Falling for best friends is the oldest romance in the book!"

Nick rolled his eyes as he shook his head at Olivia. "Funny, I was about to say the same to you!"

"We're not dating!" she exclaimed. A faint voice was suddenly heard, and Olivia quickly brought the phone back up to her ear. "A-Ah, yes! Is this Principal Reynolds?" Nick proudly grinned at the narrowed slits the small Moose threw his way.

"Knock it off Wilde, get to work," Boris lightly demanded. Nick wordlessly departed with a two finger mock salute. Once free of the Fox, Boris asked the remaining party, "Where's your mentor? Shouldn't he be keeping you two in check?" When Smith's head darted up, Boris hastily added, "Her. Sorry, keeping her in check."

The Polar Bear chuckled as he flipped another page in the file he was holding. "No idea where he went. Last I heard, he was reviewing footage with Miss Mittens by himself."

Boris crossed his arms and raised a brow at Olivia. She felt his gaze and shrugged at him silently. "And uh, that's got nothing to do with you?"

Olivia frowned. "Uh, please hold for moment Mr. Reynolds." She brought the phone down. "Convel, I have no say in any of this. He's barely spoken to me, and I him, so do not make things worse and get involved."

Boris innocently raised his paws. "I wasn't. I was just curious." He turned back to the whiteboard and began jotting down the lead Nick recently told him.

"But… someone better say something before a murderer walks free."

"Wow…" Emma's voice rung out, "that smells great!" The couple shot their attention over to the kitchen counter, where they found an enthusiastic Emma. She had an excited smile on her face as she asked, "More of Martha's stew, I presume?"

Judy chuckled as she stirred the pot. "Indeed!" she cheered. "How was your nap?"

Emma let out a yawn at the sudden mention and chuckled. "It was nice. Boy, helping pack up classrooms is exhausting, but at least there's nothing else to expect from this final week!" She happily grinned at the notion. "Oh, by the way, Pa tried to call you but apparently you didn't answer."

Judy turned back and furrowed a brow. "Oh, I left my phone in my room. What did he want?"

Emma was interrupted by the action of Nick throwing his paws up in the air. "Seriously? Mine is on the counter," he pointed over to said counter, where his phone was propped up, just a few inches away from where Emma was seated. "I didn't get a call!" he pouted, crossing his arms. Emma blankly stared at him as she raised his phone. Clicking the power button, it revealed a notification missed call from Papa Hopps. Nick responded with a quiet, "Oh."

"It was on silent," Emma pointed out, flicking off the silent switch. "Anyways, he just wanted to let us know that they're staying at the Warren Hotel. Their train should arrive by noon tomorrow, but they'll probably take the rest of the day to unwind and all that." Emma lazily shrugged and she rested her arms on the counter. "I'm glad they'll make it to the ceremony though."

"Even though only a few could come, it's still a nice gesture!" Nick pointed out. "I'm actually surprised Principal Popoff actually allowed a decent sum of your family to attend!" he added as he walked over to the counter, standing opposite of Emma.

"I'm surprised you wanted to invite Olive as one of your guests," Judy addressed, snarking a smug smile over to her mate. "Nick wasn't too fond of that."

The Red Fox groaned. "C'mon, Olive is gonna make my day an annoyance, especially with your folks there!" he argued, looking back at Judy. "Even then, I bet you Cheryl is gonna love hanging out with her. I'm just glad she wasn't there when your family came back here the first time 'round."

Emma snorted. "Aww, come on Nick! I just like Olivia, and she's super cool!"

"I'm cool!" Nick shot back. He offered a sly brow as he added, "Cool enough to suggest making stew tonight because I know it's your favourite!"

Emma rolled her eyes. "I knew you'd say that."

"One could say, you pre-stew-umed that!" Nick added, throwing a playful grin toward Emma.

She giggled at his joke as she disappointedly shook her head. "Really? You're doing puns now?"

Nick casually shrugged. "Thought I'd give it a go." He turned back and made his way over to the fridge. "Besides," he said as he opened the freezer, "where do you think Pawpsicles came from?"

Judy's head shot up from the pot. "You don't have any in there, do you?" she glared, asking with an intent of rage and disappointment.

