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The Long Game

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Disclaimer: Zootopia and all related characters are owned by Disney. All other characters, product names, trademarks, and copyrights, belong to their respective owners.

…..

Judy looked up at a five-story building as Finn pulled his van into a parking spot near the lobby door. Judy disconnected her phone from Finn's charger, saw that she'd gotten a 70% charge on the drive over, and slipped the phone into her pocket.

"So, who's place is this, anyway? Are you sure they're okay with renting to me? I meant it when I said I won't have any way to pay them for a few weeks."

Finn smiled, "Don't worry about the rent. Your boyfriend has taken care of everything."

Judy's nose twitched as the pieces of a puzzle in her mind came together. Taking her paw off the door handle, she leaned back into her seat and said, "This is Nick's new place, isn't it?" Shaking her head, she turned to Finn, "I can't stay here, if Woolerby finds out someone from work helped me, she'll go after Aidan." Dejected now, Judy quietly added, "Just take me to the homeless encampment over on 34th, I'll be alright there until I can find something on my own."

"Yeah, and have my boy skin me alive when he finds out I left you there, not gonna happen." Finn pointed at the building, "Look, no one knows Nick lives here except for you and me, and if anyone tried to figure out who owns the place, they'd need an army of lawyers and accountants to unravel all the corporations, trusts, and holding companies involved. And even if an animal was crazy enough to wade through all that paperwork, they'd end up stonewalled by the toughest fox lawyer in the city who isn't going to tell them squat about diddly on who owns the place."

Judy groaned, "But…"

"You're safe here, just don't tell anyone you were booted from your old place and lie low here for a while."

Judy huffed, "Eventually, I'm going to have to tell someone at the ZPD I've moved."

Finn dug around in his van's console, pulled out a contact card, and handed it to Judy, "Well, I suggest you put off eventually for as long as you can, and when you have to tell someone, give them this as your contact address."

Judy turned the card over in her paw, and reading the information, replied, "This is the law firm that Nick used for his ZPD application paperwork."

"Yeah, they're good, they keep the riff-raff away."

Judy raised an eyebrow.

Finn smirked, "Well, most of the riff-raff."

Judy thought for a few moments and then nodded to herself, "Okay, I'll do it."

Finn smiled, "Good," and putting his paw out said, "give me your ATM card and all your credit cards. You said your credit's been trashed; I want to check it out."

What are you going to do with my cards?

Nothin' a cop needs to know about, just hand 'em over.

"But, if I give you all my cards, what will I do for…" Judy stopped herself, she had maybe ten bucks left in her bank account, "Never mind." Judy pulled out two cards and gave them to Finn. "I only had the one credit card, so that's everything."

"Alright, let's get you inside."

…..

Reaching the top floor, Finn led Judy down the hall to the last apartment on the left. Pulling a new key out, he unlocked the door and motioned Judy into her new place.

Walking past a smiling Finn, Judy stepped into the dark apartment and stopped to let her eyes adjust as she heard Finn behind her looking for the light switch.

"Where is it? Damn switch needs to be lower."

Judy was about to turn and help Finn when the lights came on, and she froze. Her mouth dropped open, and then her suitcase thunked to the floor as it slipped out of her now slack paw.

Shaking his head, Finn walked over to the stunned bunny and putting a paw under her chin, gently lifted her mouth closed.

"The A/C's turned off, control's over there. I'll put the food in the fridge."

"What?"

"Heat, cold, food, you know, apartment crap. Your old place wasn't a hole in the ground was it?"

"No, it's just… wow."

Able to think again, Judy turned to her right and saw the entryway she was standing in become a huge corner kitchen with an island workspace, that included a double sink and enough space to eat at if someone wanted. Brushing her paw along the granite countertops, she took in all the new stainless-steel appliances, a dishwasher, a gas cooktop, a built-in microwave, a double oven, and a refrigerator next to an oversized pantry. Closing the pantry doors, Judy was amazed, if ever there was a kitchen designed for someone who knew how to cook, this was it.

