Actions

Work Header

Lead and Silver: Reloaded

Chapter Text

The sun hung in the sky over Savannah Central, home to Precinct One. It was a day like any other day, for most mammals anyway. For a particular fox and rabbit, it was quite a special day indeed. The duo strolled into the precinct, the bunny eagerly hopping in front of the fox, who sipped from a cup of coffee and regarded her from behind a pair of mirrored aviator shades.

“Last Day on patrol, Carrots,” he reminded her as they walked into the station, him sipping a coffee.

“I know!” She smiled, bouncing through the door. “Then, we become detectives! We finally get to tackle real cases!”

“Alright, Fluff. Calm down. We still have to survive. Okay?” He finished off the cup of coffee and threw it into the trash. He walked over to Clawhauser’s desk and snatched a donut when he wasn’t looking, following behind Judy on their way to the Bullpen. As he walked, he took a moment, maybe more, to make sure her fluffy cottontail was still present. He had to make sure some miscreant hadn’t shaved it off in her sleep! The fact that it afforded him a view of her beautiful hips and shapely rear was just a bonus. He wasn’t ogling his partner, honest! ‘Yep, still there.’

He took a seat in the same chair as Judy and smiled up at Bogo, smirking confidently as he handed out reports for them. They were given Patrol in Savannah Central. A simple, easy way to close out a successful career as beat cops. Bogo told them that he was just giving out the assignments as he usually did, but Nick and Judy both knew that he was giving them an easy patrol to close out the end of their careers as beat cops.

***

They got in their cruiser and rolled out, Zootoipa’s premier bunny and fox duo in action! Nick remained laidback, calmly observing the streets while Judy drove. He looked over to her, she could barely contain her excitement. The foot that she wasn’t using to work the pedals was bouncing up and down, and her fingers were rapidly squeezing and relaxing on the steering wheel.

“Fluff, would you calm down a little bit?” He asked. “I’m getting tired just watching you.”

“How can you not be more excited? We’re going to be detectives after today!”

“Unless we die,” he joked, peering at her over the rims of his sunglasses.

“We’re not going to die, Nick.”

“Day’s not over yet, Carrots. The day’s not over yet.”

She laughed at that and went back to driving.

Fortunately for them, it was a somewhat dull patrol for the most part. Quiet, mostly just tickets and the like. But it got a little exciting towards the end when they caught Duke Weaselton. He was selling his knockoff movies off of a table in a back alley.

Nick and Judy smirked as they approached him, getting ready for the inevitable chase.

Nick was the first one to speak. “Duke… It’s been a while.

Duke wasted no time and flipped the table at them and bolted down the alleyway. Unfortunately for him, it was a dead end, leaving him cornered by Nick and Judy.

“Well… That was anticlimactic,” remarked Judy. “How do you wanna handle this?” She asked.

“Mmm… technically, selling knockoffs isn’t a crime,” Nick mused as he picked up one of the cases. “So we can’t bring him in for that, but flipping the table at us unprovoked like that? That might be assault.”

Duke made a choking sound. “What?! You two came after me!”

“All we did was walk up to you and say ‘hello'. Nothing illegal about that,” replied Judy. She tapped the shoulder of her uniform. “Bodycams will confirm our story, and make you look very suspicious.”

Duke gave a strangled whimper. “Come on, show some mercy to ol’ Duke! I’m just trying to make some money!”

“Then get a real job,” replied Judy.

Nick chimed in. “Or don’t. Maybe you should stay right where you are.”

Judy looked confused. “Nick? What are you talking about?”

“I’m saying that Duke is a pretty shady mammal. He loves taking odd jobs around the city, often for less-than-reputable mammals. Maybe he could be a good Confidential Informant once we make detectives.”

Duke gave a laugh. “What?! You want me to be a snitch?! No way in hell! Not gonna happen! No!”

Judy saw that Nick was getting at and she had to agree. “Good info gets you paid,” she tempted.

“So is there like, a form I need to fill out or something?” Duke asked, tone instantly changing when he heard that money was involved.

Nick reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll be in touch.” He smiled. “Now get back to your ‘business’ before people run off with the merchandise.”

Duke jumped and began sprinting back towards his overturned table.

“Have fun, Duke! Stay frosty!” Called Judy as he sprinted away.

“Carrots, who knew you had that kind of spark in you?” He teased, a tad surprised at the barb.

“I guess you’re rubbing off on me.” She smirked, making his ears shoot straight up at the mental image that conjured up. Not that she noticed.

“So this horrible, evil fox has finally brought the incorruptible Judy Hopps down to his level?” He teased back. “This city is doomed!” He cried dramatically, dropping to his knees and throwing his arms ide into the sky.

Judy rolled her eyes. “Come on, Slick. The day’s almost over. Let’s head back to the precinct?” She offered.

“Yeah okay,” he instantly switched gears back to his usual, cocky self. He stood up and walked back to the car with her. They headed back to the car. “Well, this is it Fluff, the end of an era,” he mused as they drove back. Tomorrow, the days of Officers Hopps and Wilde are over, and we shall greet the dawn of Detectives Hopps and Wilde. You ready?”

“I was ready when you were still in diapers!” She challenged.

“You weren’t even born when I was in diapers!” He retorted.

“Exactly! I’ve been ready since before I was even conceived!” She grinned at him, unwilling to back down from this.

“Fair enough. I suppose it’ll be interesting to see you in plainclothes at work.”

“Me? You’re the one who’ll look different,” she replied, stopping the cruiser at a red light. “Just because we’ll be wearing plainclothes doesn’t mean that you get to show up in one of those eye-searing Pawi’ian shirts.”

“I resent that!” He fired back. “It’s not my fault that you can’t appreciate my refined sense of style.

“Dumb Fox,” she rolled her eyes and went back to driving.

***

“Clawhauser!” He called to the friendly, rotund cheetah working dispatch. “What’s the news? I know that you have some fresh gossip for me.” He swiped a blueberry jelly donut from one of the boxes on the desk.

“I’m great!” He replied with a big smile. “And unfortunately, no new gossip. I swear, all these cops have gotten better at keeping their secrets from me. I suppose I’ll have to step up my game.”

“Well, good luck with that,” replied Nick. “In the meantime, we have to go and see the irritable chief that we all love and respect so much.”

“Hopps! Wilde!” Called Bogo.

“Speak of the Devil…” Remarked Nick. “Later Spots.”

“Bye, Nick! Bye, Judy! Good luck as detectives!”

Nick finished munching on the donut as they approached Bogo’s office. The massive cape buffalo was working on some paperwork when they entered. He closed the file and regarded them both.

“You two have been some of my finest, and most unconventional, Officers,” he began. “And the source of some of my worst migraines. So I can only look forward in horror and hope as you take this next step, and become Detectives of the ZPD,” he told them. “Take them. You’ve earned them.”

He pushed a box made of polished wood across the table, inside it were two gold badges nestled in a soft, blue satin lining, the word “Detective,” stamped into them.

“Well then, if that’s all, you two are free to go. Plainclothes starting tomorrow, remember to pick up whatever new accessories you might need for your dress blues.”

Nick couldn’t resist getting in another jab. “You know Chief, most mammals would be happy for us.”

Bogo looked back at them and leaned forward, stony-faced as ever. “I’m ecstatic for you two, can’t you tell?” He asked, his voice completely deadpan.

“What my partner means to say, is that we are grateful for this opportunity, we won’t let you down,” interjected Judy. She smiled and took her badge as Nick grabbed his.

“I expect that you won’t.” He gave a heavy sigh. He reached up and took off his hat, a gesture to inform them that he was about to speak to them on a more personal level. “Hopps, Wilde, I can scarcely think of any two mammals more deserving of this promotion than you two,” he began. “You two have fought hard for this, both against the criminal element, public opinion, and, regrettably, myself. Hopps, I initially had you pegged as a publicity stunt, a token bunny pushed into my precinct by Lionheart to make him look good. I thought you would wash out in a month, and when I saw the opportunity to get rid of you, I took it. My conduct was discriminatory and utterly unbecoming of a mammal in my position.

“As for you, Wilde, I must make a similar apology. I distrusted you based solely on your species. Had Hopps not insisted, I probably never would have let you anywhere near Precinct One. I had some very deep-seated prejudices against foxes, and unlearning them was a long process, a process during which you were probably more patient with me than I deserved.”

Nick looked down at the badge in his hand silently, it was real now. He was actually a detective.

“I have high hopes for both of you, and I have no doubt that you will do the badge justice. Dismissed.”

As they walked out of the office, Nick saw that Judy was practically vibrating with energy. He chuckled. “You want to do something to let all that bunny energy out?” He asked her. He looked up and down the hall. “We’re all alone, so I promise that you can do whatever you want for the next thirty seconds and I won’t make fun of you.”

“Deal!” Judy started excitedly punching the air before she shouted, “Yes!” at the top of her lungs while binkying.

“Oh sweet Karma, I regret that deal. You really know how to hurt a fox, don’t you, Carrots?”

“I’m just so excited! We’re detectives Nick! Detectives!” She shoved her badge in his face.

“I’m aware. Contrary to what my cool appearance would have you believe, I do actually pay attention to what goes on around me, you know?”

“Alright, cool it you snarky fox.”

“Excitable bunny.”

She wanted to say something back, but her excitement won out, and she gave one last fist pump.

Nick and Judy changed into their street clothes in the ZPD locker rooms and left the precinct. They had gotten reservations at a nice restaurant where they planned to have a celebration dinner to properly ring in their promotions.

***

By the time they got there, the sun had set enough that Nick could remove the sunglasses he wore throughout the day. Having excellent night vision came with a price, as the daylight sun could sometimes be uncomfortable without eye protection.

“To us, Carrots,” he proposed a toast. “The bunny and fox that somehow made detectives on the ZPD.”

“To us!” Agreed Judy, clinking her glass with his. She caught herself looking into his eyes. They were such a pleasant shade of green, one that reminded her of the wide-open fields back home in Bunnyburrow.

The food was wonderful. Nick got to indulge himself in a halibut steak, a rare treat for him, given how expensive fish could be. Judy got herself a salad to start and a veggie stir-fry for the main course.

“Enjoying yourself there, slick?” Asked Judy between bites.
“Oh yeah. Chicken’s good and all, but nothing beats a nice, tasty fish,” he replied. “And both are a huge step up from insects. What about you? Enjoying your rabbit food?”

“It’s delicious,” she smiled. “But, correct me if I’m wrong, don’t you also eat your fair share of ‘rabbit food?’” She asked with a grin.

“Ah! You got me with the omnivore card!” He replied with a grin. “Yes, I do. And your rabbit food smells wonderful.”

They concluded their dinner with some coconut milk ice cream topped with fresh fruit, and then they each paid for their own respective meals.
They left the restaurant and went back to the train station. While they walked, Nick reminisced on how much he wished that this had been an actual date. He lived in this part of town so he would just walk home, but Judy needed the monorail to get back to her apartment. While they walked, Nick began to notice her scent. It was the same pleasant, sweet, earthy scent that he had gotten to know so well over the last few years on the job with her. The walk was over all too soon for him.

But he did. Judy still had to get on her train. He sighed and took a moment to sit down on the bench in the station. Nick had all these feelings swirling around inside him that the fox was too tired to deal with. The fact that he was attracted to prey was nothing new, Nick had figured out when he was in high school that details like species or gender didn’t really matter to him, although he did have a strong lean towards prey mammals. How Nick felt about Judy, that was another matter entirely. Nick knew he liked her, a lot, but he wasn’t sure if those feelings were platonic, romantic, sexual, some combination thereof, or what. He sighed again and stood up before heading back to his apartment.

***

Meanwhile, in the Savannah Central Happytown

A lion looked over the crates in front of him with wide eyes. He had shaved patches of fur with tattoos beneath, marking him as a member of the East Savannah Pride gang. “Shit, so you’re really selling this kind of hardware on the cheap?” He asked. The crates in front of him were filled with guns, all top-of-the-line military-grade hardware. Everything from assault rifles to explosives was contained within the packing materials.

“Of course,” replied the zebra in front of him, dressed in a crisp suit. “Everyone has to start somewhere, right?” he asked, trying to hide his disgust at having to show the chomper in front of him any kind of respect.

“What about ammo?” Asked the lion.

“We’ll give you some for free to start out,” he explained. “Call it a gesture of goodwill.” ‘I hope you fucking choke on it,’ he thought. The zebra took a moment to remind himself that this was all for the greater good.

“You’re amazing,” smirked the lion. “I’ll take it all.” He snapped his claws, and a pair of lionesses came over and opened two briefcases, packed to the brim with dollar bills.

The zebra took the cases, trying not to flinch as his hooves were forced to touch their paws. He walked away with the money as the predator gang began loading up the weapons into pickup trucks and SUVs to haul them out to whatever hole they called their home base. He didn’t care. If everything went according to plan, predators like them would soon be in their proper place in society.

Claw knew what he was doing.

On the other side of the Savannah Central Happytown, an associate of his was working out a similar deal with another predator gang, a Hyena gang called The Westside Savannah Spots selling them the same weapons with a similar deal. With any luck, the ensuing gang war would generate the kind of response they were looking for, and the first step to a proper society would be taken.

It was only a matter of time.

Chapter Text

The next day, Nick and Judy met up outside her apartment. Nick always took the tram and then met up with her. This time, though, as opposed to wearing his ZPD Uniform, Nick was wearing a soft green button-down shirt with a darker green tie and a light brown blazer with a pair of tan slacks. Judy, meanwhile, had opted for a pair of grey pants with a matching jacket and a pale lavender shirt. Nick had also chosen to wear his badge on a necklace while Judy had her clipped to her belt.

"I will never understand how you can be so energetic in the mornings," grumbled Nick as he nursed his coffee.

"It's called being crepuscular," she replied with a smile. "But really it just means that I need my coffee later in the day than you, Mr. Nocturnal. Besides, if it bothers you so much, why haven't you changed to the Nocturnal shift?" She asked.

"What? And leave my bunny all alone? Potentially with a partner that doesn't make you look good?"

She jumped up, and playfully punched his shoulder. "I don't need you to make me look good."

Nick internally groaned. Damn right she didn't. "Come on, we both know that you'd fall apart in a week without me there to keep you company."

Judy fired back. "Oh, please. You're the one who needs me."

That actually made Nick freeze for a moment. He knew that she was just bantering with him, but at the same time, she was absolutely, totally right. He did need her. He needed his bunny. He shook himself out of it. "Alright, fine. You win this round," he conceded. "But only because I'm too tired to bring out my A-game."

They had finally arrived at Precinct One. The impressive building loomed over them. They had seen this view many times before, but now they were detectives. It somehow made the building feel… smaller.

"After you, Carrots," he said, opening the door for her.

Clawhauser was behind his desk, waiting for Nick and Judy to arrive. "Nick! Judy!" He called. "Bogo wants to see the two of you right away!"

"Before Roll Call?" Asked Judy.

"Yeah! He says that it's of the utmost importance." Clawhauser looked side to side. "He was in a really scary mood. Something awful must have happened."

Nick and Judy exchanged a nervous glance.

Judy spoke up first. "We'll head to his office right now. Come on, Slick."

"Right. See ya, Spots."

Nick and Judy went to Bogo's office and knocked on the door. A moment later, Bogo's voice came through, telling them to enter.

Bogo was hunched over piles of work and paper. He looked like he hadn't gotten much sleep.

"Hopps, Wilde, you two have some interesting luck…" he mused. He sighed and began reading off the case notes. "At around one in the morning, Two predator gangs had a gunfight in the middle of the Savannah Central Happytown," he began. "The East Savannah Pride and the Westside Spots entered into a brutal gang war," he explained. "Bad enough in itself, but even worse were the weapons." He handed them each a file. "They were all using military-grade weapons. Assault rifles, shotguns, even hand grenades."

"Oh, Karma…" muttered Nick. "Street Gangs with that kind of firepower… Not a pretty picture."

