“Welcome to the Hopps Family Farm Petey! Almost 1500 acres of land, with what feels like the same amount of bunnies,” Nick said, gesturing expansively to the front door to the main house. The door was built into the side of a mammal-made hill, with small windows on either side of porch. To the far right of the main house was a large red barn where a dark green muddy old tractor sat in the shade of a tree in front. . The warm hues of orange and yellow from the setting sun, cast a wide glow across the expanse of fields that lay beyond the barn. A sea of wheat glowed in the sun, and shimmered like the surface of a lake as a warm breeze blew gently across its top.
“Don't scare him too much Nick! In reality there's maybe 200 bunnies living on the farm at any given point. Add another hundred or so in visiting family, and with so much room it only feels like a lot during meals,” Judy said, ringing the bell on the door.
“I'm not scared, your family sounds fun. And this place is absolutely gorgeous Judy!” Peter replied, taking in the expanse of the farm on front of them.
Before she could reply, the large oak door swung open, revealing Stu and Bonnie both standing in the foyer. “Hey, you guys made it! Come on in!” Stu said happily, reaching for as many bags we he could take.
The red fox shook his head as we tried to stop the older bunny, grabbing his own bags back. “Please pops, you’re gonna hurt your back again!”
“He's right you know. You can't lift things like you used to hun,” Bonnie said and then turned towards the racoon, She grabbed his paw in both of hers and shook it warmly. “And you must be Peter! Welcome!”
The raccoon smiled as he returned the paw shake. “Thank you Mrs. Hopps, you have a beautiful place!”
“Call me Bonnie, and you've only seen part of it,” she replied, leading the group into the house.
A grumbling Stu shut the door as he hugged his daughter, “I'm older, not old you know. Still got plenty of bounce in my step.”
“You've raised over 300 kids and grandkids, I think you've done your share of work dad,” Judy replied as she wrapped an arm around her father’s side and walked with him into the house.
The Hopps Warren was labyrinthian, in a word. Once through a cavern-like entryway and foyer, the entryway opened up into a massive room, and the mammals had a choice of five different doorways they could walk through. In the center of the room sat a small table with a large vase, a bouquet of red and white roses sat in the middle. A rich, oak wood paneling ran along the walls, an intricate design of fines and daisy's were carved into the panels. Peter paused, taking the entryway in with wide eyes, the raccoon shocked at the size of the house.
“The far left will lead you to communal areas, like the living room and dining room. The middle will lead you to kitchen as well as to the back door, and the three on the right all lead to various bedrooms. The J's have pretty much all moved out by now, so just have Judy take you to one of the empty rooms,” Bonnie explained. “Dinner will be ready in about an hour, tho I suspect it'll take only a few minutes until a very excited Cotton realizes you're all here.”
The older rabbits slipped down the hallway on the far left, leaving the three detectives to head towards their rooms and get settled in. Judy lead the way, with Nick in the rear, carrying the bags. “Nick and I will take my old room, and you can have the one right across from us. No one has used that room in a few years, but Mom cleaned it and put new sheets for ya.”
The raccoon paused as they reached their destination, his eyes a bit wide as he glanced down the hall. “There must be miles of tunnels…”
“Well you aren't wrong! Hey Carrots, you should send him the link to the interactive map,” Nick said.
The raccoon let out a small chuckle. “A map wouldn't be a terrible idea.”
“Trust me, I understand. I was lost for almost three hours my first time I visited. I was close to starving!” Nick said.
“It was barely an hour, and you had just ate, don't be so dramatic,” Judy shot back.
Peter opened his phone as it went off, a confused look on his face. “You actually have an interactive map?”
“It started off as a joke after Nick got lost. He requested a map, and one of my brothers who was studying app design decided to make one. Got him an A in the class and gave us something to give new visitors,” Judy said. “ Now let's all unpack, if we don't say hi to a few of my siblings, nieces, and nephews, we'll have to deal with a rioting mass of bunnies.”
“It sounds fluffy, but in reality is terrifying,” Nick warned Peter with a mock tremble in his voice before he followed Judy into their bedroom.
The look of semi-concern that seemed to become a staple on the raccoons face since meeting the two detectives returned. He let out a sigh and entered his own room. The room was plain, the brown dirt walls rounded into a low ceiling. A small bed took up most of the far side of the room, a sky blue quilt rested on top of it. In-between the bed and an medium sized oak wood dresser sat a small night table with a lamp casting a warm orange light across the room. The raccoon sat his luggage on the bed, cracking the stiffness out of his back from the long day. Peter slowly meandered through the room, looking inside the dresser and setting up his phone charger. Though built in what was clearly a rustic style, the racoon was pleasantly surprised to see USB plugs built into the surface of the nightstand; a curious blend of modern and traditional.