Walking into the mostly empty living room, Judy saw an old folding chair next to an end table that had seen better days, and a row of crates against the wall filled with law books, DVDs, video games and a couple of old gaming consoles.

Picking out one of the movies, Judy chuckled when the label fell off the case revealing a paw-printed title on the plastic case, 'Looks like Nick must have stopped at Weaselton's stand once or twice before becoming a cop.'

Setting the movie back in the crate, Judy walked into the middle of the room, and with a big smile on her face, spun around and said, "Finn, this place is amazing."

Grabbing Judy's luggage, Finn replied, "Yeah, yeah. The laundry is over there where we came in, kitchen, living room, Nick's room is through there, and your room is over here."

Finn disappeared with Judy's luggage into a short hallway next to the pantry, groaning the whole way. "Do all rabbits carry around this much junk? You know you're a fox now, and foxes travel light, that way we can get away from mobs or pissed off marks if we have to."

Judy chuckled, "Well, since there's still some bunny inside this honorary fox, I'm thinking this place could use a little furniture, like a couch over there, a coffee table, maybe a couple of new end tables, some pictures…"

Finn's muzzle poked around the doorway, "You can stop right there, Bunny-girl, there's a reason I live in a van, no furniture to move. You want something to sit on, you're talkin' to the wrong fox."

Judy bounced over toward the apartment's entryway, opened a side door, and then started oohing and aahing at the laundry room and the large front-loading washer dryer stacked inside.

"And foxes don't get all emotional over appliances either."

Judy closed the door and headed toward the hallway Finn had disappeared into. "You wouldn't be saying that if you had to schlep your laundry up and down the stairs to the basement and pay–

"Whoa…"

Judy had just stepped into the alcove, and looking to the right saw an enormous, to her, bathroom.

"This bathroom is as big as my old apartment, it has a double sink, a fur dryer, and wow, a tub, I've never lived anywhere that had a bathtub before." Clapping her paws together, she chirped, "All this, just for the two of us, I can't believe it."

Judy heard Finn laugh and then yell from the other room, "Believe it, Officer Toot-toot, except you're not sharing with anyone, Nick has his own bathroom. That one's all yours."

"Really?" Judy asked as she bounced across the hall into another room, "All–"

Judy stopped just inside the doorway and took a look around at a bedroom that was easily twice the size of her old apartment. There were two large windows on one wall, a walk-in closet to her right and to one side, a small-mammal sized bed, nightstand, and dresser. She also saw that Nick must have been in the middle of painting before he left because three of the walls were a light violet color while the largest wall was still a dingy white, and there were paint cans, brushes, and a roller sitting on top of a plastic drop cloth spread along the length of the wall.

"Wow."

Judy walked over and admired the dresser and then looked over the unpainted wall again, "So, this is what Nick was up to before he left, he kept talking about wanting to fix his place up before inviting anyone over for his great reveal."

Finn came out of the walk-in closet carrying a small stack of bed linens, set them down on the mattress, "Yeah, the sap was trying to make everything just right so he could invite some girl over for a movie night or something crazy like that."

Judy smiled, "Doesn't sound that crazy to me."

"Wait until you meet the girl, she has a lot of issues, hell, her issues have issues."

Judy rolled her eyes, "Har-har, I'm not that bad."

Finn raised an eyebrow, cocked his head, and gave her a 'seriously' look.

"Fine, so I had a bad day."

"Yeah, no shit Sheerlock." Handing Judy a key, Finn said, "This key works on all the doors and on the storage unit downstairs, don't lose it."

"Thanks, Finn, thanks for everything."

Shaking his head, Finn replied, "Don't thank me, this was all your boy Nick's idea." And then turning to leave, Finn chuckled as he watched Judy slowly spin around one more time, clap her paws together and fall backward onto her new bed.

…..

"There it is, just like she said," Nick said to himself as he turned off the dirt road he'd been following for the last mile and into a small clearing. Stopping in the middle of the space, Nick used the cruiser's spotlight to scan for any other cars. Not seeing anyone else around, Nick pulled forward and parked near an outcropping of rocks.