Nick gasped, throwing his paw up to his chest. "Carrots, I had no idea you had so little faith in me!" he sighed dramatically. "Argh, my aching heart!"

Judy rolled her eyes. "My apologies, Drama Queen, I didn't mean to threaten the stability of our mutual trust," came her sarcastic reply. She offered her mate a smug look, leaving Nick to frown back.

He reached his paw in the freezer and pulled out a tub of mint ice cream. "Thought this might be good for dessert?" he suggested. A pout overcame him afterward, "But I guess not…"

"What? No! I want ice cream!" Emma argued. She glanced over to her sister. "Judy! Please! Don't let my needs for dessert suffer because of your distrust!"

Judy craned her neck up as she released a groan. She turned back to her sister and glared, "Don't you start now!" Emma fought back with a kitish pout, heavily lowering her lower lip. And just like that, she caved. Since when did her little sister get so good at exploiting her? "Fine," she muttered. A sudden idea popped in Judy's head, and she flashed a smile over to Nick. "Hey Slick? If you want to prove yourself, by all means, take over the pot!" She backed off the stepstool and gestured to the stove.

Nick furrowed a brow as he set the tub of ice cream on the counter. "Really? I-I mean, yeah! Of course!" he excited rushed over to the pot and hopped on the stepstool. "Wait, where are you going?" he asked as he noticed her backing out of the kitchen.

Judy grinned back. "I'm gonna call Liv. I promised I'd call her sometime tonight, so I thought I'd jump on it before dinner." She jerked her thumb over down the hall. "I'm just gonna get my phone from our bedroom and call her there."

Nick nodded back, seeming satisfied with her answer.

"Ooh! Can you ask if she wants to come over?" Emma excitedly asked. "She loves Martha's stew too!"

Nick looked back and shook his head. "Nuh-uh, she can get her own stew some other time."

Emma scoffed. "You just don't want her here because she gets under your fur!" she accused.

"And, this serving size is big enough for only us. I'm not sharing."

Emma shot Judy an amused look, to which her sister shrugged and took upon her leave. As soon as she entered the room, she shut the door and raced to her phone. She quickly pulled up Olivia on speed dial and called her. On the second ring, she picked up.

"Wassup Hopps?"

"Hey Liv!" Judy greeted. A wave of nerves crept on her as she thought of her next choice of words. "I uh, was just wondering how you were doing." She bit her lip. "Y'know… about um…"

A sigh came from her friend, followed up with, "Judes, I told you, it's not a big deal. You don't have to worry about me. I'm good!" A chuckle escaped her. "But, Wolfstein on the other hoof…" she cleared her throat. "I can't believe you actually called to check up on me. Don't you got your own ward to worry about?"

Judy laughed. "Very funny. Excuse me for being concerned," she snipped, although not as aggressive as she intended it to sound.

Olivia responded in a slightly offset tone, "Texting's a thing. You've done that before. There was no need to call me…" Judy could practically hear the grin developing on her face. "Unless, you had some other motive?"

She groaned back. "Honestly, with deductive skills like those, how have you not cracked your case already?"

"Ha! A sketchy teacher getting caught up in some black market nonsense is harder to track than you think," came the reply. "Couple that up with Fred's inability to communicate with me… and I'm stuck here, still at the office investigating on my own."

Shock enveloped Judy. "You're still at the office? Why? You don't have to investigate on your own like that…"

"Yeah… well…" Olivia sighed. "What did you want again? There was a reason you called…" she prompted, very choppily transitioning the topic of conversation.

Judy allowed for it. "Okay… um, this is kinda awkward to say… but…" She took a deep breath. "Do you… know how… to seduce someone?"

The silence that followed made Judy's nerves ache for ages. She expected two things: ridicule and snarky advice. And, she was right. A storm of laughter erupted from her phone, causing Judy to wince and pull away as she waited for the Moose to die down. Oh, she was definitely going to hold this over her.

"Oh… my—" the most unladylike snort Judy had ever heard, erupted from Olivia. "Gosh… Judes… Judy, you… haha!" Olivia giggled. Judy imagined she was probably rolling around on the floor of the offices. "Alright," she cleared her throat, "alright, I, ahem… hehe… I'm good!" A snort escaped her. "Nope, nope, I'm good! And… ready to help!" Judy easily visualized the annoying grin she was making.