"Dozens of gang members dead, massive property damage, this is priority one!" He emphatically stated. "Now. I would have loved to start the two of you off on a smaller case, something much more straightforward and low-profile while you learn the ropes. However, Mayor Swinton herself requested the two of you to handle the case. And, unlike almost all of her other decisions, I agree with this one. The two of you are minor celebrities in the city. Mammals don't necessarily recognize you on the street, but everyone knows about Hopps and Wilde, the first bunny and the first fox on the ZPD. Individually, you're both symbols of progress, and together, you two are a shining example of the unity between species that this city is supposed to champion.

"Both the mayor and I agree that having the two of you take the helm on this case is an excellent way to remind the city what it's supposed to be."

Judy nodded, more determined than ever. "I promise sir, we won't let you down. We'll get to the bottom of this."

"I'll hold you to that," he replied. "Now, get out there and make this city a little less broken."

The duo nodded and got up to leave his office.

"By the way, you have a new car, unmarked, department issue," he told them, tossing them a set of keys. "Don't wreck it, and report to Wolford and Fangmeyer in the Savannah Central Happytown."

"Yes, sir!" Replied Judy, snatching the keys and walking off.

Nick followed her out of the door, closing it behind him. "Damn… Bogo actually agreeing with Swinton? I'm pretty sure that's one of the signs of the apocalypse."

Judy snorted at that. "Come on, Nick. Be serious. We have a critically important case." She looked a little embarrassed. "Hey so… What's a 'Happytown?' I've never heard of any place called that."

Nick was thoroughly stunned at that. "You… you're joking. Right?"

She shook her head. "Explain it to me while we go and get the car."

Nick nodded and began to follow her. "Okay, Happytowns… bit of a sore subject, probably why you've never heard of them. I'm going to assume you know about TAME Collars? The glorified Shock collars that predators used to have to wear to control their 'savage urges?'" He asked.

Judy nodded. She had heard of those. "I can't believe that anything like that ever existed in Zootopia! It's… it's sickening!"

Nick gave a bitter chuckle. "Believe it or not, they were considered extremely progressive at the time they were introduced." He saw Judy stop walking and look at him with a stunned expression on her face. "Let me explain. See, when TAME Collars were first introduced, they were spun as a more 'progressive-'" Nick put an incredible amount of sarcastic emphasis on that word "-alternative to the widespread segregation that existed basically everywhere else."

Nick put on an old-timey announcer voice "'Come and live in Zootopia! No segregation, live side-by-side with prey in the same neighborhood! Send your kids to the same schools! Work the same jobs! Anyone can be anything in Zootopia! And all you have to do is wear these dinky little collars that won't even do anything unless you go savage and start attacking prey!'" He barely contained a snarl. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you what they were actually like. Shock collars that would zap you if you got even a little worked up."

"But predators don't just 'go savage!'" Protested Judy.

"Of course they don't," agreed Nick. "But since everyone, including a lot of predators." He sighed. "Repeat a lie over and over enough, and eventually, mammals will forget that it's a lie. A lot of predators saw themselves as ticking time bombs, they thought that they might go crazy and start mauling prey at any moment. Some mammals, like my grandparents, actually saw the collars as a godsend. Something to keep them in check."

Nick and Judy got to the garage and found the car. It was about the same size as their old police cruiser. Judy hopped into the driver seat while Nick climbed into the passenger seat.

"So what does this have to do with Happytowns?" Asked Judy.

"Well, you see, in the sixties, a lot of Civil Rights in the United States of Animalia leaders like Martin Leopard King Junior began campaigning to end segregation, and dispel the 'savage predator' myth. Zootopia, as an independent city-state, was largely unaffected by this; especially since TAME collars meant that segregation didn't exist. However, during the seventies, many of those leaders turned their attention towards Zootopia, and the TAME Collars suddenly became very unpopular. The City Council would have probably been thrilled to have just gotten rid of them to preserve the 'city of progress' image they loved so much, there was a bit of a wrinkle.

"See, TAME Collars were making some powerful manufacturing corporations a lot of money. So when that gravy train was threatened, they fought tooth and nail to defend it. They put a lot of money into lobbying and got the City Council to agree to a sort of compromise."

Judy was capable of putting two and two together. "The Happytowns."

"Right you are Carrots. See, Happytowns, or, to use their official name 'Predator Freedom Districts,' were basically these fenced-off neighborhoods inside each of Zootopia's districts where Predators could live. Once you were within the fence, your TAME Collar was deactivated, and you were free to enter and leave as you pleased."

"But how is that not just segregation with extra steps?" She asked.

"Hey, no one was forced to live there," he remarked. "Sure, your alternative was to live the entire rest of your life with a collar that would shock you every time you got even a little excited, but hey, details."

"What are they like?" She asked, trying to remember what little she had heard about them in school. They had been glossed over, so she only knew the absolute basics.

"Well, at first they weren't too bad. A mammal could eke out a pretty decent living. My dad actually set up shop in the Nocturnal District Happytown and became a pretty successful Tailor," he replied. "But they got worse and worse as time went on. By the time the eighties rolled around, they were full-blown slums, glorified ghettos for predators."

"What happened to them?" Asked Judy.

"Pressure. Both from inside and outside Zootopia. Civil Rights leaders kept for an end to the TAME Collars. Popular opinion soured further. Eventually, the US government threatened to rescind the 'open borders' arrangement, as well as the promise of military protection, that they have with Zootopia. That was the death knell for both the TAME Collars and the Happytowns. There are a lot of things, both necessities and luxury items, that Zootopia imports from the USA, and at that point, supporting the Collars and Happytowns was political suicide.

"The fences were torn down, and anyone who could afford to get out got out. This happened in either the late eighties or early nineties. I can't remember off the top of my head. You would have been just a baby if you were even born yet. I was just a little kit at the time, not even ten years old. I just barely managed to avoid having to wear a collar of my own. Lucky me." He looked out the window. "Nowadays, most of them have been gentrified, the only ones that still resemble their former ghetto selves are Savannah Central, Tundratown, Sahara Square, and the Nocturnal district."

Judy drove in silence for a while. A lot of this was new information to her. "You mean to tell me… that pretty much the only reason that TAME Collars and Happytowns aren't a thing anymore is that the United States of Animalia pressured the City Council into giving them up? That's… horrible. They only put an end to them because it was too politically inconvenient to support them."

Nick looked at her. She had an expression of guilt and sadness on her face. It killed Nick to see her this upset. He hated not having the bright, energetic supercop that he fell in love with by his side. "Hey, Judy. Don't beat yourself up. No one expected an unborn fetus to fight for the rights of predators. What happened all those years ago isn't your responsibility. All you can really do is not repeat the mistakes of the past."

"I did…" she muttered. "I went in front of a bunch of cameras and said that predators were going savage because of their 'biology.' How… how did you manage to forgive me after that?"

"Time… time and understanding. I was angry at first, furious," he told her. "Then, as the months passed, I realized that you weren't hateful, just… ignorant. When I saw you at the bridge after those months, I wanted to see if you had changed. When you apologized the way you did, that was enough for me. You learned, you grew, and most importantly, you tried to fix your mistake," he explained. "And even better, you did so successfully."

"Even though I nearly broke everything?"

"What's that thing Buffalo Butt always says? 'The world's always been broken'? He's right. It was broken before, and thanks to you, it got a little more broken, and then a little less broken. You have to stop trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders."

Judy said nothing, mulling over everything that they had discussed as she drove. Then she thought about something. "Bogo said it would only be bad if prey species started dying," she pointed out. "Isn't that kind of speciesist?" She asked.

"Ehh… Not really," explained Nick. "Taken out of context, absolutely. But what he meant was that if innocent prey mammals start getting killed in the crossfire between two predator gangs it will give prey supremacist groups a TON of ammo to fuel their anti-pred rhetoric," he explained to her. "A lot of the most hardline anti-pred groups are perfectly content to watch predators kill each other. However, if prey mammals start getting killed, it's going to kick that particular hornet's nest. Hard."

***

Soon, they were in the Savannah Central Happytown, near where the gang war had broken out. It looked like a warzone. Buildings were scorched and blown out, shattered glass shards were everywhere, spent shells riddled the ground and well over a dozen chalk outlines were spread all over the street and sidewalks.

Wolford saw them and waved them over. "Detectives," he greeted.

"Hell of a mess, huh?" Asked Nick, surveying the damage. "Chief gave us the cliff's notes."

"Well, here's the novel. At approximately one in the morning, the Savannah Spots, a Hyena gang, were ambushed by the Savannah Central Pride, a gang consisting primarily of lions, with some other large cat species as well. The Pride was expecting to have the upper hand, but the Spots also possessed similar military-grade weapons. The whole thing turned into a massacre for both sides." He explained.

Fangmeyer approached. "We recovered some of the weapons," she spoke with a deep contralto. "But it's not good. No serial numbers. They haven't been scratched off, they were never there in the first place. So we have no idea where they came from. As far as we know, they weren't even made in this country."

Judy sighed. "So tracking them from the source is out, but it does suggest that they had help from inside the factory that was making these."

"Or factories," suggested Nick. "They could come from multiple sources. Without the numbers, we have no way of knowing. Hell, for all we know, it could be some kind of underground production, Ghost Guns, and Ninety-Percenters."

"You two are the leads in this case," reminded Wolford. "What is your next move?"

"Canvass the area and see if anyone saw anything. Then we track down the gang members and see if any of them will talk," answered Judy.

"And put out feelers for anything suspicious. I'll reach out to my CIs and see if any of them know anything," added Nick. "Between that and the canvassing, we should be able to find at least one lead."

"Good thinking," smiled Fangmeyer. "You two apply the same level of care and effort to detective work as you did patrol and you'll make fantastic detectives."

"Yeah…" She trailed off as she looked over the crime scene. When she took it all in it was kind of staggering. Well over a dozen thinking, feeling, breathing mammals, all dead. She had seen stuff like this before, but never on this scale. Their patrols rarely took them to this part of town. She wondered if that was part of the problem.

"Carrots?" He asked, walking over to her. "Judy?"

That shook her out of it. Nick so rarely used her given name. "Yeah, I'm okay," she replied, shaking her head. "Just, shocking is all."

"Gonna be dangerous. Taking on serious gun runners," he warned.

Judy nodded in agreement.

"Scared?" Teased Nick, desperate to break the tension. "It's okay, I understand if your… delicate sensibilities can't handle it. Just leave it to me: Nick Wilde: Sexy Supercop Extraordinaire! All the tods want to be him, all the vixens want to be with him. Hell, even some of the tods want to be with him."

Judy gave a snort of laughter at that. "Please, we both know that if anyone here has 'delicate sensibilities, it's you. I remember how you reacted when you saw your first murder victim."

"I only threw up because I had a stomach bug," he protested. That was his story, and he was sticking to it.

"Sure. Just tell me if you're scared," teased Judy. "I'll let you spend the case on housetod duty. Keeping my apartment clean while I bring home the tofu."

Nick's mind briefly froze at the vague suggestion of marriage to Judy, but he recovered quickly and returned fire. "BugBacon or I divorce you," he warned. "I'll do anything for love carrots, except eat tofu."

Judy laughed at that, the last of the tension flooding out of her body. Nick always knew how to make her relax. "I needed that," she admitted, giving a smile that made his heart skip.

"Sure thing, Carrots," he replied with a confident smirk.

They started knocking on doors in the immediate area, asking if any of the residents had heard or seen anything. The general response was that they were too scared for their own lives to do anything besides cower in fear of the war raging outside.

Meanwhile, Nick made a few calls to various contacts from before he was a cop and none of them had anything immediate for him, but some of them, like Finnick, promised to keep an ear to the ground.

"Now Finnick, there is a finite amount of ground in Zootopia, you know that, right?" He teased

"Up your's Wilde!" Screamed Finnick before hanging up the phone.

"Can you please not antagonize people who might help us solve the case?" Asked Judy, rolling her eyes.

"Relax, Finnick and I have a great back and forth," he reassured her. "You should know this by now."

"I mean, I'm always just surprised when you two act like arch enemies but always come through for each other. Why is that?"

Nick sighed. "Finnick is like a brother to me. We rib each other, we fight, but at the end of the day, he is literally one of only two mammals in this entire karma-damned city to whom I would entrust my life with zero hesitation."

Judy considered what he had said. She recalled some of her brothers having similar relationships, so she could understand it.

"And Finnick feels the same way about me. We fight all the time, but that's just us being guys. When the chips are down, we will both always be there for each other, even if I am with 'the fuzz' now."

"Wow, I never knew. I mean, I knew you were friends, but that's... Wait, only me and him? What about the other cops at the precinct?" She asked. "Do you know something?"

"No," he answered. "But I would definitely be thinking long and hard about trusting them with my life. I just don't know them well enough."

Judy thought long and hard about that as they drove back to the precinct, a bit stunned by how much Nick trusted her.

"Judy," he got her attention.

"Yeah?"

"Be careful on this one. I mean it. We're not beat cops anymore. We're gonna be fighting more than jumped-up street trash." He sighed and took off his sunglasses to look directly at her. "I mean it. Serial Killers, Gunrunners, professional killers, this is the big leagues. I trust you to always have my back. Do you trust me with the same?"

"Nick! How could you even-"

"I trust you, I just need to hear you say it, okay? For me?" He asked, pleading with her. He had taken off his sunglasses. His eyes locked with hers, his pupils had narrowed into slits. "Just tell me you'll be there for me."

Judy wasn't sure where this was coming from, and it worried her a bit. Nick never let anything get to him, at least, not in any obvious way. She looked back at him. "I promise I'll be there for you."

He sighed and leaned back in the passenger seat. "Thanks, Fluff," he told her, smiling. "It means a lot to me."

Judy smiled and parked the car. They had a lot of files to go through, they needed to learn who died in the shootout and who these gangs were.

"You go ahead, Carrots, I'll grab us some coffee. I think we're gonna need it."

"Decaf for me!" She called as she hopped off. She had had caffeine exactly once in her life, it didn't go well. She had been up for days, unable to sleep, before brutally crashing.

Nick left and found that the break room was mercifully empty. He put on a pot of decaf for her and decided that this was a great place and time to let things out. Nick collapsed in a chair and let out a deep breath. He never let anything get to him. Not in any way that anyone could see. But that crime scene really shook him up. He hadn't seen violence like that since…

He slammed the door on that thought with a shudder. He buried his face in his paws and sagged as the coffee maker bubbled. He was scared, really scared. This was way bigger than anything they had ever tackled in the past. He was scared for Judy and himself. But mostly Judy. She was eager, energetic, and had a tendency to dive into things headfirst. That had gotten her a bit hurt in the past, but now that they were working much more serious cases, he was worried it would get her badly hurt. The gravity of what they were tackling hadn't hit him until they had gotten back to the precinct.

Or worse. Nick didn't like to dwell on this, but when it came to Judy's safety, he thought of himself as expendable. He knew that it wasn't at all healthy to think that way, and he knew that Judy would probably slap him if he ever said it to her, but the thought of losing Judy was too painful for him to even contemplate. He knew that most officers would probably take a bullet for another officer, but this was different. Nick knew that he would endure any pain, any torture, if it meant keeping Judy safe.

And that thought scared him.

Back in the bullpen, Judy had set up a whiteboard for them to use. Their desks were pushed right up together, facing each other. Because of the size of the building and everything in it, they had a ton of surface area between the two of them.

"Okay, how about you look over the files on the Spots, and I'll look over the files on the Pride?" She suggested.

"Divide and conquer, huh? Works for me."

They split up the files and began skimming through them. Soon the only sound was the scratching of pens as they wrote notes on the sheets of paper, broken only by the sound of a sip from a mug.

***

Mayor Swinton reclined in her chair as she spoke on the phone. "Last night went extremely well," She spoke into the device. "How about Tundratown? Is that all set to go?"

"Of course," replied a heavily-modulated voice on the other side. "The deal will go down on schedule next week. After Tundratown and the Nocturnal District are in flames, we should be all set to begin phase two."

"And then into a future where everything is coming up Swinton," She remarked with a smirk.