Shutting off the cruiser, Nick reached for the radio mic when his phone pinged with an incoming message. Grabbing his phone, he saw it was another text from Finn. Short and crude, both the message and the sender, let him know that Judy was all moved in.

Closing the text, Nick pocketed his phone and radioed in, "Dispatch, this is Wilde, I'm going 10-7 for about half an hour."

Releasing the mic button, Nick listened, "Uh, what was that Nick, something about a tent?"

Rolling his eyes, Nick replied, "No, I said I'm going 10-… never mind, I'm taking a break for about thirty minutes, I'll be out of the cruiser, so call me on my cell if you need me."

"Did you find the spot you were looking for?"

"Yeah, right where Janae said it was."

"Alright, radio back when you're done with your break."

Nick looked up through the windshield at the star-filled night and admired the view; it was just as amazing as Janae had described.

Last night after dinner, and before movie time, Nick had let Janae know that he'd be working a late shift tonight and then asked if there were any spots he should keep an eye out on while he was patrolling by himself. When Janae only gave him a blank stare, he looked around to make sure none of the kits were within earshot, and quietly told her he was talking about make-out spots, somewhere couples went after curfew to take in the sights and maybe play a little tonsil-tag.

Fortunately, Nick only had to suffer through a few minutes of abuse from Janae about Nick scoping out places to take his city girlfriend before she finally stopped laughing long enough to tell him where her favorite place to go was. Going into great detail, Janae gave him directions to get there and which paths led to the spots with the best views of the town and which ones led to the best places for stargazing.

Sensing an excellent opportunity for some teasing himself, Nick asked how often she'd been there and with whom, and which star constellations were her favorite to look at. Janae, in turn, smirked as she patted Nick on the chest, gave him a little tail sashay, and then called all the kits together to start the movie.

Grabbing his phone, Nick took another look at all of Finn's texts to make sure he hadn't missed anything, set up for a video call, and hit the contact at the top of his favorites list.

"Nick!"

"Hey, Carrots, I heard you had a bad day."

"Yeah, it was a little rough, but I'm doing better now, thanks to you." Grabbing the chair from next to the old end table in the living room, Judy sat, "Your apartment is amazing, thanks for letting me stay here while I look around for a new place."

"Mi casa, su casa, you're welcome to stay as long as you'd like."

"Thanks, I'll try to get out of your fur as fast as I can, but you may be stuck with me for a while. I had a run-in with Councilor Woolerby," Judy put her nose in the air and flipped her ears back emulating Woolerby's snooty attitude, saying, "I mean, Council Chair Woolerby, what a bit-"

"Carrots!"

"Sorry, I know you said never to let them see that they get to you, but she did. She threatened to go after Aidan for stealing her wallet unless I went along with having my pay docked, which means it's going to take me a couple of months to save up enough for first and last month's rent on a new place."

"Don't be sorry, Woolerby's been a thorn in the side of the community for a lot of years, she hates predators and despises it when pred and prey try to get together and do anything constructive."

"Yeah, that's her alright."

"Finn said he's running a check on your credit; was there a glitch, or do you think someone is messing with your accounts?"

Judy shook her head, "I don't know, when I tried to rent a room, my credit card wasn't just declined, it came back invalid like the account had never existed. And if someone's trying to get into my bank account, they're going to be sorely disappointed. My student loans emptied it out, and with no paycheck coming in, I can't even afford a Snarlbucks."

Nick rubbed the back of his neck as he thought for a few moments and then said, "Carrots, I need you to go into the closet in my room and dig something out for me, okay."

"Sure."

Popping up out of the chair, Judy went over and opened the door to Nick's bedroom and flipped on the light. Stepping into Nick's room, something happened, Judy felt as if she'd been wrapped in her favorite comforter while cuddled up in a huge pile of plushies. Looking around the large, nearly empty bedroom, she tried to figure out why she suddenly felt so comfortable, safe even.

The only thing in the room looked to be a drawer from a large-mammal sized dresser. Judy walked over and saw that it was filled with blankets. Reaching down, she picked one of the blankets out of the pile and was immediately surrounded by Nick's scent. Putting the blanket up to her muzzle, shivers went down her back and her tail vibrated in pleasure as she took in her fox's delicious scent. Taking in a final deep sniff, she dropped the blanket back in the drawer and hurried over to the closet.