"So… I thought about what you said earlier this morning—"

"Obviously!"

"And," Judy gritted out. "It got me considering maybe… maybe Nick and I should try? Then there was a whole thing with his interrogation, and he just really felt like he screwed up—"

"And you thought screwing him would make him feel better?"

"Are you gonna listen, or tease?" Judy shot back.

"I'm multitasking. Please, proceed."

Judy sighed. "But yeah…to put it less vulgarlessly, that was essentially what I was trying to do… or at least, introduce. I thought if I just tried to get his mind off of it, he'd feel a bit better. I thought me… I dunno, putting out? Would like, excite him or something!" Judy exasperatedly fell back first onto the bed, throwing her free arm out exhaustively.

Olivia seethed, obviously sensing Judy's distress. "Oookay. First off, I think 'putting out' is a poor choice of words, along with everything else you said after. Unless… things were actually getting steamy in that cubicle of yours—"

"Liv."

"Hopps, the point I'm trying to get to, is if you feel like you have to spell it out for him—do it." There was a flat out seriousness in her tone. "You know never know Judes. Your lil' Fox might be too much of a gentlemammal to even act on such, intimate desires."

"Nick's always been more forward than me," Judy argued. "Heck, he's always committing PDA and even though I wasn't entirely comfortable with it at first, I did still adjust quickly. But, he still does it better than I can."

Olivia sighed. "This is different though," she reasoned. A pause occurred before she asked, "I'm actually kinda surprised you're so willing for this. I kinda thought you'd be a lot more reserved."

"I am," Judy agreed. "But, I just decided that playing it by the flow of things would be a nice change of pace." She shrugged herself up, sitting on the edge of her bed as she contemplated her next move. "You think it'd be appropriate to bring it up after dinner?"

A chuckle came from her friend. "Hopps, I got no idea. If you believe ol' Slick wouldn't jump at the chance to—well, jump you—then you do whatever you think best." She let out a yawn. "He's your mate after all. Nobody's gonna know him better than you."

Judy grinned, finding comfort in Olivia's advice. Who was she kidding? Nick Wilde was her best friend, she should have more confidence in herself and him. They both could handle this like mature adults. If Nick wasn't open to the idea, which when she thought about more it kinda seemed absurd to Judy, then they could talk about it. They've already talked about it. Or at least, skimmed over the idea along with marriage and everything else. Judy knee they moved at first, and she knew that over the course of two months they somewhat mellowed out in pace.

But they had also been living together during that. Judy figured if they could manage the act of literally sleeping together, then they should be able to sleep together. Sure, it was a huge step, but Judy was confident they could gloss over this with ease. She knew, without a doubt, Nick had sex before. She wasn't exactly inexperienced herself. This would be no problem.

"—get off now?" Olivia dryly spoke up.

Judy's attention shot right over to her phone, leaving to cup her ear around the device. "S-Sorry, what Liv?"

"You went cold there… so… can I get off? Or…"

"Right, right," Judy nodded. "Yeah. Sorry for bothering you. Thanks for your advice!"

The small Moose snorted. "It was nothing you didn't already know Hopps."

With that, their call ended and Judy cheerfully placed her phone back onto the nightstand. Right after, she heard a knock on the door and found Emma telling her it was time to eat. Judy first jested that they both be wise and proceed with caution considering that Nick was handling the finishing touches. They made their way over to the dining area and found Nick pouring the stew into their bowls. He beamed a charismatic smile at the two, set the pot down onto the table, and elegantly bowed as he announced that dinner was served.

After bursting into a fit of laughter, they all dug into their meals. Well, more accurately they waited for it cool first, then ate. It was a blissful meal too. There was just something about Martha's stew and the idea of bringing everyone together that made the three happy. All they really needed sometimes was just a moment like this, and they could settle into it. Soon after their comfortable silence, a discussion bounced around. Emma was very excited to hear about her sister's day.

"So wait, are you guys done with your case then?" Emma asked, shaking in her seat with excitement radiating from her. "That'd be awesome if you two just started working out in the field and solved a case all in one day." She beamed her smile over to Nick. "Can you imagine that?"