"Of course, I trust my money is on the way?"

"I'll make sure the drop is completed as discussed," she promised. "I was skeptical when you approached me, but I really like how this is all coming together."

"I am a businessman, Miss Swinton. And I know an opportunity when I see one. Lionheart was too straight, and Bellwether was-" a pause. "Are you sure about the detectives working the case?"

"Relax, I have a pair of rookie detectives who got lucky once. By the time they even start to get a sniff of anything going on, it'll be too late," she brushed off his concerns. "Anyway, I have to go. Talk later?"

"I'll be in touch." The line went dead.

"Weirdo," she scoffed before looking over her desk. She picked up a file. Big, black letters covered the front. "Tactical Utility Servicemen in Kevlar." She smirked at it and put it down.

"Everything's coming up Swinton," she repeated softly before serving herself a drink out of an expensive crystal decanter. She swirled it around, hearing the ice cubes clink against the matching tumbler before taking a sip of the outrageously expensive scotch.

"'Bout time too."

Chapter Text

Hours later, Nick and Judy had done enough work to justify heading home. Bogo had given them some pretty generous overtime privileges, but they didn't want to push their luck.

“Yeah, see you later.” Judy waved and left for her apartment.

Nick took the train back to his apartment in the Rainforest District. He went into his bedroom and grabbed a box out from under his bed. He opened it to inspect the contents and then nodded to himself. He heard an engine backfire, followed by a honk, meaning that Finnick was there. He grabbed the box and carried it to the van.

“Hey Fin,” he greeted. “You ready?” He asked.

“For the night. Yeah. For listening to your pussy ass whining all night? No.”

“I missed you, Fin,” he smirked.

“Yeah, yeah.”

They drove in silence for a little bit. “So you manage to get your knot into your fuckbunny yet?”

Nick rolled his eyes and looked at him. “You know that we don’t have that kind of relationship.” Finnick was the only mammal besides his own mother who knew about Nick’s sexuality. Even then, the only reason Finnick knew was that he had caught Nick red-handed, so to speak.

“But you want that kind of relationship, right?” He smirked at his former con partner.

“No comment.”

“Whatever you say,” he replied. “Doesn’t change the fact that you want her to use those handcuffs of hers on you.”

“I am not going to sit here and take that from someone whose idea of foreplay involves a binky, onesie and a ‘Mommy.’” Nick fired back as Finnick stopped the van at a red light.

The two of them stared each other down for a little bit, and then both burst out laughing. “Okay, okay, glad to see that being a cop hasn’t made you go soft.”

“Please, I may be straight right now. But I’m still Slick Nick,” he replied with a grin. Not a smile, a grin that showed off his fangs. This was part of why he liked hanging out with Finnick. When it was just them, they didn’t need to hide their fangs. “Seriously, how have you been?”

“Not too bad,” he replied. “Van’s holding up, Cherry’s doing well. Can’t complain.”

“Good.”

“How’s detective life treating you?” He asked.

“You know about that?” He asked. “How?”

“I follow your bunny on Muzzlebook.”

“Ah.” That was all the explanation Nick needed. Judy had been posting about their promotion non-stop ever since they had learned about it.

“Now you’re speaking my language!” Replied Finnick as he pulled into the parking lot of the Archery Range.

Nick popped open the box he had brought with him and grabbed a bow out of it, a forest-green colored compound bow. Finnick also grabbed his, a tan-colored one, and they walked into the range, grabbing some arrows as they paid for an hour of range time.

***

Judy sighed and closed the door to her apartment and closed the door. She changed out of her work clothes and threw them in the dirty laundry hamper. She put on a comfortable pair of shorts and a loose-fitting tank top. She then sat down on her bed and opened her laptop. She started scrolling through Pawflix to find something mindless. She needed something to help her get out of “cop mode.” One of the things she envied about Nick was how easily he could switch off at the end of the day. He took his job seriously, but as soon as they clocked out, he stopped being Officer Wilde and just became Nick.

Before she had time to linger on those thoughts, her phone rang. It was her parents, trying to Muzzletime her. She answered the call with a smile.

“Jude, Jude The Detective Dude!” Greeted Stu.

Her mother chimed in a little bit later. “We’re so proud of you, honey.”

“Thanks, you guys.”

“Now Judy,” began her mother, speaking in the stereotypical “worried mom” voice. “Your job is going to get harder-”

“Not to mention more dangerous!” Interrupted Stu.

“-So please, just remember that you have a responsibility to yourself, don’t work too many late nights, okay? We love how driven you are, but you can’t help anyone if you work yourself sick.”

Stu chimed in again. “Is Nick still your partner?” He asked. “I swear, that fox is the only mammal on Firth’s fertile earth that can pull you away from work.”

“Yes, dad. Nick is still my partner,” she told them. “And yeah, I suppose he is.”

She recalled one particular incident when Nick had been out sick. She stayed late at work to finish up her paperwork and ended up falling asleep at her desk. The night shift woke her up and sent her home. Bogo gave her an earful the next day about “unauthorized overtime.”

“So what’s your first case? Nothing too dangerous, I hope?” Inquired Stu.

“Dad, you know I can’t share details about ongoing investigations,” she reminded him, dodging the question. “But I promise that I’ll be safe. I’ve got Nick and the entire rest of the Precinct watching my back.”

“Okay baby. We won’t take up any more of your time, please try to get some rest, alright? And make sure you’re eating well! And drinking plenty of water!”

“Alright, mom. Promise. Bye!” She ended the call with a smile. Talking to her parents always helped her relax. She really did miss them, and Bunnyburrow, quite a bit.

She wondered what Nick and Finnick were doing on their guys’ night out.

***

Nick grinned as his arrow hit the bullseye. Nick and Finnick had a bet going on, whoever got the most bullseyes had to pay for the drinks. “I’m up by two, big guy,” he taunted. “Better start getting serious.”

Finnick grumbled and nocked another arrow. He pulled back the string and let the arrow loose. It hit the bullseye, dead center. “You were saying?”

“Still up by one,” he reminded Finnick. “And there aren’t a lot of arrows left. Better hope I choke!”

“Hope you choke on what?” He teased. “I’m pretty sure I saw a glory hole in the men’s room if you’re that hard up.”

“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Nick nocked an arrow and let it fly. It missed the bullseye. “Damn,” he deadpanned.

“Uh, Oh! Looks like Big Finnick is on the rise!” His diminutive friend laughed.

“Laugh it up, by the end of the night, you’ll be the one paying for the drinks.”

***

Judy went to bed shortly after she ended the call with her parents. Talking to them had helped her relax a bit, and then a few episodes of a brainless sitcom helped further. She shut her laptop off and set it off to the side.

She moved her myriad of stuffed bunnies around to make herself comfortable and then grabbed the latest addition to her plushie pile: a stuffed red fox. It had been a present from Nick to celebrate a full year as partners on the force. He had gotten it as a joke, called it “something to feed her crippling, insatiable plushie habit.” she still accepted it, though.

She had bought the stuffed rabbits after her first few days in the city, just a few at first. She hadn’t been used to sleeping alone, and the stuffed rabbits had helped with that. And then her collection had grown over the years, she now had over a dozen bunnies and a single fox.

She held the fox close to her and fell into a contented sleep.

***

Nick ended up losing and bought a six-pack for him and Finnick to share out of the back of his van.

“So what has Cherry been up to anyway?” He asked Finnick. “She still trying to get you to move out of your van?”

“Yeah,” he replied, looking down at his can of beer. “Cherry still wants me to move in with her.”

Cherry was an arctic vixen. She and Finnick had met at a strip club. A client had tried to get frisky with her while the Bouncer was busy. Finnick helped her out, and they had been in an on-again-off-again relationship ever since. Cherry had hit it off with him because he was the only guy she ever dated that didn’t judge her for her occupation. However, his lack of steady income, along with his living situation, had put a damper on their relationship.

“Then do it!” Nick replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Look. I took a leap of faith with this whole Cop thing, and it paid off! Maybe you really going after that relationship with Cherry would work out as well.”

“I… I don’t know man, I like Cherry, but I don’t know, this seems… Serious… I’m…“ he sighed. “I’m scared.”

“I get it,” replied Nick. Leaning back. “You’re not sure you’re ready for a real relationship.”

“I’m still figuring out if I’m even capable of having one!” He replied. “I’m a small-time hustler! I barely graduated high school! No college degree, no real work experience beyond some entry-level burger-fippin’!” He sighed. “What kind of place would hire me?”

“You ever consider trying to be a mechanic?” suggested Nick. “You’ve kept this van running for years past when it should have crapped out on you. You could get a good job in a garage somewhere, Bet they would love a guy like you to get into all those tight spaces they bigger guys can’t reach.”

“You callin’ me short Wilde?” He asked, not able to muster up his usual venom with regards to his height. “I bet they would keep me for a week before some stuff goes missing and they blame the fox,” he scoffed.

“What if you had someone there on your side?” Asked Nick.

That got his attention. “You suggestin’ that I try and work at one of Mr. Big’s places?” he asked, wary. “Look, I may be willin’ to bend the law, but working in one of is chop-shops is way over the line for me.”

“No. Work for the ZPD.”

Finnick looked at Nick for a moment before he burst out laughing. “What? You want me to become a cop?!” He asked, doubled over. “Yeah! That’ll be the fuckin’ day!”

Nick patiently waited for Finnick to calm down before he spoke again. “No. Fleet Mechanic.” Upon seeing Finnick’s confused expression, he continued. “See, the ZPD maintains a fleet of police vehicles. Cars, vans, motorcycles, et cetera. These cars are essential to how the ZPD operates, so they need to keep them well-maintained. And since appearances are important, any damage, even superficial damage needs to get repaired quickly.”

Finnick didn’t say anything, but it was clear that he was thinking about it.

“I could put in a good word for you, same with Judy, and you’ve been a CI for the last two years, so the chief knows that you’re cool.”

“I’ll think about it.”

Nick knew that was all he was going to get out of Finnick tonight, so he decided to drop it. “Karma… we both suck at relationships, huh?” He asked.

“Yeah. Why the fuck we gotta fall in love with females way too good for us?”

“Maybe because we spent our lives as conmammals and ripped tons of other mammals off?” He suggested. “And this is the goddess’s way of punishing us?”

“The day I believe that is the day I actually do become a fuckin’ cop.”

***

Judy woke up the next morning bright and early and ready for work. She showered and got dressed. She opened up her bathroom mirror and grabbed some scent blocker. After rolling it on, she reached for a bottle of pills. Once she picked it up, she realized, to her horror, that it was empty. “Oh, crackers…” She had meant to buy more suppressants, but the case had occupied her mind entirely since yesterday. It had just slipped her mind. Even worse, the only drugstore nearby that sold them didn’t open until seven.

Judy took a deep breath and tried to calm down. This wasn’t the end of the world. She just had to get through one day and then she could swing by the drugstore on her way back home. Easy. She just hoped that Nick wouldn’t be able to smell that something was amiss. She grabbed a spray can of scent blocker and gave herself another quick spray.

Better safe than sorry.

***

Judy saw Nick standing there at Precinct One, holding two cups of coffee. “Morning partner,” she chirped. “Ready to make the world a safer place?” She asked, holding out her fist for a fist-bump.

Nick smiled and looked at her, her enthusiasm always made him feel warm. “You know it Fluff. Here, decaf.” He handed her a rabbit-sized cup of decaf with carrot creamer, so he had a free hand to return her fist bump. “Did you have a scent blocker accident this morning? I could smell it before you even walked into the precinct.”

Judy froze. She had no idea how to answer his question. Luckily, she was saved by the bell. Or Hippo, in this case.

“A-TEEEEN-HUT!” Shouted Higgins. Bogo walked into the room shortly after.

“Alright! No time for funny business! We have violent street gangs with military-grade weapons and no clue where they are coming from!” He reminded all of them. “This is Priority One, Two, and Three Hopps! Wilde! You had better have something.”

They got up, and Nick gave Judy a boost so she could stand on top of the lectern that the Chief used for the morning assignments. At her signal, Nick dimmed the lights and turned on the projector.

“This is Darius Fangson, also known as ‘Big D,’” began Judy at the image of the lion that cable up on the projector. He was tall and broad, with a splotchy, irregular red dye job around his claws and muzzle, supposed to be evocative of blood splatters. A popular thing among young street-tough preds who wanted to look intimidating. “He’s one of the big players in the Pride that is confirmed to still be alive. We want him found and brought in for questioning.” She began. “We know that he frequents several establishments, such as a liquor store on the corner of third and Pack Street and a strip club known as ‘The Kitty Klub,’ and that he lives in the fifth street projects.” She flicked through the relevant slides as she spoke.

“Second POI is Franklin Cubbs,” she explained as the picture of a lanky hyena popped onto the screen. “He’s one of the bigger members of the Spots. He has a pretty sizeable record and is a bit skittish. So he might go to ground to stay out of sight. He mostly hangs out at his home in the eighth street apartments and the gang’s hideout somewhere near the edge of the Happytown where it meets with Sahara Square. Apparently, their leader likes the warm climate of Sahara Square. We don’t have an exact location, so we’re going to cast a wide net and have several unmarked patrol cars in the general vicinity. For the other places, one unmarked car for each location. You see either of them bring them in. We have plenty of probable cause so don’t be afraid to slap the cuffs on them.”

Nick spoke up next. “You will all receive files with all the relevant information you need.” He gestured to a stack of files next to him. “Don’t worry, Hopps proofread the parts I wrote, so I assure you that you won’t have to deal with my terrible jokes in the files.”

Judy hopped off of the lectern and hefted up a stack of red case tiles that was bigger than she was, which Bogo took with one hoof.

“You heard Wilde. Come here and take the files with your assignments.”

The red folders were handed out to various officers and detectives, and when they were all finished, the rest of the bullpen was given assignments unrelated to the case Hopps and Wilde were working on. When everyone had left, they met with the chief in private. Nick had something he wanted to discuss with him.

“Make it quick Wilde. I’m swamped.”

“Chief, I was thinking last night, and I think things are about to get a lot worse.” He began. “Two street gangs in the same place at the same time, each getting this kind of firepower? There’s no way that was a coincidence. I think there’s something bigger going on.”

“You think I’m naïve Wilde? Of course, there is. All the more reason to find the dealer of dealers and bring them down quickly. The sooner we find out what’s really going on, the sooner we can shut it down.” He sighed. “Still, good job coming to that conclusion all on your own. Maybe you are a good detective, after all.”

“Wow, chief, that was almost a compliment.”

“Solve this case, and you might get a real one,” he replied. “Now get back to work.”

“Yes, sir.” Judy grabbed Nick and dragged him away.

“Well, Carrots? Shall we?” He asked as they got into their unmarked car and buckled up.

“We shall.” She started the car and drove them away. “Let do this!”

***

“Ugh! This is so boring,” she moaned for the third time in the last hour. They were sitting outside the building that Cubbs stayed at. “How has he not shown his face yet?” She asked.

“We expected this, Carrots,” Replied Nick as he snacked on some grasshopper fries from BuggaBurger. “After a stunt like that, it makes sense that he would go to ground. This gut isn’t big or strong, but he is smarter than your average gangster. That’s how he went so far.”

“I know but how is this not unbearable to you?”

“Maybe it’s a predator thing?” He suggested, half-joking. “We lie in wait… waiting for our prey. And when we see them… we POUNCE!” He fake-lunged at her

“Nick!” Judy laughed. “Come on! Be serious.” She admonished. “So what was that talk with Bogo about? Do you really think that there’s some kind of conspiracy?” She asked.

“‘Conspiracy’ might be a strong word,” he replied with a shrug. “It might just be an opportunistic arms dealer trying to break into a new market. In any case, if no more gangs in the city turn up with these weapons, I’ll hand in my badge.”

“Dispatch this is car Zulu-118, we have apprehended Darius outside of the Kitty Klub. Bringing him in for questioning. Over.”

“Zulu-118, this is Dispatch,” came Clawhauser. “Solid copy, preparing an interview room for you.”