"Is everything alright? The video blanked out for a moment."

"It's fine, uh, you didn't tell me I had to go through your bathroom to get to the closet." Brushing her ears back, she asked, "What am I looking for?"

"To the right near the floor, on the side of what looks like a post, there's a panel release on the wall side about six inches up from the floor. Press it in and it opens a hidden storage space, and inside that, there's a lockbox. Take it out, and I'll give you the combination so you can open it."

Judy knelt, found the panel, and carefully removed the lockbox. Taking it into the bathroom, she put it on the counter and found the lock. Seeing that it took a four-digit code, she spun each of the dials with her thumb and clicked open the latch.

"Carrots, did you just open the lock? How did you know the combination?"

Making sure Nick could see her on his phone screen, Judy rolled her eyes, "Dumb fox, you picked the same combination that Torrie uses on her luggage. Do I need to sign you up to watch that ZPD security video again?"

"No, please don't, it's so boring, and all the mammals in it are so dumb in how they pick their passwords and pins."

"Uh-huh."

"Just open the box already."

Judy popped the lid and found an envelope filled with cash in it. "Nick, what is this?" Thumbing through a stack of bills, Judy said, "There must be at least a thousand dollars here."

"It's my emergency fund. You never know when the banks might fail, or an arctic shrew is going to send a polar bear enforcer after you, so I've always kept a little cash stashed away just in case I ever needed to get out of town quick."

Judy shook her head, "Nick, Mr. Big isn't going to send anyone after you, he likes you now."

Nick huffed, "Carrots, he likes you, me on the other paw, not so much. Besides, old habits die hard, if my ten minutes of Junior Ranger Scout experience taught me anything, it's to be prepared."

Chuckling, Judy slipped the bills back in the envelope and asked, "So, what do you want me to do with all this cash?"

"It's for you. Since you won't be getting a paycheck for a while and your accounts may have been messed with, you need some cash to tide you over."

"But…"

"No buts, until we figure out exactly what happened, you need to lie low and stay off the grid, and that means sticking with cash for a while."

Judy went silent while she thought for a few moments.

"Come on, Carrots, please say yes…"

"Nick, you've already helped me so much, how will I ever be able to pay you back?"

Nick put a finger up to his chin and hummed for a moment, "Payback for helping a wayward bunny who had a bad day, hmmm… I've got it, you bring the snacks next movie night, and this time no canned soda, I want some of that craft brew blueberry soda from that place on Outback Island."

"Niiick, I'm trying to be serious here."

"Me, too. I want the bottled stuff they make with organic cane sugar."

Judy rolled her eyes. How she found the only fox in Zootopia with a sweet tooth and an addiction to blueberries, she would never know. "Fine, but I get to pick the movie this time, something without superheroes or any space monsters that want to turn the planet into a big all you can eat buffet."

"Maybe something a little more romantic then?"

"Yup, someone needs a hug for helping me so much."

"I like that idea," said Nick as he looked out the windshield of his cruiser. Seeing that he was still alone, and the stars were shining brightly in the night sky, he got an idea of his own. "Hey, Carrots, do me a favor and go out onto the balcony."

"You have a balcony?"

Opening the door to the cruiser, Nick said, "Yes, yes I do. The door is behind the curtains on the left side of the living room."

Following a worn path, Nick walked past a grassy area bounded by a few stone fire pits with log benches, toward a couple of large trees that created a more private spot off to the side. As Nick settled himself down at the base of one of the trees, he heard his bunny chirping happily as she found the cushioned loveseat rocker he'd talked the previous owner into leaving behind.

"Oh, Nick, this is amazing."

"Look to the right, past the park, it should be dark enough that way off in the distance you can see some of the city lights reflected off the Tundra Town weather wall."

"They're beautiful," and then after a pause, "I wish you were here with me."

Nick turned his phone and replied, "In a way I am, take a look."