Nick grinned. "Ha! That'd be something out of a movie!" He shook his head as he set down his nearly empty bowl. "We may be good Em, but we aren't that good."

"Yeah, Em, fur samples take ages to pull apart and identify," Judy informed her. "Couple that up with all the other cases Honey might be working? She'll likely give us our results tomorrow." She casually shrugged. "Till then, we can only work the leads we've speculated and pool together everything we can gather on him."

A small frown formed on her little sister's lips. Hesitantly, she asked, "And… if you don't catch him tomorrow, will you have to work on Thursday too?"

Judy smiled at her sister's worry. She leaned over and placed her paw over Emma's. "Aww, Em, you don't need to worry about that! Trust me, Nick and I are gonna catch this guy tomorrow. I can feel it!" She excitedly shook her paw.

Nick nodded in agreement. "And they'd have to keep us under house arrest in order to keep us from going to your graduation ceremony!" He smirked at her. "Besides, we already booked the day off," he added, throwing a wink to reassure the young Bunny.

Emma giggled in return, obviously relieved by their collective confidence. Their conversation shifted into the actual discoveries they made in their case. Nick went over his interrogation once again, and his guilty look returned. Emma noticed the look and glanced at her sister for an explanation, to which Judy immediately changed the subject.

"So Em, how's everything with school?" Judy beamed. "You ready for your grad ceremony?"

Emma nodded. "I think Nance is a bit more nervous than I am. She's valedictorian after all." She let out a giggle and shook her head. "She was stressing out all lunch. She's been reciting her speech with me and getting all flustered, it's so adorable!"

Judy grinned. "Don't give her too much of a hard time. This is still something pretty big for her, poor pup must be stressed."

Emma dismissed her sister's warnings with wave of her paw. "Nah, she could use a few laughs to ease the stress. She's just worrying over nothing—I know she'll nail it!" she happily cheered.

Judy smiled at her sister's excitement. "What about Derek? How's everything with him?" Emma raised her brow. "I mean, anything… interesting?"

Her sister let out a small laugh. It was obvious the nerves suddenly hit her. "Wh-What? No! Nothing inappropriate!" Her heated face told her guardians otherwise. Or perhaps the lack thereof was the issue. Nick decided not to press whilst Judy shot her sister some lingering teasing eyes. Judy definitely saw a bit of herself in Emma, but considering her age, she was glad the outcomes were the same for now. However, tonight—if it went as well as Judy thought—would be the night things progressed.

Shortly after, the three dispersed from the table and cleaned up their dishes. They both decided to cover for Emma tonight. Rather than her doing the dishes, Judy gave a pass as she thought Emma might be still exhausted from her day. So where Emma went to bed while the two cleaned up—Nick was handling the drying and Judy took care of the washing. Judy spared a few glances at Nick, admiring his content face as he dragged his rag over the wet dishes. Operation Seduction, was in effect.

Judy smirked at Nick, awaiting for him to notice. Fortunately, she didn't have to wait long as he sported a smug smile her way. "I know," he suddenly said. Followed up with a causal shrug, he effortlessly placed the dry bowl in his paws into the drying rack. "Seeing me dry a bowl is pretty amazing."

Judy released a giggle, biting her lip at him. Mentally, she had no idea if she was pulling this off. She decided to push. "Maybe," she coyly replied, pawing Nick the last wet dish. As they exchanged, she made sure to brush her paw up against Nick's. "Or maybe… I think it's…" Judy took an internal deep breath. "Hot."

The sound of the bowl clattering into the second sink started the two. Judy remoulded her lip biting, glancing a bold look toward Nick. She was met by a flushed face and awkward laughter. Nick quickly picked up the bowl he dropped and dried it with haste. He was working fast, he obviously was uncomfortable. Or maybe he was excited? Thinking positively, Judy decided to encourage more as she stepped off her step stool and waltzed behind Nick. Her arms wrapped around Nick's waist and a strange noise erupted from Nick that she never heard before.

"U-Uh, um, C-Carrots?" Nick stuttered out.

"Hmm?" Judy hummed against his back. She felt so stupid. She had no idea what she was doing.

"What are you doing?" he said under a low whisper.