Judy snatched the radio handset. “Dispatch this is car Zulu-113, Hopps and Wilde, coming into the station for an interview. Over.”

“Solid copy, ready to receive you.”

Judy replaced the handset. “Who goes to a strip club the day after starting a gang war?” She asked incredulously.

“On average, criminals are stupid,” answered Nick.

“Yeah, yeah. Come on Slick. We have a lead to chase.”

“What about Franklin?” He asked.

“We’ll get him another day. Besides, if he hasn’t shown his muzzle yet, then he probably won’t today. We have a perp to interview, and we can always come back and perform another stakeout. Preferably a nighttime one so that we aren’t roasting.”

“All the same…” Judy didn’t want to just leave it like this.

Nick understood. He grabbed the radio. “Attention all cars assigned to Franklin, keep the stakeout going. Cars assigned to Darius join up with them. Hopps and I will need him found in case Darius clams up.”

“This is Car Zulu-115, this is Delgato and Higgins, copy that, we’ll head over and keep watching his house for you two while you head back to the precinct.”

“Solid Copy. Thanks.” He hung up. “What? You honestly thought I was suggesting we just leave? I thought you knew me better than that.”

She grinned in response and punched him in the shoulder. “Let’s get back! We have an interrogation to perform!”

“Police Brutality!” He cried, rubbing his shoulder playfully.

“I prefer to call it ‘tough love,’” she replied with a smirk of her own.

“Just drive, Carrots.”

Chapter Text

Nick and Judy arrived back at Precinct One in record time. They went to Clawhauser and asked where Darius was being held.

"So how do you want to do this Carrots? Devastatingly handsome Good Fox Cop and Aggressive bad bunny cop?"

"Let's do it Slick," She replied as they walked past Clawhauser's desk. "Got any information to give to us?" She asked the chubby cheetah.

"He's mean. They practically had to drag him in here. He was struggling and shouting about how he was going to maul every single cop in the city to death as soon as he got out."

"Thanks, anything else?"

"I think he was on something. That kind of insane aggression isn't normal. Ask Higgins and Delgato if you want anything else."

They learned from the two arresting officers that he was big, mean, and not very bright. Extremely aggressive though, they suspected he had taken some Nightshadow recently, and their suspicions were confirmed when they had caught him trying to ditch it in the backseat of the car. They handed Judy the baggie with a syringe of bright blue liquid in it.

"I hate this stuff," frowned Judy. "Every time we shut down a place two more crop up. Someone wants this junk on the street."

"Can you blame them? It's making a killing. Practically every other pred we bring in has this crap in their systems," replied Delgato. "Lots of predators want to feel like the biggest, strongest guy on the block. This stuff does that. A screwed-up liver is a small price to pay for that, far as they're concerned."

After Bellwether had been put away on multiple criminal charges, including conspiracy, assault, attempted murder, intentional endangerment of mammals, and illegal possession of a class-c botanical substance without a license, Nick and Judy had hoped that Nighthowlers were going to just go away. And Judy honestly believed that they would. Unfortunately, that was not the way the world worked. After a few months, two new street drugs from the substance had hit the streets, a performance enhancement drug known as "Nightshadow," named such because it was a "shadow" of the Nightholwer serum; as well as a more recreational substance known as "Pasture," known to induce feelings of euphoria and extremely heightened suggestiveness in whoever used it.

They were both dangerous in different ways. The former also had its parent's side effect of sparking some nasty aggression in whoever took it, and every now and then, another mauling took place when some predator on Nightshadow got bumped into or had someone look at them the wrong way. While the latter had become popular on the party scene and had also become the date-rape drug of choice among the city's premier scumbags. But out of the two, the Nightshadow was far more prevalent. No matter how many production warehouses were shut down, they never could get it off the streets.

"Whatever, we have a guy to interrogate."

"Good luck you two. Hope it goes well."

They took a moment to get into character and walked into the interrogation room.

"Darius!" Greeted Nick jovially, almost like they were old friends. "Darius, Darius, Darius. What is happening with you?"

"Bite me, cop."

Judy just scowled at him. Then she began reading him his rights. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?"

"Fuck yourselves," he replied, sneering.

"We'll take that as a 'yes,'" Grinned Nick. "Now, how about you tell us about that shootout in Savannah Square, hmm?"

"Eat my ass. I wasn't there," Darius replied. "Just because my Fam decided to have a little fun, why should I get in trouble for that?"

"If you weren't there, then how about you just tell us where your 'fam' got those guns?" He asked. "Don't deny it. A few predators with those gang tattoos were found with those weapons dead in the street. How about we cut a deal? You tell us where you guys got those guns, and we forget all about that Nightshadow Delgato and Higgins found in the back of their car?" He offered.

"What? You think I'll sell out my boys to get out of a few days in jail?" He scoffed. "Go fuck yourselves."

"Darius, we want to help you and help your 'fam,'" he told him while Judy's scowl deepened. "Your gang is not the only one with those guns. We find the guy, and your rivals won't have them either."

"Still not hearing why I should do shit for you," he spat.

Judy lost her patience hopped into the air and slammed one of her feet down on the steel table with a loud thump, leaving a sizeable dent. "Because if you don't, we are going to NAIL YOU TO THE WALL for a possession charge!"

"So what?" He asked. "You think that I'll sell out my crew just to get out of a few weeks in jail?"

"I know a judge who owes me a favor," bluffed Judy. "Possession could so easily become possession with intent to distribute, and those few weeks in jail become a few years! You want to go to prison?! For half a decade?!"

"What the fuck?!" He demanded. "You really gonna let her roll me like that?!" He demanded angrily, looking at Nick.

Nick picked Judy up and lowered her off of the table.

"What can I say? She's a bit of a maverick. I can't really control her," he smiled. "But I can get her to back off if you help us."

Darius wasn't smart, but he did have some massive balls. "You know what. I don't think that Zootopia's cute little poster bunny is gonna do that. So bring it on. I ain't telling you jack shit."

"Well, I tried," Nick sighed. "We'll be back in a while to charge you. Take a while to think about your decision. And if you really want to take that risk."

"Yeah, go right ahead and skulk the fuck outta here," spat Darius. "Go try and con someone else outta a confession. That's what you do, right? Con Fox?

Judy had been mostly faking her anger with him before, but that was over the line. She used that anger and channeled it into her performance. She stormed back in and jumped onto the table and grabbed the lion by his shirt collar. "Listen here you piece of garbage. That fox has more integrity in one single hair than you have in your entire body!" She scolded him, getting right up in his face. "So how about you take that back, or I leave you in here for a few more hours with a concussion?! Huh?! How does that sound big guy? No one insults My Fox!"

Nick grabbed her and pulled her away from him as she squirmed in his arms. Nick was thankful for his fantastic poker face. If he didn't possess such a gift, he would probably have the biggest, dumbest grin on his face. She had called him "My Fox!"

Nick closed the door and left Darius alone and handcuffed to the table, and then put Judy down on the floor as she fumed. "Relax, Carrots it takes more than that to get to me."

"It's still not right. I should go back in there and set him straight," Judy grumbled, still looking at the door.

Nick took a moment to collect himself. "Look, Carrots, as much as I would enjoy the sight of him taking a leg propelled bunny missile to the muzzle, this situation calls for a bit more tact," he reminded her. "Plus, I'm pretty sure the last thing the department needs right now is a police brutality charge."

Judy huffed but agreed with him.

"I take it that things didn't go so well?" Asked Huggins.

"No good. Darius called our bluff." He told them. "We'll let him stew for a few hours and then maybe you guys can take a crack at it?" He asked.

"Will do."

Judy spoke up next. "In the meantime, we're going to go case out Franklin's apartment and see if anything else comes up."

"Sounds good. We're about to get off our break, we'll take a crack at him. Hopefully, you guys rattled him at least a little."

"Can't win 'em all," Nick sighed. "Hope our other guy comes through."

"Won't know until we catch him." Smiled Judy as she started walking back towards the motor pool.

Nick smiled. Her enthusiasm was infectious.

***

Now that they had Darius, they focused all their efforts on finding Franklin. They were sitting on a street corner in their car in silence, Nick drinking another coffee. He kept the brew close to his nose. It was towards the end of the day, and Judy's scent blocker had started to wear off. Not unusual, but there was something… different about her natural scent. It was doing things to him that he would rather not think about. So he tried to drown it out with the smell of his coffee.

Judy, meanwhile, was sick of the silence. So she decided to ask Nick something that had been bugging her for a while. "Hey Nick, how come you're not dating anyone?" She asked. She was curious. Nick was a handsome tod, had a very respectable job, and was a really nice guy.

Nick almost choked on his coffee when he heard her ask that. "W-what?! Why?" He asked, suddenly feeling defensive. "Why do you want to know?" He asked, trying to kill the faint hope that was starting to ignite in his chest.

"Just curious," she answered. "You're a single fox in Zootopia, and a police officer, you must have some vixens interested in you."

Nick gave a thick swallow. "Not at the moment, no."

"Really? Why not? Don't a lot of women love a man in uniform?" She teased.

"Hey! Plenty of men love a man in uniform." He had just meant it as a joke.

However, Judy read a bit more into it than he intended. "Wait. Nick… are you gay?" She asked him. The words were out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying. "No! Wait! Sorry! That was a really personal question!" She frantically backpedaled. "You don't have to answer. I don't want to know!" Oh crackers, that sounded bad. "I mean. I don't think that there's anything wrong- just… Please don't think I'm a homophobe?" She pleaded, thoroughly mortified.

Nick was staring at her, a bit stunned. "Okay… Do you want a moment to take your foot out of your mouth?" He asked her, teasing her a bit.

Judy folded her ears down over her eyes and covered them with her paws. "Oh, Firth… I'm so embarrassed."

"Judy. It's okay. I know what you meant. And no, I'm not gay." He looked out the window. Judy had just given him an opportunity to come out to her. He really wanted to take it, but he was scared. Not that she would reject him, just afraid of coming out to anyone. The only two mammals who knew about him were Finnick and his mother.

Thankfully, it seemed that Karma had smiled upon him and had provided him with a distraction.

"Hey Carrots, is that our guy?" He asked, looking at a Hyena who had just walked out of the building with a heavy-looking backpack. He was clearly extremely nervous, eyes darting around.

Judy perked up, her earlier embarrassment had been forgotten. She compared the picture in her file with the mammal. He was a perfect match. "Yeah. Let's go get him."

Judy and Nick stepped out of the car and approached Franklin.

***

Franklin was on the verge of tearing his fur out. Last night was not supposed to go down the way it had. Only the Spots were supposed to have that kind of firepower. Now a bunch of the gang was dead, and the cops were undoubtedly looking for him. He had been planning to skip town; and after word on the street was that Darius had been arrested, he decided that he needed to cut his losses and get the fuck out.

He had laid low in his home for a while. Biding his time and grabbing all the cash he had and sticking it in a backpack with a few sets of clothing and getting ready to run. He was hyper-aware of his surroundings and heard a car door slam. He flinched and saw… a fox. Not unusual around here. He took a deep breath and kept walking.

After a few moments, he heard a voice. "Franklin Cubbs, is that you?" He whirled around and saw the fox from earlier a few feet away. He shifted his backpack. "Who wants to know?" He demanded, getting ready to bolt.

The fox took out a badge.

"Detective Nick Wilde of the ZPD. I'm gonna have to ask you to come with me," he said with a grin.

Franklins' fight-or-flight instincts kicked in and he began to back up but stopped when he nearly tripped over something. He looked down and saw a rabbit.

"Oh, did I say 'me?' I meant 'us.'"

That was enough for him. He bolted. Pushing past the fox and rushing down the street. He had no idea where he was going, but Franklin knew he needed to get the hell out of there and away from those cops. He looked over his shoulder and saw the two of them sprinting after him as he ran for it. He pushed over garbage cans, mammals, anything he could get on the ground to hopefully trip them up. He rounded a corner into an alley and threw his bag over a fence and began to rapidly climb it. He heard something from behind him.

"Nick! Do it!"

Franklin dropped off of the top of the fence and seconds later felt something hit him in his upper back. He stumbled and kept running, but something was wrong. His arms felt heavy, and his legs. He began slowing down and soon stumbled again and couldn't regain his balance. He fell. He looked behind him and saw the bunny with her tranq gun empty as they walked over to him and caught their breath. His body felt so heavy. He needed to sleep…

***

Nick and Judy had caught up with him and he, predictably, had tried to run away. They were able to keep pace, and when Franklin attempted to climb the fence, they reacted. Nick ran ahead of her and cupped his hands and gave her a boost. His boost, combined with her jumping ability, had sent her well over the fence, where she used her excellent reflexes to aim and fire her tranquilizer right between Franklin's shoulder blades. His running and elevated heart rate meant that the sedative circulated through his system even faster and he was out for the count in seconds. They cuffed him.

Judy grabbed her radio and called Clawhauser. "Dispatch… this is Hopps and Wilde… We have apprehended… Franklin Cubbs."

"Hopps, this is dispatch, Confirm your location, and we'll have a car right over for the two of you."

"Alleyway connecting eighth and Seventh Street, across from a BuggaBurger."

"Copy that, sending a patrol car to your location."

Nick put his hands on his knees and leaned forward, panting to catch his breath and cool down. "We, we got him, nice workout too."

"Yeah, we-" she stopped short. She just realized that she had never seen Nick pant before. With his mouth open, she noticed just how long and broad his tongue was, and she also saw his teeth. Or fangs, more like. Rows of pure white spikes lined the inside of his mouth, with four huge ones on the top and bottom rows of teeth near the front of his muzzle. The sight of those teeth did something to her, and she spent several seconds just staring at them before Nick noticed and snapped his jaws shut.

"Sorry!" He exclaimed, looking borderline horrified before he remembered that this was Judy, not some bigoted prey. But now there was this awkward atmosphere between them. "I-I'll explain later, okay?" He pleaded, just wanting her to drop it for now.

She nodded silently as the image of his teeth burned itself into her mind. After a few minutes, a patrol car arrived, and Franklin was taken into custody and prepped for interrogation while the tranquilizer wore off.

Chapter Text

After Nick's and Judy's backup arrived, and Franklin had been loaded into a wagon to be taken back to Precinct One, Nick and Judy returned to their car. Judy was practically vibrating with excitement. Sure, discharging her weapon, even if it was just her dart gun, meant a lot of paperwork, but they had nabbed their second POI!

Her enthusiasm, however, was a bit dampened by what had happened earlier. Nick had freaked out after showing her his fangs like that. And she could not for the life of her figure out why. She hoped that she hadn't done anything wrong.

After they got back in the car, they began the drive back to Precinct One. Franklin would need a few hours to sleep off his tranquilizers, so they would go and have some lunch in the meantime.

Nick knew a place nearby that served great food, and that was very budget-friendly. He explained that he used to eat here with Finnick in between perfectly legal business ventures. The menu was robust, with a wide selection of choices for both carnivores and herbivores. Nick ordered some grilled chicken, and Judy ordered a shaved fennel and arugula salad. Nick also talked to the owner and got them a nice, out-of-the-way booth in the corner so they could properly speak.

Judy started. "Nick… did I do something wrong?" She asked.

That surprised Nick. "What? Oh Karma, no," he reassured her, "This has nothing to do with you. It's just… old lessons are hard to unlearn." Seeing her confusion, he continued. "See, back after the Collars were outlawed and the Happytowns were abolished, there was a lot of tension between predators and prey. Legal segregation might have ended, but society doesn't just change overnight. Lots of prey started "arming themselves" with tasers, repellants, whatever. Some prey were so jumpy that even seeing a predator's fangs was enough to freak them out, usually leading to a taser or a faceful of fox repellent.

"In response, a lot of parents started teaching their children to act in a particular way around prey mammals. 'Don't bare your fangs, don't show your claws, don't growl or snarl, don't do anything that might scare them.'" He looked a bit guilty. "When I saw you looking at my fangs, I had a gut reaction and snapped my mouth shut. That's all. Same reason I keep my claws filed down." He wiggled his fingers, showing off his dull, rounded-down claws.