A loud shriek in the distance pulled him from his musings, and he perked his ears to listen intently as the shrill sound started to get closer. Peter cautiously opened the door, looking out just in time to watch Nick get tackled by a very small, very fast moving ball of fluff.
“Uncle Nick! You didn't tell me you guys were coming!” said the pile of fluff. Upon closer inspection, it dawned on Peter that the pile fluff must have been the young rabbit Bonnie had been talking about. Her fur was was a soft Grey, with cream colored paws. Piercing bright blue eyes scanned the room. The young rabbit wore a yellow sundress with lavender daisies, her eyes staring up at the fox, an odd mixture of anger and happiness apparent on her face.
“Hey Cottonball! Sorry we didn't tell ya, it was a bit of a last minute trip. We're actually out here for work,” Nick replied, hugging the rabbit as he stood back up. “But I'm sure we can squeeze in some games while we're here.”
“Are ya guys gonna stay for the festival? It's this weekend you know! You can't miss it! I have a special secret part in the play,” the young bunny said, leaning in and whispering the last part.
Nick glanced at Judy and shrugged. “Well have to see. I can promise that we'll try our best.”
The rabbit turned slightly with a frown, before she noticed the raccoon. Her ears perked up as she tilted her head. “Who are you?”
The raccoon laughed and bowed slightly. “I'm Peter, I work with your aunt and uncle.”
“Oh, you’re a police officer to?” the inquisitive five-year old asked.
“Kind of sweetie. He actually works with the ZBI, he's helping us out right now,” Judy responded.
“Oooohhh you're like a special police officer! Cool!” the young bunny replied. “Oh! Uncle Nick! Did ya bring the new trick like you promised?”
“Are you suggesting that I, the best uncle ever, could possibly forget to bring you something that I promised? How hurtful!” Nick said, clutching his chest. “I think I simply must lay down, I don't think I can go on!”
Cotton laughed as Nick fell back onto the floor. The young bunny jumped on his chest and looked down. “Playing dead won't help you.”
“I've trained her too well, it's really my own fault,” Nick said laughing. He stood up and placed the young bunny on the ground. “Wait here, of course I brought it!” Nick headed back into the room, coming out a few minutes later with a box in his paws. “Let's head to the main living room and I can show ya how it works.”
Judy grumbled as she tried to see what was in the foxes paws. “Nick, what con are you trying to teach her now?”
“It's not a con, it's simply a magic trick that you just so happen to be able to do for money Carrots,” he replied, picking the young rabbit up and placing her on his shoulders. “You know I would never, ever corrupt your family with my shifty, foxy ways.”
Nick gave Judy and Peter an exaggerated wink to which Judy merely rolled her eyes and waved them away.
“Don't get me wrong, I truly admire and respect Nick, but I wouldn't think teaching a young bunny how to con people could possibly be good for discrediting stereotypes of foxes,” Peter said as he watched the fox carry Cotton down the hall.
“Oh he’s just joking - he loves to tease me about turning my family into a band of rogues and thieves. Really he just loves to entertain the little ones with the tricks, and boy do they love them - Cotton especially. . Funny enough, we took her to a magic act in the city last time they visited, and the magician used some of the stuff Nick showed her. She was so excited that she knew how it was done. The magician however, was not exactly pleased about a 5 year old spilling the beans on how things were done,” Judy replied with a chuckle, leading the two back towards the main part of the Warren.
The sound of laughter echoed down the hall, reverberating off the dirt walls. A few moments later the two mammals popped out of the hallway and found themselves in the main living room of the house. Sitting cross legged on the floor sat Nick and Cotton, three cups sitting upside down between them. “Remember, palm like I showed you with the quarter, then ditch at the end. Now you try!”
The young doe picked the cups up, showing that they were empty before quickly turning them over, a small red ball bouncing out of the middle one. “Oops…”
“Here's a trick. When you go to flip it, start with your paw on the bottom, then lift, flip, and bring it down. But make sure you do it to all three, because if you do one differently then the others, people will know somethings up,” Nick said, demonstrating to the young rabbit as he talked.