Judy mentally scoffed at the question—if she knew, he probably wouldn't be asking. "W-What does it look like I'm, erm, doing?" She was butchering this terribly. A part of her hoped that stuttering was a turn on for Nick.

He let out a nervous chuckle. "That you're molesting me?" he suggested.

Judy parted from Nick in a hurry as her eyes flashed wide open in shock. Her face blew up in red as she stammered, "What! I-I-I-I'm not!"

Nick turned back and smirked at her. The smugness of his face eased Judy's worries for a moment. He was just teasing her. She was ready to quip back against his smug attitude, as she usually would, but stopped herself when she noticed his cheeks. Nick was blushing. It was a faint blush, one that was subsiding very slowly yet Judy's intense focus noticed the colour within his cheeks. Did it work?

"Next time, Carrots, just ask for permission," he spoke up, placing his paws on his hips. "I'm not sure if you knew, but I'm a cop sweetheart. You could be arrested for sexual harassment…" the confidence in his tone was laced with amusement. His faintly red cheeks were long gone now.

Judy's focus on his face melted away as annoyance overcame her. She frowned in response as she jerked her thumb over to the kitchen exit. "Alright, go to bed, I'll take care of the rest of these."

Nick raised his brows in alarm. "You sure?"

"It's only the bowls, I got it," Judy dismissed, motioning Nick to step off the stepstool. He confusedly obeyed his mate's demands and stepped off, slowing trekking away but not before throwing her a strange look. That should've been where she left it. If life were ever to grant a mammal the luck of signs, she should've seen her failed attempts as just that. Stopping before it got anymore awkward or uncomfortable would've been better.

Yet, Judy didn't do that.

After cleaning up, the ambitious Bunny made her way into their bedroom. She found Nick sitting on the edge of his side of the bed, shirtless, and swiping away on his phone. The two found themselves in the habit of waiting for the other to get in bed before dozing off. It was an unconscious development, but they both still did it. Though, the sight of Nick being shirtless was enough to sway Judy's thoughts toward her current goal. She was red in the face and biting her lip.

Nick noticed her presence and raised a brow. "You okay—"

"Fine!" she airly answered, "I-I… yup!" She grinned, trying to regain her confidence and composure. She was being ridiculous of course. Judy had seen Nick shirtless everyday since they started sleeping in the same bed. She had gotten over it relatively quickly—in fact she found herself admiring the view a few times—but she managed. Yet now, when she was going for such an… intimate experience, the sight of his half-naked form wasn't helping her at all.

Nick obviously noticed her lack of composure and set his phone on the nightstand. "Hey, Carrots, are you… okay?" His raised brow remained as it was followed up with a worried look. "You're starting to act… strange."

That was good. Her trying to "seduce" him was chalked up as strange in her mate's book. She was great at flirting.

She quickly shook off her negative thoughts and smiled. "I'm fine!" she eagerly replied as she manuevered over to their bed. She quickly tucked herself under the sheets, bringing the blanket up to her chest. She felt Nick hesitantly tuck himself in. It was obvious now that her stunt earlier had made him uncomfortable, at least that's what she suspected. Now, the moment lingered in an awkward silence as she started acting squirrely and strange. He sensed something was up but was possibly thinking about how to talk about it.

Judy did not want to let their first time to start any more awkward than it already would've. She needed to act. Her options were seduction, or starting up some casual talk before bed and lead up to the idea. Both required seductive acts nonetheless, but they were essential. Perhaps an arm stroke and a sultry tone? Or maybe she should start feeling him up? The possibilities ran in and out of her mind within seconds. She was overcomplicating this way too much.

For starters, she needed to be close.

She scooted over to Nick's side of the bed and pressed herself up against his back. He was facing away from her near the edge, and tensed up at her sudden touch. It wasn't a good sign, but she still continued. Her arm slipped through his right, wrapping itself against his chest, all in a slow and smooth manner. Now, she just had to say something.

"Hey… Nick?"

"Hmm?" came the short strained response.

"Do you… maybe… kinda… wanna… have… sex?"

Immediately, Judy's face swelled in heat as her eyes widened. She did not mean to word it like that at all. Let alone even say it. Why did she say that? As horror struck her face, as well as a bunch of other self-annoyed thoughts, Nick flinched. Like, he physically flinched at the mere word. He quickly shot straight up, reacting as if a gun had been shot off. He threw Judy a shocked look as he clenched onto the bed sheets nervously. She definitely didn't expect that as a reaction.