"I'm sorry." She looked despondent.

"Don't be!" He replied, desperate to cheer her up. "Look, it's not your fault, don't beat yourself up about it."

"But-"

"But nothing. Judy, it's great that you care enough to be upset about things like that. But being sad and feeling guilty for what previous generations did isn't going to accomplish anything. If you really want to help, then just keep being Judy Hopps," he encouraged. "You're fighting for everyone, predator and prey alike. I promise you that just doing that is going to do a hell of a lot more than just getting all mopey."

"No! Nick! Listen!" She scolded. "I got sacred. I saw your fangs, and I got scared. Some deep instinct inside of me told me to be afraid of you, and I hated it! You're my partner and my best friend for Firth's sake! I shouldn't be afraid of you!"

"No. You shouldn't," Nick told Judy. "And you aren't. You aren't responsible for the millions of years of genetics that tell you to be afraid of the big bad predators with maws full of pearly white murderspikes," he told her. "What you are responsible for is how you act when you feel them."

Judy took a moment to consider what he was saying.

"Everyone mammal has instincts, what matters, is knowing to rise above the bad ones, and Judy, you do that amazingly well."

That cheered her up. "Hey Nick, can you open your mouth? I want to see them. Your fangs." The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.

"... What?" He asked, caught off-guard.

"Sorry! Sorry! Was that a weird request?" She asked, blushing and hiding behind her ears. "I just… I thought that I wanted you to feel like you don't have to hide them around me. I thought that if you showed them to me, it might help me not freeze up the next time I see them…"

Nick looked around. "Okay." He opened his mouth.

Judy watched as Nick's mouth opened… and then kept opening wider and wider. She was shocked at how wide his mouth opened. She could probably fit her entire head inside his mouth! She froze up again, instincts screaming to bolt. She saw all of his teeth, from the sharp incisors in the front to the molars in the back. But her attention was mostly drawn to his canines. The large fangs that were designed to tear the flesh from her bones. She took a breath and relaxed. Nick was her friend. She didn't need to be afraid.

Nick closed his mouth after a moment. "So, did you like what you saw?" He asked with a smirk.

"Well… No one can fault your dentistry," she replied.

He laughed. "Yeah. Well, I didn't have dental insurance for a long time, so I didn't want to have any problems with my teeth," he explained. "Proper dental care was cheap compared to getting a root canal."

By the time their food arrived, the mood between them had lightened considerably. Nick was happy that Judy was happy again.

***

Franklin was groggy. He had no idea where he was when he woke up chained to a metal table, but he shot wide awake when he remembered why he was there, adrenaline flooded him, and he tried to break the chains, only to give up after a few seconds. He began thinking, trying to figure out an escape strategy.

He knew he should have laid low for longer, been a bit faster, but he had no idea that they would be able to get him that easily. Maybe he could cut a deal, this was almost certainly about the weapons, perhaps he could cut a deal with the cops?

He desperately hoped so.

***

"Good cop bad cop again?" She asked.

"Nah, he's already about to crack. I think we just need to apply a little pressure and he'll spill his guts like Duke over Mr. Big's ice pit."

"Alright. Let's get to work, partner."

They entered the room and walked in a circle around Franklin, watching him squirm as they silently regarded him.

"I assume you know why you're here?" Asked Nick.

"N-no," answered Franklin.

"Really? So you just happened to be fleeing police detectives with ten thousand dollars in cash in your backpack, along with a few changes of clothes?" Asked Judy.

"So what? That's not a crime!" He protested.

"No, but it is suspicious, especially the part where we told you that we were detectives, and you ran from us," replied Judy. "Even more suspicious is that this came just a day after you and your gang were involved in a deadly shootout. Wanna tell us about that?"

"You can't prove if I was there!" He quickly blurted out.

"Ah, but you admit that you know the people who were?" Asked Nick.

"Yeah, yeah, I do. I figure you already know that, so why pick me up? Like I said, I wasn't there."

"But I bet you know where the weapons came from. Don't lie, she'll know if you're lying."

"… Even if I did, which I'm not saying I did, why the fuck should I tell either of you? I'm not looking for a ticket to prison."

Nick grinned at Judy. "Tell you what, if you cooperate, my partner and I might just be able to get you a deal."

Franklin looked between them. "What kind of deal?" He asked, ready to do just about anything to avoid prison time.

"We'll agree to let you go for now, and you'll help us set up a sting operation at the docks. You'll get arrested again for being there, but if it works out, we'll be processing a lot of people later that night. Your paperwork might just get… lost in the shuffle," he offered. They had already discussed the idea of this with Bogo beforehand, he was on board with the idea.

"So you go and arrest the gun runners, and I'm home free?"

"Of course, we arrest the sellers, the buyers, and you slip out unscathed."

"What? No deal," he told them. "I'm not selling out my crew!"

"Franklin, this is not a good idea," warned Judy. "We might not be able to prove that you were there, but we have enough to get a warrant to search your home. Is there anything for us to find?"

Franklin couldn't suppress a wince at that. He had one of the illegal handguns in his bedroom, hidden under his bed.

Nick caught it. "So we would. Unregistered weapons are a serious crime, we might even be able to try you as an accessory to the murders that night. And if you don't fess up, we'll keep cracking through your gang until we find someone who will. So are you going to give us what we want or are you going to go down?!"

"Fuck you! You don't know what life is like for preds out there! You're a fucking cop!"

That got Nick angry. He slammed his paws down on the desk. "I don't know?!" He shouted. "I'm a fox! A predator just like you! I've had it worse than you ever will! I was a kid in the nocturnal District Happytown during the days of predator segregation! I barely avoided getting a fucking collar!" He ranted. "You want to talk about hard?! How about watching your father get dragged off by the cops for saving someone's life when she went into labor early and nearly died of collar-induced seizures!"

Franklin recoiled, he hadn't been expecting that response.

"Everyone out there wants to put us down! We're the scary ones! The ones with the claws and teeth!" He continued. "So you become what they say you are, I spent twenty-six years wasting my life as a criminal and pawpsicle hustler because I could never see myself as anything more than a shifty, shady fox! And then one day, with the help of a friend who was far better to me than I ever deserved, I realized that I didn't have to be that mammal! So I got out of that life! Why?! BECAUSE I AM NOT THAT FOX!" Nick roared in his face before pushing off the table.

Franklin watched as Nick caught his breath, the shouting leaving him somewhat short of it.

Nick took a deep breath. "You're a smart kid. Albeit one that has made a lot of extremely shitty decisions. You don't have to be the predator gangbanger everyone tells you that you are. Take the cash, start over, get your diploma, get a degree, and make something of yourself." He turned around and looked Franklin in the eye. "We're giving you a way out before you become another statistic." He turned to Judy. "Come on Hopps, we need to give this guy some time to think."

Judy nodded and followed Nick out of the interrogation room. "You okay?" She asked as she closed the door.

Nick took a deep breath. "I will be Carrots. I will be." Nick looked at her. "He just reminded me a lot of myself when I was his age, stirred up some bad memories."

"Wanna talk about it?"

"No," he answered. "Maybe some other time. We have work to do, if I'm right, he'll come around and crack soon. Then he'll help us, and we'll lock up Darius for possession, and he'll at least be off the streets for a few days at least."

Judy nodded but put her paw over his and gave him a hug, smiling before letting him go. "You're a good fox, Nick Wilde."

Nick took a deep breath of her scent before she let go, feeling it flood his nostrils and tickle the pleasure centers of his brain. He smiled and let her go. "And you're a dumb bunny," he quipped.

Judy laughed and punched his shoulder.

"Excessive use of force!" He cried dramatically. "Bunny cop assaults innocent fox!"

"Come on Slick, Our shift's about over. Let's punch out before Bogo yells at us again."

"You. Yells at you again," Nick corrected her.

***

Nick and Judy clocked out and began to walk home. They got to Judy's place first.

Nick took a deep breath. "Hey, Judy? Can we talk?" He asked her.

She looked at him, worried. He sounded nervous. "Sure. Is something wrong?" She asked.

"No, nothing like that. It's just… Remember when you asked if I was gay earlier?" He asked.

She flushed. "Ughhh! Can you please not tease me about that?" She asked him, pulling her ears down over her eyes.

He laughed at her adorable reaction. "Karma help me I love this bunny." He thought, groaning internally. "No, I wanted to tell you that you were closer to the truth than you might have thought."

That got her attention. She uncovered her ears and looked at Nick.

Nick took a deep breath. "Judy. I'm bisexual," he told her. "And I'm also an inter," he continued, baring his two most closely-kept secrets to his partner.

Judy needed a moment. Or two. Or three. "Wha-?" She made a vaguely questioning noise. "You're… you're what?"

"Bisexual. Like I'm sexually attracted to males and females, and I'm also an inter, attracted to species outside of my own," he told her.

"No! I wasn't asking for clarification! I know what those terms mean. I was just... Surprised," she told him. "I mean… that's fine?" She guessed. She was trying to find a way to say to him-

"You're certainly taking this well. I assume. Are you trying to tell me that I'm still your fox and that I'll always be your devilishly handsome partner?"

Judy sumped on that. "Yes! Yes," she gasped out. "You're still Nick. I just know a little more about you now." her nose began to twitch nervously. "Why are you telling me this now?" She asked.

"Well, you brought up my orientation earlier, then we had that heart-to-heart in the diner over lunch… I guess the timing just felt right," he explained. "I never brought it up before because I didn't think it was any of your business… Then, after we got closer, I just kind of never brought it up because it never came up. Then, you gave me an opening, and this is me taking it."

"Thank you," she said. "Thank you for trusting me with this."

"I trust you with my life, Judy, this is just a part of my life." He looked at her. He could read her like a book. "Okay, I can tell you have about a million questions. Ask away."

"Let's go up to my apartment. Bucky and Pronk are out tonight. It's their date night, so they're trying to find a restaurant that hasn't kicked them out for fighting," she informed him, only partially joking. "So we don't have to worry about them arguing."

"Followed by obnoxiously loud makeup sex," he reminded her. "You forgot about the obnoxiously loud makeup sex."

Judy gave a snort of laughter. Yeah. That." She led Nick up the stairs and into her apartment.

***

Nick and Judy spent almost an hour talking. Nick explained that different mammals were bisexual in different ways. Some just didn't care about their partner's gender, some were attracted to mammals who blurred the lines between masculine and feminine, and others, like Nick, loved masculinity and femininity. "I'm the kind of guy who likes the cheerleaders, and the football players," he explained. "Like, most mammals have certain physical features that they find attractive, and for me, it just so happens that I find certain masculine or feminine features equally attractive."

Judy nodded in understanding. "And what about other species?"

"Same deal," he explained. "Well-trimmed wool on a sheep, bushy fox tails, sexy tiger stripes," he listed off. Mentally, he added "Sculpted bunny buns," to his list. "I don't want to give the impression that I'm shallow, I'm just trying to explain that for me, and others like me, we see the beauty in species outside our own in a more than aesthetic sense. You might see a lion with a well-kempt and groomed mane, and think that it looks nice, it's handsome, am I right?"

Judy nodded, following along with him.

"For me, I see that and don't just find it handsome, but attractive. That is the difference," he told her.

"Oh! I get it!" She told him. That was the explanation that finally made it click for her. "You find it attractive the same way that a lioness would," am I understanding this correctly?" She asked.

"You always were a good student, Carrots," he told her with a smile. "That's not to say that I don't have preferences or lean a certain way. My tastes tend to run towards mammals my own size. And I also have somewhat of a preference for prey species," he explained, then froze. "Uhh… Forget I said that."

Judy noticed that she fit both of those descriptions, but decided to not press the issue. After all, there was no way that Nick was attracted to her, right?

"Alright. I think I get it," she told Nick. "Really, Nick. It means a lot that you came out to me. I'm glad that you feel comfortable enough around me to trust me with something like this."

"Thank you for being so understanding." He looked at his phone. "Oh, wow. It's getting late. We have a raid to plan tomorrow, don't we?" He needed an excuse to get out of here. This place smelled like Judy, and it was driving him insane.

Judy suddenly realized how late it was. "Cheese and crackers, you're right!" She told him, jumping up off the couch. "Um… see you at work? What am I saying, of course, I will. Nothing's changed between us."

"That's the spirit," he replied. "I'll see you tomorrow, you and all your insufferable morning energy." He walked out the door. "Night, Carrots."

"Goodnight!" As he left, Judy's eyes were drawn to his tail. Nick had mentioned that tails were something that foxes looked at. She couldn't help but notice how soft it looked. She had seen it plenty of times before, but now… something had changed. Something in her. It looked so fluffy. So soft. She wondered what it would feel like to go to sleep wrapped up in-

She slammed the brakes on that thought process hard. What was she thinking?! For Firth's sake, Nick was her partner! She took a deep breath to calm herself down. She was just tired, and she had just learned something really huge about her best friend. She just needed to sleep, and everything would be okay in the morning.

***

"Swinton, I told you to never call me unless it's an emergency-"the heavily modulated voice was cut off by Swinton.

"It is! Our cop on the inside of Precinct One just told me that Franklin of the Spots just agreed to help out with a sting operation! If we don't do anything, Hooveson is going to go down and spill everything!"

"Calm down, Swinton. I already know, you may remember that 'your' inside man on the ZPD is really mine. I am aware of the situation and have this under control. We've always considered the possibility of having to give up one of the dealers, they're expendable, and Hooveson hasn't always been the most cooperative of the bunch." There was a pause. "If he cancels the deal at the last minute, it'll look suspicious, could get them to start asking questions we really don't want to have asked at this stage of the plan."

"So what? You're just going to let the cops arrest him?! You may be anonymous, but what if he gives me up?! You lose me, and you lose your line to the city! Who else is going to get all those authority figures to look the other way? Huh?"

"He won't talk. I will make sure of that. He will be found dead in his bunk before the ZPD can get anything useful out of him, this I swear." The voice.

"You had better! I have way more on the line here than you do! I go down, and you lose a payday, but I lose everything! I am not going to prison!"

"Swinton. Calm down. I promise you. You will not go to prison, I have already made a plan for you in case you ever get found out. You may not ever be able to hold an office again, but the money you have stashed away from your 'business' should allow you to live comfortably, and I will personally make sure you never go to prison."

"Fine," she huffed. "But don't fuck me on this! You need me as much as I need you!" She hung up the phone before pouring herself another glass of scotch and downing it all in one go. "Fuckin' asshole," she muttered.

***

On the other end of the line, a figure sat in their chair, fingering a necklace made of teeth, all of them from various predator species. Such a necklace was macabre, yes, but important. To the owner, it was a reminder of the proper order of the world, a world of disarmed predators, of safe prey. Swinton, whether she knew it or not, was instrumental in the ploy. The figure reached over and grabbed his phone again. Untraceable and encrypted, a secure line. He scrolled through his contacts and selected one of them.

"Boss?" Came a tied voice; clearly, the other person had been sleeping.

"Tomorrow night, Hooveson will be arrested by the ZPD and held in precinct one. Listen to my instructions very carefully…"

Chapter Text

The next day, Nick and Judy were preparing Franklin for the sting, getting ready to release him so he could give the illusion that everything was okay to the gang members beforehand.

"So will I have to wear a wire or something?" Asked the Hyena.

"No. We have a surveillance van, and we have already hidden some bugs in the area that you said the deal would go down in," explained Judy as she walked him out of the station. "So no wire for you, better that way, last thing we need is you getting caught wearing one."

"Right. Thanks," Franklin sighed. "I'm scared."

"That's normal; this is a scary situation. But after it's over, you'll be free."

"Right. Right." Franklin took a deep breath. "Thanks for this. I mean it. Maybe I really can turn my life around, right?" he asked.

Nick spoke up. "I'll be hard. The odds will be stacked against you like they were me. But you can do it if you never stop."

Franklin nodded, listening to him.