The rabbit nodded, taking the cups back and copied Nick, grinning as the cups landed without losing the ball.
“There you go! Now before lifting up that cup, place the ball on top of the cup. You remember what the secret is right?”
“There's always one more ball then the audience realizes!” Cotton said.
Peter turned to Judy as the two watched Nick teach Cotton how to maneuver the cups and balls. “So the tales that he used to be a master con-artist are true?”
Judy chuckled as she shook her head. “He exaggerates of course, but yeah - by all accounts he was pretty good at it. But if you’re looking for stories about his past, you'll wanna ask him yourself. His past is for him to share, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only that knows almost all of it.”
“Really? After more then 15 years working with the ZPD, no one else knows his backstory?” the raccoon responded.
“Well part of it has to do with the fact that he's dumb jerk.” the rabbit said chuckling. “He'll tell different people different stories from his past, and some even seem to contradict one another, and then let them talk amongst themselves trying to figure out what the whole story is. Sometimes mammals will walk up to him and ask him about a story they've heard and ask him if it's true. You know what he does? He'll just shrug and say, ‘a fox became a cop, anything is possible, right?’”
“Really? He's that against telling people his story?”
“That's part of it. He's a private person definitely, but he's not closed off. At this point he just does it because he thinks messing with people is fun. He says he likes the ‘cloud of mystery’ that surrounds him,” Judy replied, rolling her eyes.
The raccoon laughed as he looked back over at Nick. “Well it's working! For being a huge role model, I can't say I know too much about his time before becoming a cop.”
“Feel free to ask him, just don't expect a straight answer,” Judy said with a soft grin.
“I may not have known you guys very long, but I learned quickly that anything Nick says should be taken with a grain of salt,” the raccoon replied.
Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by the young rabbit. “Judy and Judy's friend! Come watch my new trick!”
“His name is Peter sweetheart,” Nick said with a chuckle.
“I've been called a lot worse then ‘Judy's friend’. Let's see this new trick!” Peter replied, sitting on the ground next to Nick. Judy walked over, resting her arms on Nicks head as she watched her niece. “Yes let's see how uncle Nick is corrupting you now.”
The young doe picked the cups up, showing each cup was empty, along with three red balls in her paw. With a quick flip, she set each cup upside down on the floor, before placing a ball on top of the middle cup. As she reached for the other cup, she glanced over at Nick, who was miming the next move. With a nod, she picked up the cup on the left looked up at her audience. “we are gonna make the ball pass through the cup! Ready? One, two, three!” Cotton quickly dropped the cup on top of the middle one, then lifted it to show the ball was now under it. “And the first ball went through! But can we do it again, through 2 cups?”
Cotton repeated movements twice more, resulting in all three balls ending up under the middle cup. Nick smiled proudly as Judy and Peter clapped, the raccoon letting out a few short laughs. “Wow, I'm very impressed! How did you do that?”
“Nope, if I tell ya then the magic is gone!” the bunny said with a giggle.
“Don't you know a magician never reveals their tricks, Petey?” Nick asked, shaking his head teasingly.
Judy stood up, pulling on Nick's paw to help him up. “For our next trick, we're all going to disappear from the living room and appear in the dining room since dinner should be ready.”
The raccoon stood up and grinned. “Well, after all the praises Nick's been singing of the food here, I can say I'm more than ready for some food.”
Judy led the group into the large dining room, the large tables set up with a truly vast array of plates and utensils, with just as many rabbits filling the seats, and more streaming in from various doorways. Bonnie walked in from the doorway on the far side of the room, a large platter of steaming vegetables in her paws. “Perfect timing guys! Come have a seat, Stu should be in shortly.”
“So the 200 or so rabbits wasn't an exaggeration,” Peter said as he stared down the length of the massive oak table. Catching himself, he stopped staring aghast and took a seat across from Nick and Judy at the front of the table.
“I'll tell ya, it's a lot fewer than my first visit! I thought that I was drunk and seeing double, but no, there was just that many bunnies. I never truly understood the expression ‘a sea of mammals’ until then,” Nick said.
“Hope you haven't gotten to lost yet Peter did Judy show you the app?” Stu asked, taking a seat next to his wife.
“She did, it certainly seems helpful!” Peter replied, taking the pot of mashed potatoes from the rabbit. “Nick and Judy tell me that all of this food comes straight from your farm.”
“Yup! I grow ‘em, she cooks ‘em,” Stu said, smiling at Bonnie.