Though the space was minimal, Nick managed to scoot over as near as the edge as he could. He shot Judy wide eyes as a lump in his throat lingered. "Wh-What!" He stared at her in shock, ears perked up as his face mirrored Judy's redness. "I-I-I… what? Y-you-you want to—what!" he exclaimed.

Judy immediately hung her head low in embarrassment. Her ears dropped down to the front of her face and barely blocked the sight of her red cheeks. "I… I… I just thought I'd ask…" she muttered. This was the dumbest thing she'd ever done. And that was up there on the list.

"Wh-Why!" he questioned. Although it was coming out a bit hastily and sharp, Judy chalked it up under being caught off guard. She didn't blame his attitude, yet he sounded more offended than he did shocked.

She understood not being ready and all that, but why did he need to be so rude? She felt even dumber than before. His wide eyes and confused face was not helping her nerves. Of course, it didn't help that she was practically "molesting" him as he called it. "You were having a bad day earlier!" she explained. Again, she felt like facepawing herself. Out loud and up in the air like that, it sounded dumb.

"Yeah! Earlier," Nick stressed, "Now, I'm fine! And I don't see how that constitutes us having sex!"

Judy shot Nick a look of surprise. She was already feeling so embarrassed, did he need to be aggressive? "Well, excuse me for trying to cheer you up!"

"A hug and kiss can do that just as well!" he fired back. "I don't get why we need to have sex!"

A silence fell between them. Their heavy breathing was all there was to fill the air. Judy and Nick just sat there, staring at each other blankly. Neither of them knew where all of this had come from, but one thing was for certain, the tension between them was too large to ignore. Judy moved first. She edged out of the bed, sighing as she moved.

"Wh-Where are you going?" Nick asked.

"I'll sleep on the couch," Judy whispered back. She quickly grabbed her phone and pillow as she hopped off the bed. Under her breath she shyly mumbled, "I'm sorry."

"Carrots—"

"Good night Nick." He bit back his words as he watched her maneuver out the room. He just sat there and stared. He had so many questions. He had so much to say. He had a lot he wanted to do. Most importantly, he wanted her to stay.

But he watched her shut the door instead.

...

Emma always loved waking up early in the morning. She knew from her friends in Zootopia, that waking up near the crack of dawn or anywhere near then was considered insane. She figured it must've been strange to hear that a girl her age didn't mind being an early bird. She assumed that was one of the side effects of growing up on a farm. It wasn't exactly a downside, considering the side effect was such that Emma was waking up early.

She hopped off her bed and went over to her closet. Hurriedly, Emma gathered her outfit for the day and tossed all her clothing onto her bed. Nothing too complicated or flashy, just some light blue jeans and a red flannel with a dark T-shirt underneath. She sorted her clothes more neatly on her bed, then walked out her room. She made her way to the bathroom door. Just as she placed her paw in the handle, she heard an alarm ring from the living room. It sounded like Judy's.

Curious, she scampered over to the living room and found the source of the noise originating from the couch, along with her sister, who had just silenced the alarm. "Judy?" Emma called out. "Why are you on the couch?"

Judy rose up from the couch and perked her ears over to her sister's voice. "Oh, mornin' Em." Releasing a big yawn, she stretched her arms high above her head. "I was just… so tired last night," she managed a small smile. "I stayed up late doing the dishes and just… crashed here."

"Oh?" Emma raised a brow.

"Don't worry," Judy reassured her, "I'm fine." She rose up from the couch and stood up on her feet. "How about I make you some breakfast?" she asked as she grabbed her phone. "You go take a shower and I'll work on some pancakes, sound good?" Judy smirked whilst she made her way to the kitchen.

"Yeah…" she softly replied. Emma couldn't help but stare at her sister with worry. She didn't believe her answer in the slightest, nor did she like how quickly she evaded any possible follow questions by changing the subject. Deciding she needed to think in private, Emma hurried into washroom, shutting and locking the door behind her. She looked herself in the mirror, then whispered, "Okay, something's up."