"Okay, what's going to happen is that we are going to release you and you will head back to your gang like nothing happened, and get them ready for the deal later tonight. Then, you are going to take this," Judy handed him a small black device, "and use it to signal us when the deal starts going down, we will be hidden in various areas close to the junkyard beforehand. You take the button and hold it down for five seconds or more, and we will start moving in, understand?" She asked.

He nodded.

"You'll get arrested, but as we said, you'll be quietly let go."

"Right. Can I trust you?" She asked, still wary of the cops.

"It was in the contract you signed when we agreed to this, if we don't, you would be able to sue the absolute shit out of the ZPD," answered Nick. "Like, millions of dollars. So we have a vested financial interest in making sure you don't get charged with anything. And again, if anyone asks, we lost your paperwork."

"Right. Or I skip town and never see any of these guys again."

"Works for me, just stay safe, alright. You're the nicest gangbanger I ever met," said Nick. "Not that the bar for that is particularly high, but still."

"In the meantime, go home, and make sure everything is all good to go for the deal. With any luck, we can get some good info out of this guy and shut down the operation soon."

"Right. Thanks." Franklin stood up, shaky from nerves, and left the station.

"Think he'll pull through?" She asked.

"If he doesn't, we can arrest the living hell out of him."

"Fair enough," she smirked. "You ready?"

"For tonight? Yeah. Sting huh? Probably followed by a raid once he tells us where he keeps the product."

"You think he will?"

"If we negotiate the right way, yeah," he replied. "Guys like this are usually motivated by pure profit. He'll cut a deal to get a lighter sentence probably tell us who else is involved as well."

Judy frowned. "I don't like deals with guys like that. Franklin was a small-timer, but if this guy is a big gun runner, I want him away."

"Don't worry, he won't be able to get out of prison a few decades, but we may not be able to put him away for life if we want to get something out of this."

She huffed. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. I still don't like it."

Nick smirked. "Come on, that's not my Judy. Judy is all nice and happy and hoppy," he teased, sliding close to her. "Come on; we're about to go arrest some arms dealers! It'll be full of all that stuff you inexplicably love, incredible danger, way too much running, lots of shouting, huge guns, flashbangs." he rattled off. "You know, the stuff I assume you dream about when you go to sleep."

Judy laughed at that. "Come on, can't you let me be a little gloomy for five minutes?" She asked him.

"What?!" He asked, mock-shocked. "I, Nicholas Pibereus Wilde, allow my emotional bunny to be unhappy?! Never!"

She kept laughing. "Okay, okay, I'm better. Thanks for that, slick." She gave him a warm smile.

He felt his heart skip a beat. "Fuck! I am so screwed! How the hell is any living thing that cute?! Keep it together, Nick, breathe."

"Nick, you okay?" She asked.

"Yeah!" He replied, too quickly. "Just thinking…"

"About what?" She asked, curious.

"About how much I hate the fact that I'm hardcore in love with my best friend." He thought. "Just the bust later, I'm nervous, Fluff," he lied.

"We'll be okay," she reassured him. "We won't even be taking point, with Francine, Rhinowitz, and McHorn in front of us we should be fine." It was standard procedure, larger officers in front, they had more mass and could wear way heavier armor than smaller officers.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," he replied.

Judy smiled again. She remembered their talk last night. "Hey, after the bust, want to do something together?" She asked, "You know, celebrate our first major bust as detectives?" She offered.

"What, like a date?" Nick joked, secretly praying to all possible deities that there was even a one-in-a-million shot he would be so lucky.

Judy felt her ears heat up at the idea, but she knew Nick was teasing her. "Sure, Slick, whatever makes you happy."

Nick deflated slightly at her flippant attitude about it but kept smiling. A date with Judy Hopps, well, sort of. "Okay, see you tomorrow night for our' not-date?' "He asked.

"If all goes well, Slick."

"Alright then, try not to get killed, okay Fluff?" He asked her.

"Back at you."

*

Franklin went back home, he made the arrangements to leave the apartment and threw all his stuff into a few bags before he paid the rent to the landlord and explained that he was leaving later tonight and that he would be back for his stuff. He didn't know where he was going to go exactly, but he figured Zoo York City would be a good place to get lost, and one that didn't have the same racial problems as Zootopia. Maybe he could make something of himself there.

He called up some of his gang to make sure things were still good to go for the night, upon receiving confirmation, he called the ZPD to inform them that things were still all good. Then he took a drink. Meeting with international arms dealers was nerve-wracking enough, but also helping the ZPD with a sting operation was another level entirely.

He tried to not puke from nerves as he stayed in his apartment before leaving to go and meet with the dealer a few hours later.

*

Judy and Nick were sitting in a cramped, black van while they watched the larger officers get ready. They strapped on absurdly thick and heavy armor that probably could kill Nick and Judy if it fell on them.

Francine, McHorn, and Rhinowitz were all wearing the most substantial stuff, a Kevlar bi-weave layer, on top of a layer of half-inch thick steel plates, followed by another layer of the Kevlar, and then a layer of half-inch thick ceramic plates, followed by a third and final layer of Kevlar. It would stop small-arms fire and shrapnel with no problem, rifles and higher-caliber weapons would go through some of it, but it would be fine. Behind them would be the somewhat smaller officers such as Delgato, Snarloff and Fangmeyer would be wearing scaled-down versions with thinner plates, the smaller still officers such as Wolford would have a version of the vest with just the ceramic plates.

As for Nick and Judy, they were the smallest officers on the force, so they had gotten different vests. Since they were much smaller, they could afford much more gear. Their body armor was made of double-layer Kevlar with graphene inserts that were substantially more expensive than the steel or ceramic, but at the small sizes needed for Nick and Judy, it was still within the ZPD budget. Quality of armor over quantity.

"Ready? Carrots?" He asked as he zipped up.

"Yep! I'm so excited!"

"Let's save the excitement for after, okay? When we see whether or not we survive the night."

"Why you gotta be such a downer?" She asked, punching his shoulder. "Can't you be optimistic for once?"

"I prefer to be realistic." He replied. "If those bullets start flying promise me you'll get out, okay?"

"Only if you promise the same thing," she replied.

"Do you even have to ask?" He asked. "Shots get fired I'm out of there."

"Cowardly Fox."

"Suicidal Bunny."

"Are you two gonna fuck or what?" Asked Wolford from behind them. "If you are, just get it over with and stop stinking up the van!"

Nick and Judy blushed and turned away from each other to look at Wolford with incredulous expressions on their faces.

"Shut up, Wolford," she retorted weakly.

*

Franklin paced in his room while watching the clock. He felt the device in his pocket and contemplated leaving it behind. He could just call the whole thing quits and maybe escape the ZPD. If he told the rest of the gang about what had happened, they would help him get out of the city no problem. Why should he help out these cops anyway? He took it out of his pocket and went to throw it out of his window, but then the Fox cop's words rang in his mind. Was he really going to do this? Throw away his best shot at a new life? All his life, Franklin had been treated like a thug, and so he had become one. If he did this, threw this chance away, would he be proving those who looked down on him right? What if he wanted to prove them wrong? Go somewhere else and start over?

He sighed and pocketed the device. He would cross that bridge when he came to it.

*

Hours later, Franklin found himself in the junkyard nervously glancing at his phone while the rest of his gang waited around for the dealers. He met up with his crew, who came by and picked him up in an SUV, before driving him to the site of the meeting. He kept his hand in his pocket with the device, fingering it and wondering what he would do when the time came. His crew would protect him, right?

They parked the van and got out and began waiting around for Hooveson to show.

*

The ZPD patiently laid in wait in their vans, silent and solemn as they waited for the signal.

"I don't like this," muttered Francine. "This feels wrong. Like he won't signal us."

"Come on, we can't do anything about that. All we can really do is wait," said McHorn. "No sense in making it agonizing."

Nick and Judy just sat quietly.

*

Hooveson was right on time and began unloading the ammo and more weapons. He was dressed in a crisp suit, ready to go and make some cash. He didn't have any love for his boss or his plan, but damn if this wasn't one of the most profitable things ever, particularly when he skimmed a little bit off the top.

"Vicious predators, step right up and get your firepower!" He announced.

Franklin hung back and stuck a hand in his pocket and pressed the button. One second. He began to have second thoughts. Two seconds. Was he really about to do this? Three seconds. Why? They were cops! But did he want to be the predator gangster? Four seconds. He was almost at the point of no return! He gritted his teeth and made his decision.

*

Hooveson finished unpacking the trucks and gestured for the others to show him the money. Franklin walked forward and opened up two cases full of cash. Hooveson looked them over carefully and inspected a few random stacks to make sure there wasn't any funny business, and then smiled.

"Another satisfied customer." He reached to take the money.

Then he heard it.

"ZPD! We have you surrounded! Get on the ground now!"

*

Everyone perked up when they heard the alarm go off, signaling that Franklin had used the device to inform them that Hooveson had shown up.

"Alright, everyone!" Announced Francine. "We have a gun runner to take down, everyone is assumed to be hostile! So don't be afraid to tranq them all now and sort them out later."

They all hustled to get into position, staying mindful of the noise they were making. When the officers were all ready, the teams all cued their radios to signal.

Francine moved first. "ZPD! We have you surrounded! Get on the ground now!"

Several of the criminals dived for weapons. Francine used a heavy tranq rifle to pump some of the slower to react ones full of darts before they could do anything, then went for cover. The smaller officers rushed in and tackled a few others, and Nick and Judy grabbed Franklin, yelling at him to keep on the ground while slapping some zip cuffs on him and leaving him behind a piece of metal to keep him out of any potential lines of fire.

"SHOTGUN!" Warned Francine as several of the gang members and dealers got to cover with the weapons they had. "Everyone get to cover!"

Nick and Judy stayed low, not wanting to risk anything.

Several more gang members were tranquilized by the officers, who had them surrounded, making it hard for any of the criminals to find suitable cover. The gun runners were a bit smarter, taking shelter inside the vans they had shipped the weapons in.

Judy peeked out, keeping her ears down and saw one of them making a move to flank the officers and sprang into action. She jumped back and pushed off the wall hard before flying towards their head and delivering a devastating flying kick, knocking them out and sending her flying back towards cover.

"HOPPS!" Shouted Nick as he saw one of them take aim. He reached out towards her just as the trigger was pulled and a shotgun discharged towards her flying body. The shot clipped her in the side and sent her body spinning. Nick managed to grab her and pull her back to cover.

"JUDY?!" He asked, looking at her.

"I'm okay!" She grunted, clearly in pain. "Body armor took most of it, and it was at an angle so I'll be fine."

He checked her side briefly to make sure she wasn't bleeding, she didn't seem to be. "Just stay down. Okay, Carrots?" He pleaded.

"Probably a nasty bruise, I'll be okay."

"Dumb bunny," he laughed, unspeakably relieved, and kept down as the fight wrapped up.

A few flashbangs and well-placed tranquilizer rounds and everyone was being loaded up in the vans and being taken back to the ZPD for processing, including Franklin. They needed to bring him in for the sake of authenticity.

Judy was looked over by medical examiners. She was unharmed, save for a pretty significant bruise on her side from the blast. Her body armor would need to be sent out for repair.

They were both just happy to be alive and relatively unharmed.

*

Franklin rubbed his wrists as the handcuffs were taken off in front of ZPD Precinct One.

"You're free to go, just stay out of trouble. The ZPD thanks you for your service," said Judy as he took the cuffs back from him.

"Yeah, you're welcome. I've gotta go get my ticket."

"Actually, here." Nick stepped forward and handed him a ticket. "On the ZPD, as a token of gratitude."

Franklin took it. It was a one-way train ticket out to the Meadowlands, home of the Zootopia Airport and a several hours ride away. "Plane ticket is on you, but this way you have a good ride out of town."

"Thanks…" He said, looking at the ticket in his paw. "I don't really know what I'm doing or where I'll go. But I hear Zoo York is a nice place…"

"I'm sure you'll do great there," smiled Nick. Don't let us keep you, train leaves in a few hours."

Franklin nodded and left to go to his apartment to grab his belongings. He planned to take the monorail to the train station and the station to the Zootopia Meadowlands Airport.

Nick and Judy watched him go. "We do good work, Fluff," he told her.

"That we do, Slick. That we do."

Since their shifts were over and Judy had been injured, the duo went home for the night, looking forward to the next day.

*

"Listen Hooveson, we have you on camera attempting to sell weapons. And do you really think that one of those gangbangers won't roll on you for a lighter sentence?!" Asked Snarloff, pounding the desk in front of him. "We have you dead to rights, and you will start giving us something if you don't want to spend the rest of your miserable life rotting in a cell!

Wolford sighed. "What my partner is trying to say is that we can help you a little bit if you give us something."

Hooveson was quiet. He was weighing his options. Clearly, the mole in the ZPD had to have known about this, and since a lawyer hadn't busted in... Claw had likely given him up. Fine. Claw screwed him, he would screw Claw.

"Alright. I'll talk, but I need some guarantees first."

"You don't dictate the terms here! You get nothing until you give us something!"

Hooveson considered the offer he was being given. "Fine, I'll give you the location of the weapons stash, but you have to give me protective custody in return," he bargained.

"Why?" Asked Wolford.

"There's something bigger apaw, something huge, and the weapons are only the tip of the iceberg. You want information more than that, I need protection," explained Hooveson.

They all listened to what he had just said. "Maybe we believe you, maybe we don't. Tell us where you're keeping the product, and we'll give you protection if you're telling the truth," offered Wolford, extremely skeptical of what he had just been told.

Hooveson sighed, figuring that this was the best he was going to get. "Fine, I'll tell you where to find the weapons…"

*

They used Hooveson's information and coordinated with Precinct Two downtown to organize a raid on the warehouse containing the weapons. Since the ZPD didn't want to risk transporting him, he was left at Precinct One in a holding cell and under guard while the officers working the case went down to Precinct Two to plan it out.

Hooveson's information proved to be correct, and the raid was a success, hundreds of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition were secured. The Precinct One crew traveled back to Precinct One to celebrate the raid and get information from Hooveson.

The horse was in his cell, lying on the bunk facing the wall. Not moving. "Hey, Hooveson!" Called Grizolli. "Come on! Wake up and tell us what you know!"

Hooveson didn't move, just laid there.

"Come on, we have him here, and he's not going anywhere. We'll let Hopps and Wilde get him in the morning, sound good?" Asked Wolford.

"Yeah, good idea, I'm exhausted." Agreed Grizolli, yawning. "Night Hooveson! Can't wait to hear all about this big conspiracy of yours!" He taunted.

*

Franklin relaxed into his seat on the Train, The compartment was empty, and he was exhausted. He started to nod off when he heard the door open. "Look, man. I'm really tired, and the whole train is fucking empty. So can you find somewhere else to-"

BANG

Franklin never even saw the gun coming. The suppressed firearm drove a round into Franklin's skull and out the back of his head, leaving him dead on the seat. The hitman closed the door and went elsewhere on the train. He had snuck aboard anyway, so they would never know he was even there…

*

The next morning, Nick and Judy went to go and wake up Hooveson to get his story, but he was still sleeping.

"Come on, Hooveson, you got eight hours. Probably more than I did," quipped Nick. "I can appreciate the concept of beauty sleep, but we need to-"

He shook Hooveson, and his body fell out of bed, eyes wide and lifeless. Nick jumped back with a yell. "Fuck! Get someone in here!" He shouted.

Judy just stared. This was bad. Really really bad. If he was telling the truth, then there was a major conspiracy occurring in Zootopia, and Nick and Judy just lost their only lead.

The medical examiner looked him over and concluded that the cause of death was a stroke. Probably happened while they were doing the raid. And he was left alone. Bogo demanded to see the guards who were on duty that night and needed a story from both of them. He was furious at what had happened, and he planned on making heads roll for it.

Meanwhile, Nick and Judy sat demoralized as they received the news of what had happened to Franklin, who had been found dead on the train to the Meadowlands last night. Their only lead in a case they had no idea they were even working was dead, and so was the predator they had just helped. This was not good.