Judy studied her phone as Nick panned across the Bunnyburrow town lights in the distance and then asked, "Are you on Lookout Point?"

"Yeah, I found a spot near a couple of large trees, it's got a nice view of the town from here."

"I know that spot, take a look to your left, if the moon's just right, you can see its light reflected off of Bean lake. It's gorgeous."

Nick Looked up in the sky, Judy was right, it made for a beautiful sight. The nearly full moon sat about halfway up in the sky, and as its light shone down on the small lake in the distance, he could see the moonlight reflecting off the slight ripples in the lake surface. Narrowing his eyes, Nick saw an occasional ripple in the water as a fish broke through and snagged an insect.

When the sky darkened slightly as a cloud floated in front of the moon, Nick turned his phone back around and asked the beautiful bunny on the screen, "Sounds like you've been up here before, is there a buck I should be worried about that's going to try and steal your heart away from me?"

Judy's smile faded, and then she closed her eyes, trying to will away one of the worst memories of her life.

Seeing the pain sweep across Judy's face, Nick quickly said, "Judy, are you alright? I'm sorry if I said something that upset you."

"It's okay Nick, it was my fault, it happened a long time ago."

"Something you want to talk about?" Nick waggled his ears for Judy and said, "My ears may not be as good as yours, but they work pretty well."

Judy sighed, "No, I've never been up there with anyone, but when I was a freshman in high school, there was this buck I had a huge crush on, and one night I went up to Lookout Point… It was stupid. I was just being an emotional bunny."

"Judy, it's alright, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

Closing her eyes again, Judy remembered what a dumb bunny she'd been, "It's okay. The only time I've been to Lookout Point, I went by myself. I rode my bike to the top, dodged all the couples making out, and found the same spot you're at right now. I sat there and tried to imagine what it would be like to have a buck think I'm beautiful and be willing to be mates with a girl who wanted to be a cop, and… turn around and take a look at the tree trunk."

Nick looked and even in the dark was able to see over a dozen sets of initials, old and new, cut into the tree bark. "The carvings?"

"Yeah, I wanted to know what it felt like to have my initials on that tree trunk too."

"So, what happened?"

Judy huffed, "I asked the jerk to go to a dance with me, and instead of just saying no, he humiliated me in front of everyone. So, I basically gave up on guys and focused on being a cop."

Nick narrowed his eyes and growled, "What's this guy's name and address?"

Judy chuckled, "No, you're not going to beat him up. Besides, if he'd said yes, I might never have met you."

Slightly mollified, Nick replied, "Alright then, how about this instead?" Nick set his phone down so that Judy could watch and pulled out his pocket knife.

"Nick, what are you doing?"

Ignoring the question, Nick pressed the knife blade into the tree trunk and started carving, and within a few minutes, he picked his phone back up and gave Judy a closeup of his handiwork.

"What do you think?"

"Oh, Nick." Judy's face softened as she started to sniffle, "JH + NW inside a heart, it's perfect, you're perfect. I love it."

Sitting back down, Nick set his phone in his lap and looking Judy in the eyes, said, "Good, because, I'm your fox–"

"–and I'm your bunny," finished Judy.

Both mammals stared at each other for a moment and then looked back up at their respective city views for a few minutes until Judy broke the silence.

"Nick, there's something I have to tell you. Something I can't keep inside me anymore."

Nick lifted his phone closer and focused on the vision of his beautiful bunny on the screen, letting her know with all his heart that…

Judy, lost in her fox's deep green eyes, gathered herself and said, "Nick, I–"

Nick's phone vibrated and rang with an incoming call from the Sheriff's Department.

Nick groaned, "I'm sorry, it's the dispatcher."

Shaking her head, Judy chuckled, "Our timing always seems to be a little off, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. You know I miss you more than anything, right?"

"I miss you too, Slick. Go make the world a better place, we'll talk tomorrow."

Nick tapped his phone and was immediately assaulted with the dispatcher's voice, "Thank goodness you picked up Wilde, the Davidson kit is stuck in their tree again, and the Missus won't let anyone but you climb up after him."