Judy was also making pancakes, her favourite breakfast. She was trying to butter her up and keep her off track. Something was definitely amiss. What could've happened that would make Judy sleep on the couch and not want Emma to know about it? A sudden turn on the bathroom door handle startled Emma and her thoughts. The handle twisted, but didn't budge on account of it being locked shut.

"Occupied!" Emma announced.

"Ah! My bad!" came Nick's voice from the other side.

As she heard his footsteps recede, Emma's eyes widened. The possibility dawned on her. If movies and TV shows had taught her anything, sleeping on the couch was the result of having a spat with one's mate. She and Nick must've have had a fight. And if the fight ended with Judy on the couch? Something was definitely wrong. Rarely did an argument ever have Judy conceding and retreating. Or maybe it was her sister that actually pushed too far and provoked Nick?

What happened?

Emma's mind was racing all throughout her shower. Her questions still persisted even after she was dressed and ready for school. By the time she was sat at the kitchen counter, hesitantly piecing apart her pancakes, she thought about asking Nick. However, any possibility of pursuing died the moment she had even re-entered the atmosphere. Judy was sat at the dining table, at the head. Nick was sitting on the stool, the one furthest from the dining area. Both were eating in heavy silence, leaving the air to be filled with their pungent tension and the sounds of their utensils clanging away at their plates.

It was clear as day that something went down between them. "So, uh, Judy fell asleep on the couch," she had come off so casual it had caught Nick off guard and made him stiff. Emma couldn't see Judy's reaction, but she assumed she had done something similar. "Apparently, she was too tired after washing dishes and just crashed there." She chuckled. "Knowing you, I thought you'd wake her up or carry her to bed."

"Oh," Nick replied, managing a small smile, "Yeah. I would've, but I fell asleep before Carrots." He shook his head and cupped his paw around his lips, then fake whispered, "I don't think she wants me doing dishes!" He laughed at his joke, causing Emma to join in.

As she giggled, Emma couldn't help but feel a bit relieved. If Nick was still cracking jokes then maybe everything was fine. She was just looking into things too much. Nick wouldn't take something serious like an argument and make light of it.

"Yes, yes, it's very funny, Nick can't do dishes," Judy mused as she walked through the kitchen with an empty plate. Nick pouted at her comment which made Emma laugh. She looked over her shoulder as she set her dishes in the sink. "Hurry up with your breakfast Em, Nick and I need to be in the precinct ASAP!"

Emma nodded her head and threw up a mock salute. "Yes ma'am!" And she rushed to chow down her food.

Judy halted her washing and smirked at her sister. "Careful!" she giggled. "As much as I appreciate the efficiency, I don't want to have to perform the heimlich on my little sister anytime soon!"

Emma grinned with a mouthful and shrugged. Nick, who had an empty plate took the opportunity to move and walk over to the sink. "Go get ready Carrots, I'll take care of this!"

"O-Oh, sure…" Judy offered a small smile as she backed away. She quickly rushed out of the kitchen and down the hallway.

"Wow, I guess you surprised her," Emma mused. She took her last bite of her pancake and said, "I'm surprised she let you wash 'em."

Nick let out a quick sigh and shrugged. "Guess I'm always full of surprises." He let out a small laugh, soaking a plate under hot running water.

Emma stopped her chewing and stared at Nick with forlorn eyes. That was a very forced response. And Judy's reaction definitely wasn't a casual, comedic comment. Something was definitely up. Nervously, she glanced between the Red Fox and the hallway her sister vanished in. She swallowed hard, eyeing down the bedroom door at the end of the hall. What was she doing in there, Emma wondered.

"You okay kitto?" Nick questioned. Emma glanced back at noticed he was shooting her a curious brow over his shoulder. As he washed the plates, he stared at her, awaiting a response.

"Oh uh, I was just thinking," she lamely answered. She mentally facepawed at how pathetic that was. Quickly thinking, she added, "I don't think I've ever seen Judy sleep on the couch before. She must've been so tired." That was honest at least.

Nick nodded his understanding as he shrugged. "You know your sister. Probably worked herself to the bone." He chuckled. "I wish she trusted me more with dishes."

"You should probably start doing them properly then," Emma teased.

Nick smiled as he returned his attention to the dishes before him. "Don't you worry Em," he said, "I can handle this."