*

A heavily modulated voice came over the line, blaring into Swinton's ear. "Are you, and I am serious here, COMPLETELY INSANE?!" Shouted Claw.

"What are you talking about? I can't defend my decision if you don't tell me what I'm defending against," she rolled her eyes and took a sip of her drink.

"I'm talking about that gang member you had assassinated! What were you thinking?! You might have just compromised this entire operation by giving them an avenue of investigation!"

"He was a loose end," she scoffed.

"He. Knew. NOTHING! You stupid fucking woman! You and your idiocy may have just compromised this entire operation!"

"Relax, will you, I know Matthew, he's a professional. Never been caught by the ZPD, never even came close." She shrugged him off.

"You had better not fuck this up, or I swear to god I will END you!" He yelled before hanging up the phone.

"Asshole," she scoffed and took another drink. She didn't need Claw anymore. The Tundratown deal was coming up, and then she had a meeting with the City Council. If all went well, she would have what she wanted soon enough.

Chapter Text

Nick and Judy looked at Bogo as he sat across the desk from them. The massive Cape Buffalo's expression was grim as he looked at Nick and Judy. "I won't sugarcoat this to the two of you, this was not a good way to start the day," he sighed. "If Hooveson was telling the truth, then there is a conspiracy afoot and the sale of weapons to predator gangs was part of it. Best case scenario he was lying, worst case, we may have accomplished nothing to get those weapons off the streets."

The two detectives nodded. "Look, at least we might have stemmed the flow for now," she suggested, trying to salvage at least something.

"Perhaps… But we don't know how long we have before they resurface if they do so at all…"

***

"So this is the same shit the boys down in Savannah Central got?" Asked Arthur as he looked over the guns.

"It's comparable," replied the dealer, a Russian snow sheep as she let them look over the various weapons. "With these, you should have no trouble taking out your rivals…"

They looked over the various guns, Berettas and AKs were most prominent, along with many explosives.

"And," the dealer continued. "Consider this a gift," She opened a box, revealing a rocket launcher.

"No shit?" Asked the massive polar bear, grabbing it and lifting it up.

"No shit," was her response. "Have some fun with it."

Arthur was the leader of the Glacier Square Claws, a gang consisting mostly of polar bears who ruled the northern Tundratown Ice Cave slums. They were currently in something of a cold war with the Southside Pack Gang, a gang of arctic wolves who inhabited the tundra forests in the southern areas of Tundratown. But with this gear, that war was about to heat up…

***

Nick and Judy had spent the last few hours in the room they had been provided for the case, looking over the evidence they had collected to see if they could find anything significant. They were still waiting for a ballistics report on the bullet that had killed Franklin, but that was going to take a few hours.

"I got nothing, Fluff," sighed Nick. "Hear anything from the guys who looked into this?" He asked her.

After Hooveson had been found dead, Bogo had furiously ordered a thorough review of what had happened last night. Every surveillance tape had been reviewed, the officers guarding him had been interviewed, and both had Internal Affairs going over their histories. Unfortunately, both officers had at some point left the other alone, usually for a bathroom break, and there were a few glitches in the surveillance tapes where the video feed cut out. All in all, no one had a complete picture of what had happened last night, and that made for one furious police chief.

"Nothing, and no word from ballistics either," she replied. "This stinks. We really needed Hooveson to tell us where the guns were coming from, and now we have a possible conspiracy on our plate, and nothing else to go on."

"Have we put the squeeze on the Pride?"

"Yeah, but since half the Spots got arrested at the Junkyard, they've been laying extremely low, and say what you will about their intelligence, but they are good at keeping their guns hidden. We don't really have much on them."

"This really blows hard," he sighed. "We almost had something, and we let it slip through our paws!" He slammed his paws down on the table.

"Nick, it's okay," she grabbed his paws and reassured him. "You won't get anything done like this." She sighed. "It's the end of our shift anyway, it's been a long day. How about we hit the bar?"

He sighed. "Yeah. Okay, I know a good place."

"You go there with Finnick?" She asked, trying to find out a little more about him.

"No, we normally go drinking by buying some beer from the store and drinking in the back of his van."

"Really?" She asked.

"Yeah. Super cheap," he told her. "But since neither of us owns a car, that's not really an option."

"We could go to your place or mine," she offered.

"Ehhh… I don't feel like that. I want to go somewhere with atmosphere, where we can have a good time, you know, something to get our minds off this case for a little bit."

Judy thought it over and nodded. She had wanted to see the inside of his apartment, but just spending time with him was good enough.

"Alright. Let's grab the train and head out. We're going to Tundratown."

Judy raised an eyebrow at that, wondering what was in Tundratown. She shrugged and grabbed her coat, figuring an evening with Nick was what she needed to get her mind off things.

***

It was a few hours later, Arthur gave a grin and got into the SUV. Tonight, they were going to go and take out their longtime rivals. The guns were all loaded and ready to fire.

"Ready boys?!" He asked, baring his fangs as they rolled out.

"Fuck Yeah!" Came the reply.

They drove along until they found some of the Pack, hanging out on a corner. They rolled down the window, and let loose with their rifles as they drove by.

***

Nick and Judy arrived at "The Cold Room" A bar in the Tundratown Happytown that was known for storing its drinks in an open room, separate from the main bar, but exposed to the freezing cold, assuring that if you wanted a cold drink, you had a cold drink. The inside, however, was pleasantly warm, enough that she felt comfortable taking off her coat and hanging it over the back of her chair. The interior had a large window facing the street that gave the bar a friendly, open feeling as opposed to the dank, dark closed off feeling that some places had, and there was an attractive, busty arctic wolf tending the bar.

"See? Nice place, huh?" He asked. "Back when I worked for Big I came here all the time," he told her.

"Really?" She asked, figuring that he would not want to come here if that was the case.

"Yeah. After we fell out, I stopped coming on account of being afraid of getting iced. But now that you're Big's granddaughter's godmother I figure I'm safe as long as I'm with you."

"Uh, huh," she deadpanned. "You're just using me as a shield to get back into your favorite bar, aren't you?" She teased, side-eyeing him.

"I plead the fifth," he replied. "Also, they have a carrot ginger beer that makes me want to vomit, but it might be right up your alley."

"Ooh!" She was suddenly excited. "I haven't had that stuff in a long time, it's surprisingly hard to get in Zootopia."

"Probably because most civilized mammals know that it tastes like fermented ass," he teased, earning himself a giggle and a punch in the shoulder.

They ordered their drinks and got some food to snack on as they drank, making slam talk about their lives as they did. Judy did most of the talking, with almost three hundred siblings, she had no shortage of stories from back home on the farm.

"This is nice," she said after a break in the conversation. She wasn't drunk yet but was definitely buzzed. "We should do this more often."

"I agree, Fluff," replied Nick, fairing much better than her, Judy never was great at holding her alcohol. "Make it a Friday thing?" He offered.

She smiled. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea." She took a breath. "You know after you told me about your… orientation," she kept her voice low, so no one around them heard.

Nick froze up. "Yeah…" he replied, nervous.

"I just wanted to ask some more about it if that's okay. After I wrapped my brain around it, I had some stuff I was still curious about. I get it if you'd rather not talk about it, though."

"Nah. It's okay," Nick told her. "It actually feels good to talk about it with someone. Especially you."

"Alright. But feel free to not answer anything if you'd rather not talk about it."

"Don't worry. I will," he promised Judy.

"I guess I really want to know… When did you realize that you were attracted to males and females of other species?" She asked.

"Ah. Well, it happened when I was in High School," he began. "See, there was this student a few years above me. He was a red deer named Louis. He was part of the Drama Club," he began. "And holy shit this guy was handsome. Like, crazy good-looking. If there were a 'best antlers' contest, he'd win first, second, and third place without even trying. I swear every guy wanted to be him. And every girl, and some guys, wanted to be with him."

Judy listened intently.

"Anyway. It really hit me when I saw Louis in the school play. It was a production of Adler the Reaper. He was the main character. Even through the costume and mask, he was hypnotizingly beautiful. The way he moved and danced. I still remember how I felt to this day." He exhaled. "I was enchanted by him. Everyone was."

"And then?"

"After that, I started to notice other mammals. Wolves, tigers, sheep, deer, rabbits, all of them beautiful in their own unique ways."

"I see. Did you and Louis ever..?" She trailed off in her sentence.

Nick burst out laughing. "Oh! Oh, Karma, no!" He told her. "Louis was so far out of my league that we might as well have been on different planes of existence. Me dating Louis had about as much of a chance of happening as Duke Weaselton dating Gazelle!" He sighed. "Even after I accepted what I was, I knew better than to try for something so far out of my reach."

Judy frowned. "Don't say that! You're better than that. If Louis had turned you down, it would have been his loss." Then she thought of something. "Or, was that just because he wasn't into males?" She asked sheepishly.

"I'm pretty sure he was. He was really close to a grey wolf that was part of the Drama Club Stage Crew," he replied. "And I mean really close. There were actually rumors that Louis, that wolf and a female rabbit all got together in a polyamorous relationship after they graduated."

Judy blinked at that. "Wow. Is that true?" She asked.

"Hell if I know," he shrugged. "It was just a rumor."

"Okay, just one last question. I think-"

Judy never got to ask that question. She was cut off by an explosion rocking the building and shattering the windows in the front of the bar.

***

Arthur swore, and fired at the Pack. Somehow, they had gotten their paws on similar weapons and had met them on the edge of the Happytown after one of the victims of the drive-by shooting had called and told them what had happened. They had run into each other on the street and were now firing furiously at each other, screaming obscenities and blowing things up.

It was chaos.

***

Nick and Judy vaulted over the bar and told the bartender to get down while they called the ZPD for backup.

"Clawhauser!" Shouted Judy over the gunfire. "This is Hopps and Wilde, we're in the Tundratown Happytown! Gang Warfare, explosions! Send everyone you can!" She ordered and then gave him the address.

"Well, this sucks!" Shouted Nick as they kept low, neither of them had their guns, so there wasn't much they could do. Between breaks in the gunfire, they popped up and snapped photos with their phones, so that they could at least get some kind of record of who was there.

Luckily, they didn't have to wait long, as Precinct Five arrived. The Tundratown department were all suited for the cold, consisting of arctic-adapted officers, all wearing proper winter gear and driving cars with heavy chains on the tires and snowmobiles instead of motorcycles. They took cover and ordered the gangs to surrender as helicopters began circling.

A polar bear stood up and yelled "Go Fuck Yourselves cops!" a few short seconds before a loud hissing noise was heard and one of the helicopters exploded, sending everyone running for safety as if crashed into a building a few blocks away.

The officers, more disciplined than the criminals, rushed them as they were distracted by the sight of carnage and managed to tackle several of them, making them drop their weapons. A good number of them went down, and one of the officers rushed the building and tried to make it to the guy with the RPG. They almost made it in time and tackled him joist as he pulled the trigger again, sending it flying wide and impacting a building, causing it to collapse from an explosion.

Screams were heard.

***

Nick and Judy made their statements and dropped the photos off, sending them to all precincts to use as evidence to catch the ones that managed to run, and then were sent back to Savannah Central to give Bogo their report.

He was decidedly not happy.

"Remember that bad situation I told you two about?" He asked. "Well, it's come to pass. That building that was hit, along with the helicopter crash, caused dozens of injuries and several deaths," he sighed. "Mostly prey mammals. Prey supremacist groups are using this to rally for the old segregation laws to come back into place," he sighed and rested his head in his hooves. "Along with the reinstatement of collars."

"That won't solve anything!" Protested Judy, furious.

"Solving it isn't the point," sighed Nick. "It's not about saving lives or preventing deaths, this is pure and simple speciesism, just dressed up as a noble cause."

"Wilde's right, this is exactly what I was afraid would happen." HE looked around and made sure the door was closed, then he closed the blinds to his windows and unplugged the landline on his desk. "Turn off your phones," he ordered, and then give them to me." He grabbed his own phone and pressed and held the power button.

Nick and Judy decided to not question him and did as he asked. Then watched as he stuck all three phones in a thick, wooden box stuffed with cotton-filled lining and then closed the box and put it in his desk. "Don't want to risk what I'm about to tell you being overheard," he explained, keeping his voice quiet. "We still don't know who killed Hooveson, but you two definitely didn't do it, so you're good."

"What is this about?" Asked Nick, also keeping quiet.

"Hopps, you know how you have a close relationship with Mr. Big that I pretend to not know about?" He asked her.

Judy's ears shot up. "I wouldn't exactly call it 'close,' I'm closer to his daughter and granddaughter, but I'll see what I can do."

"Good. And Wilde, I assume you know some very well-connected but extremely shady characters."

"No, sir, I don't know any information brokers, and they certainly wouldn't be willing to sell me some information," he replied smoothly.

"Good. Now, I'm a police chief, and there are certain things I am allowed to do and not do. And I am certainly not about to ask you two to act with known or unknown criminal elements for the sake of information, and I am certainly not telling you to do so with the utmost haste." He looked at them both. "Am I understood?" He asked.

Nick and Judy both nodded.

"Good, I'm glad we understand," he sighed. "Take your phones and remember what I said." He opened the drawer and grabbed the phones, handing them to Nick and Judy. "And be careful you two, I would hate to lose such good Assets as you two."

Nick couldn't resist a parting shot as they left. "Love you too, chief."

Bogo sighed. He was taking a massive risk asking this of Nick and Judy. However, desperate times called for desperate measures.

***

"Judy! Oh, my Gawd!" Greeted Frufru as she answered the phone and heard the voice of her favorite bunny. "How have you been?"

"Could be better, I assume you heard about what happened in Tundratown earlier today?" She asked.

"Yeah, scary! Right here in Zootopia! Thank Gawd we live so far away from that." She picked her squirming child up and held her to her chest. "Why?"

"Well, Nick and I are assigned to the case and-"

"Judy!" she gasped. "That's so dangerous! Why are you calling me about it?"

Judy sighed. "Nick and I need to talk to your father," she replied. "He has men all over Tundratown, and we were hoping he might know something the police don't."

"You don't think that daddy is involved, do you?" She gasped. "Judy you know that he-"

Judy cut her off. "No, we know that gun-running isn't your father's particular… business," she clarified. "We were just wondering if he had any information for us. Could you set up a meeting?" She asked.

"Sure!" She chirped. "Just wait where you are, I'll have daddy send over a car."

"We're at precinct one," she replied.

"Thanks, Nick and I will be here."

***

While they waited for the car to arrive, Nick and Judy took care of Duke. The events of the last few days had caused them to put off the meeting, but they were finally able to get Duke Weaselton down to Precinct One and get him certified as a Confidential Informant. They "arrested him" to prevent suspicion. Then they got him into an interview room so that they could talk in private.

"So I just call you guys up and drop a dime on any criminals and get paid for it?" He asked.

"Only if the information you give us leads to an arrest," replied Nick. "And before you even think about trying to turn in a bunch of your hustler buddies, remember that we aren't after the small-fry. We're also not usually looking for names. The ZPD has a pretty good idea of who's involved with the various criminal groups in the city. What we're looking for is any information that can give us leads or probable cause."

Judy continued. "If you know about some kind of buy or anything like that going down, that's what we want to know. The bigger the fish we catch, the better your payday."

Duke grinned and licked his chops.

Nick interjected. "Duke. Listen to me. Do. Not. Fuck. Us." Nick fixed Duke with a bone-chilling glare. "If you get some information wrong, then hey, it happens. However. If you ever deliberately lie to us or otherwise try to use to sell out the ZPD for your own gains, you're done. We'll arrest you, and everyone will find out that you're a snitch. Any case you helped us on will have to be reviewed, and mammals that you helped put away might just find out that you sold them out. Am I making myself clear?" Asked Nick. "And even if you survive them, the ZPD will have you thrown into the deepest, darkest cell we can find, and we will leave you there to rot."

Duke gulped and nodded fearfully.