“Oh, it’s not just me, lots of the older kits help me in the kitchen. It takes a small army to feed a couple hundred mouths!” Bonnie said.
“Mfff, holy crap, you weren't kidding Nick!this is seriously some the best food I've ever had,” Peter said.
“Aw thank you so much hun!” Bonnie said with a warm smile. “But please - tell us about you a bit. Did you grow up in Zootopia as well?”
“No, I actually grew up a few counties over. In Podunk to be exact,” he replied.
The sound of Nick coughing caught the raccoon off guard, glancing over to see the fox thumping his chest, breaking out in a laugh as his throat cleared. “Really? You're from Podunk County? I did not take you for a county coon. You certainly don’t have the accent!”
“Well we weren't farmers, and we lived near main street… But compared to Zootopia it definitely is a tiny town. I moved out to the Marshlands when I was in my twenties to attend the academy and become a cop out there.”
“Oh Podunk is a lovely town! We sell at the farmers market there occasionally. We love to eat at that little dinner, the one with the stuffed waffles,” Stu said.
“The Coral Cafe! Yeah, that was my favorite breakfast spot growing up,” Peter responded.
“That's the one! So how'd ya end up workin’ with our Nick and Judy?”
“I was just lucky enough to be paired with them! They were a big inspiration for me actually becoming a cop, so it's definitely an honor to get to work with them,” the raccoon said.
“I made it onto his wall. Just saying,” Nick said, picking Cotton up as she struggled to climb onto the chair, placing her in his lap.
“We were both on his wall Nick,” Judy said absentmindedly, picking at her vegetables.
“And we not only met but exceeded every expectation of his,” Nick replied.
“Well, I mean….I can honestly say that it hasn't been what I expected,” Peter replied with a chuckle. “The posters and news articles definitely made them seem more serious then they are.”
“Nick overwhelm you a bit at first?” Bonnie asked with a chuckle.
“Oh most definitely,” the raccoon said.
“I am not overwhelming, people are just under prepared to keep up with me,” Nick interjected.
“Yup, I was definitely unprepared! Judy's kept him in check though.”
“Part of the job description. It was in the fine print of the wedding contract,” she replied.
“The general public can't handle me at my full potential and I have no way of turning it off, so it's the bunny's job to keep it contained for the safety of everyone,” he replied with a smirk.
Bonnie stood and started to gather the plates, shooing Nick away as he stood to help her. “Don't you dare. You guys spent the day working on traveling. I'll get some of the kids to help me with them.”
Nick raised his paws in defeat and shook his head. “Fine, but expect me to help with some of it tomorrow then.”
“Well see mister,” she replied, taking the dishes into the kitchen.
Stu stood up, gathering a few dishes as well as he called a few of the kids over to help. “If you want to join us, we were planning on watching a movie in the main living room tonight.”
“Thanks for the offer dad, but honestly I'm beat. I think in gonna get ready for bed and maybe read a bit. You two can feel free to join them tho,” Judy responded.
“I don't think I'll make it through a movie, and I'd rather not risk falling asleep around all these shady bunnies,” Nick said, causing Stu to laugh.
“Don't want your fur dyed purple again?” he asked.
“Wait what? Are there pictures?” Peter asked, his voice laced with amusement.
“We don't talk about that,” Nick deadpanned.
“I'll see if I can find any for ya Peter,” Stu said, patting the raccoons shoulder as they walked towards the living room.
“Show him and I'll have Bonnie turn you into an actual stew! You'll be Stu the stew!” Nick shouted after the two mammals. “Heh Stu as a stew.”
Judy shook her head, taking the fox's paw as she headed down the hall. “You are as terrible as your jokes.”
“I'm freaking hilarious, thank you very much.”
“Sure you are hon. Let's get to bed, I'm exhausted.”
“Gladly. But I am going to require a good night kiss. I'm high maintenance you know.”
Judy chuckled and kissed the fox, patting his cheek. “Trust me I know. Now bed. We can't catch a killer tomorrow if I don't get enough sleep.”
“Well let's hop to it!” he replied with a grin.
“On second thought … I wonder if they still have the pull out bed for you.”
“That's hurtful. Besides, then you don't get to use my tail as blanket.”
“Point to the fox - you get to stay for now,” Judy replied closing the door, exhaustion tugging at her eyelids as she flopped on the bed, Nick climbing in and pulling her to his chest, his tail laying around her feet, the two slipping into silence as they drifted off to sleep.