Judy spoke up next. "And Duke, while that CI card in your wallet might get officers to go easy on you sometimes, it does not make you above the law. You commit a serious offense, and we won't be able to protect you from the repercussions. You are also not a police officer, you cannot make arrests." She lightened her tone a bit. "As long as you give us good information, we can be very good to you. We here at the ZPD are excellent about keeping our CI's identities under wraps. Your name won't even be mentioned in official case files, just your ID number. As long as you abide by your half of the bargain, we will abide by ours. And you could sue the ZPD for every penny it has if we break our half of the agreement."

That calmed Duke down a bit. "So is that it? I'm a certified snitch now?"

Nick chuckled. "You won't be until you get us something we can use. Know anything about the weapon shipments that have been getting into the city? The military-grade weapons used to arm predator street gangs?" He asked.

Duke shook his head. "Sorry. Not my kind of thing."

Judy sighed. "Figures. Well, if you do hear anything, let us know."

They let Duke go, escorting him out of the Precinct. Shortly after, they saw a limousine pull up outside the Precinct. Renato Manchas stepped out and waved at them.

***

Nick fidgeted awkwardly in the soft pleather seats, earning him a jab from Judy.

"Will you calm down?" She asked.

"Sorry," he sighed. "I spent years of my life believing that the inside of one of these cars was going to be the last thing I ever saw in my life before I was drowned in freezing cold water," he reminded her. "So I'm a little on edge, even if I intellectually know that Mr. Big no longer wants to kill me."

Judy sighed. This happened sometimes, Nick had a hard time adjusting from his old life. It had gotten better in recent years, but he still had a hard time remembering that he was in a respectable profession, not helped by the fact that Nick didn't always get the respect that she felt he deserved as a member of the ZPD. "It'll be okay, alright?"

Judy nodded in understanding. "Don't worry. I'll protect my dashing damsel in distress," she joked.

That got a laugh out of Nick. "What? Are you going to adorable them to death?"

"Hey! You know as well as I do that I can take on rhinos!"

The banter helped Nick calm down a little bit, and they lapsed into a comfortable silence for the rest of the ride.

***

Nick and Judy soon pulled up outside Mr. Big's mansion in Tundratown and were escorted into his office. He was sitting in his plush office chair on top of the massive, polar bear-sized desk. "Nicolas, Judy… How are you two this fine evening?" He asked in his gruff, squeaky voice.

"Could be better," replied Judy with a sigh. "I assume you heard about the gang shootout earlier?"

"Yes, a tragedy…" replied the Arctic Shrew, swirling a tiny glass of liquor. "Before I go any further, am I suspect in how the arms got into the city?" He asked very carefully.

Judy narrowed her eyes. "Saying you're a suspect would be a bit… generous. We know that gun-running isn't your particulate 'business,'" she replied. "But you are definitely a Person of Interest. We came to you to see if you had any information."

Mr. Big responded by narrowing his eyes and then smirked. "My child, you truly do have brass ovaries," he said with a small chuckle. "Most cops would have flatly denied anything of the sort out of fear. But you…"

"Do you know anything or not?" She asked.

He sniffed the air. "I'll tell you if Nicolas agrees to stop stinking up the place with fear," he sighed.

She smelled it too. "Nick, please relax," she sighed. "We talked about this, he won't ice you. If for no other reason than he doesn't want to incur the wrath of Frufru."

Even Mr. Big had to chuckle at that statement.

Nick visibly calmed down upon being reminded that Mr. Big no longer wanted him dead.

"A few days ago, one of my businesses intercepted a boat carrying some… 'Classified' cargo," he began explaining. "After making sure their 'paperwork' checked out, my men allowed them the use of one of our warehouses. However, as it was late and their shifts were almost over, they didn't attempt more than a cursory inspection of those goods," he explained. "They were reprimanded accordingly."

"So you found some people with illegal cargo, and they paid you to help them smuggle it in," she clarified. Judy knew how to read between the lines of what he was saying.

"My dear, does that sound like the activities of a legitimate business mammal?" He asked her.

Judy wrote down what he had told her and then pocketed her notepad. "Thank you, Mr. Big, you've been a great help." She turned to walk away then asked him. "But why? I know your reputation well enough to realize that you don't help cops out for nothing."

"Cops, no. Family? Yes. There are more important things in this world than money, and armed shootouts of this scale in my town are more than I can abide by, especially with a grandchild who so dearly likes to go downtown."

Judy considered his words and nodded her head. "Well, with any luck, little Judy will all safe and sound. One more thing, a suspect was murdered, and the ZPD suspects it was an inside job. Know anything about that?" She asked.

His eyes narrowed. "No," he replied. "Nothing about that. I have some friends on the force, but no one said anything to me." He fixed Judy with a glare. "And I certainly do not appreciate such accusations being made of me."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," Judy replied quickly. "Just doing my due diligence. Nothing personal."

He nodded, seemingly satisfied with that answer. "Good luck to you two, and much happiness in your future…"

***

Nick and Judy were escorted into another limo. "Well, that was somewhat successful," she said after a short silence. "Any ideas on where to go for another lead? Or should we call it a night?"

Nick gazed out the window for a moment, weighing his options. "There's only one guy I can think of that might give us a shot, and night is the only time he's out and about. But Carrots, if we go to him, I'm not going to be able to make it in to work tomorrow," he told her. "Maybe even the next day."

Judy laughed. "Yeah right, lazybones," she scoffed before she saw the dead-serious expression on his face. "Wait, seriously?" She asked.

"Absolutely," he responded. "Just tell Bogo, he'll understand."

"Why," she asked, concerned. "You're not going to have to do anything… bad… are you?" She asked. "Because we can get information elsewhere."

"Relax, Carrots, nothing like that, I'll just be in horrible shape. I'll explain on the way. But first, we need to go to your place and also mine," he instructed the driver. He took a look down at his police uniform. "Where we're going. If we showed up as cops, we would not at all be welcome."

Judy raised her eyebrow at that. "And where, exactly, are we going?" She asked.

"Nocturnal District," he answered. "Get ready, Carrots, we're going to Predators' Paradise."

***

Swinton looked over the assembled City Council.

"In light of the recent events, I feel as though we must take extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of our citizens. To that effect, I truly believe that TUSK will be a great asset to both us, and the ZPD. A rapid-response unit that can arrive on the scene and will be able to secure criminals in case the ZPD cannot get there in time," she explained. "I understand that this might seem like a lot, but with two events, one of which has now claimed innocent lives, we cannot afford to sit by and do nothing."

The members of the council talked among themselves and came to a conclusion.

"Mayor Swinton," said Hornaday. "Your request for TUSK funding and deployment, has been granted," declared the old Greater Kudu. "May we not need them for very long."

Swinton grinned to herself.

Just as planned

Chapter Text

Judy gave another look at Nick. "So. Uh… You just happened to have that outfit on hand, huh?" She asked.

Nick was thanking Karma and any other deities out there that his fur was hiding his blush. "Look. You'll understand when I take you to the place we're going to."

"Oh. I'm sure I will," Judy replied. "I won't, however, understand why you own that ensemble."

Nick was dressed in a tight-fitting pleather vest and a matching pair of pants. He was also wearing a collar around his neck. It was bulky, sturdy, and had several D-rings hanging off the front, back, and sides. He was also wearing matching wristbands. Nick knew that he would have to come up with some reason to explain why he had it. "Look. I went through a 'phase' when I was younger. Okay?" Anything was better than telling her why he actually owned it.

"Uh-huh," replied Judy in a tone of voice that indicated she didn't quite buy it. "So what are we going to do about my outfit?" She asked. "Unfortunately, I don't own anything that looks like it came out of Fifty Shades."

He rolled his eyes. "Don't even mention that literary abomination," he groaned.

Judy laughed. "Seriously, though. I don't own anything like that."

"That's fine," replied Nick. "We just have to get you into something that doesn't make you look like a cop. Lucky for you, I still have all those skills I learned in my father's tailor shop."

***

"See, Nick. Nothing," she sighed as she showed him her closet. Except for her uniforms, she had very little in there. Just some workout clothes, a dress for formal occasions, the clothes for her detective work she had gotten recently, and some casual clothes.

Nick put a paw on his chin and carefully considered his options. "So, those undershirts," he said, gesturing to a shelf of plain, white, cotton t-shirts that she wore. "Those weren't expensive, right? Like, you got them in a four-pack from the store or something, right?" He asked.

"Yeah, a six-pack, actually. Why?"

"Mind if I destroy this one?" He asked. He began rifling through her drawers and found some markers and a pair of scissors. He looked over her for a moment and nodded. "I can make this work. Mind if I have one of them?" He asked her.

She shrugged and handed him another one off the shelf. "I mean, I don't know what you're going to do to make it fit the 'seedy nightclub' aesthetic," she said.

"Not, 'seedy,'" he told her, "Just… rebellious."

Judy shrugged. "Alright. Do what you have to, I'm not going to miss one of those shirts."

"Great!" He chirped, grabbing some scissors out of a drawer. "I wish there were fabric shears, but then again, the effect might be nice…" he muttered and set to work. He cut a diagonal strip off of the bottom so that the hem would end just above her navel and then sliced the collar and arms off, leaving a white tank top that would expose her collarbone and stomach. Then, he took out the markers and got to work. He drew a skull on one of the shoulder straps and then wrote "I Eat Meat" on the chest. "There we go."

".. You know, if I didn't know you so well, I would accuse you of being a pervert," she joked, taking the new top with a smirk. "You're lucky I know you're doing this for a case."

"Can't it be both?" He joked. "Pair this with those black jeans, and we should be good to go," he suggested, turning his back and letting her slip into the improvised outfit.

Judy followed his suggestion and then admired herself in the mirror. She had to admit, she looked damn good. "Alright, now to the club?" She asked, checking her phone. It was just past midnight.

Nick nodded. "Yep, after you," he told her. Nick stole a glance at her as she walked away. He had to keep his constant vigil over her tail, after all.

***

The limo pulled up to the curb a few blocks away from the club, Nick and Judy not wanting to ostentatiously step out of the luxury vehicle right in front of the club, they were trying to stay low-profile, after all.

"Well, Carrots, welcome to the Nocturnal District Happytown," he told her, gesturing. "The one-stop-shop for most of Zootopia's nightlife."

She looked around and had to agree, the entire place was lit up with neon signs advertising bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, casinos, basically every kind of nocturnal activity the young and restless members of society craved. And the location in a mostly predator-populated area gave it something of a dangerous edge, at least in the mind of the prey who went here.

"It sure is… something…" she said, somewhat speechless at the sheer neon beauty of the place. It certainly had an aesthetic all its own. "So what makes the place we're going to so special?"

"Well, basically, it was one of the first successful predator-owned businesses before the segregation and collars ended," he told her. "But the real reason is that it's sort of a safe space for Predators to just be, well, predators. Sometimes, wolves need to be in a pack, sometimes we want to hunt, fight, be aggressive. You know, all the things that would normally get us run out of town wherever we stayed?"

Judy gave him a look.

"Like Mr. Big says, deep down, we are all still animals. You binky in joy, and your nose does that absolutely adorable twitching when you're concentrating, you know what I mean."

"Dangerously close to using the c-word there foxy," she teased.

Nick continued on. "Well, all that is seen as harmless stuff. But predators, we growl, snarl, bare our fangs, and stuff like that. Stuff that sends prey reaching for a stun gun or a can of mace. So we suppress it, and then take it to Predators' Paradise, where we let it out, and have fun doing it," he explained. "So with that in mind… please don't arrest anyone, okay?"

"What if I see a crime happening?" She asked.

"Ignore it unless someone is literally bleeding out on the floor. We have bigger fish to fry, and you will definitely see some drugs in there, and probably some… indecent activity…" he explained delicately. "the inside of that place really is no-holds-barred. You see some nip or some nightshade, ignore it, you see some mammals fighting, ignore it. Understand?"

Judy sighed. "Yeah. I get it."

Soon, they got to the front door, where a lone bouncer was waiting. The muscular tiger eyes both of them. "She with you?" She asked, eyeing the decidedly out-of-place Judy.

"Totally," Nick grinned, wrapping a tail around her and pulling her close. "Gonna have some fun upstairs," he winked.

She laughed. "I see, I see. Have fun you two." She opened the door for them, and Judy nearly locked up.

The scent hit her like a brick wall, heavy and musky, unmistakably predator. She followed Nick in as her head swam, as her gut screamed at her that this was a very bad place, while certain… other parts of her anatomy told her that this was a very good place.

"You holding up there, Carrots?!" He asked her over the thumping bass of the music, sensing her adrenaline spike and the strange mixture of fear and something he couldn't quite place flooded the air, barely perceptible over the heady musk.

"Yeah, just a bit, overwhelmed!" she said, pressing her ears against her skull to keep the sound of the heavy EDM out.

"Don't worry! We'll be out of this place soon enough! We're going to the top floor!"

Judy nodded and looked around. Nick wasn't kidding, someone was enjoying some nip right in the corner, and she was pretty sure she saw a male wolf pinning a female against a wall with his hand up her shirt, not that the female seemed to be protesting it.

"See what I mean?! Check your inhibitions at the door!"

"This place is huge!" She observed.

"Yeah! And this is only the first two floors! The third floor basically a set of private rooms, the fourth floor is the 'Hunting Grounds,' and the top floor is where we're heading!" He walked her over to an elevator, but on the way, a careless weasel grabbed her by her arm.

"Hey there, bunny! Wanna ditch the old-timer?" He grinned.

Judy was about to protest when she hard an audible growl from behind her. She turned and saw Nick, slitted pupils narrowed to thin black lines despite the low light of the club, and teeth fully bared in a growl at the weasel.

Judy pulled herself away from the intruder and stood close to Nick.

"You got your answer, now scram," he snarled out.

"Okay! Okay! Be cool!" He put his paws up and backed away.

"You okay?" He asked Judy, calming down slightly.

'Sweet cheese and crackers I want to run my tongue along those teeth,' the thought ran through her mind before she could stop it. She was becoming more and more certain of her attraction to Nick. "Oh! Yeah, thanks," she replied, snapping out of it.

Nick called for the elevator, and then they stepped in. "So, you mentioned the "hunting grounds' what are those?" She asked, hoping to fill the space with words.

"Ah, well, basically, it's where predators and prey participate in a sort of… hunt…" he explained, a bit awkwardly. "The prey is given a thirty second head start, and then the predator is supposed to chase them. The idea is that the predator is supposed to catch them and then, well… there's a reason that there are private rooms on that floor." Nick let Judy fill in the gap.

"It's… a sex thing?" She asked. "What? Why? How?"

Nick shrugged. "Some mammals get off on that stuff. It was… never to my taste," he told her. "Not that I'm judging anyone, it was just never for me."

Judy found herself wondering what Nick was into. And then wondering why she was wondering that.

The elevator dinged, and soon they were on the fifth floor. It had the same aesthetic as the floor below, but the music was subdued and the chatter was a dull roar at the loudest. Nick walked up to the bar.

"Mark," he greeted the lion behind the bar.

"Mister Wilde, is that you?" he asked, eyebrows raising. "It's been a while. We haven't seen you here for quite some time, well before you joined the academy." He grinned. "Are you here for Mis-"

"Tepes," replied Nick, cutting him off. "I'm here to see Tepes."

He chuckled. "Elizabeth will be so disappointed, you were one of her favorites." He looked over Nick. "And her?" He asked, turning his gaze to Judy.

"She's here to help me home. You and I both know what state I'll be in after Vlad sucks me dry."

"Remember the rules?" He asked.

"Yes," he replied and then sighed. "It's been six hours since I last ate."

"Excellent, and what do you need to know about?" Asked the lion. "Master Tepes will need to figure out the appropriate price…"

Nick handed him a folded piece of paper.

The lion didn't even look at it and opened a door behind the bar and handed it off to someone unseen before he stood and waited for a few minutes. A door opened again, and he received his instructions.

"My my, you must want quite an expensive piece of information!" he remarked, rarely do we break out this level of expensive booze."

He reached for the top shelf and grabbed a bottle. "Single-malt scotch, aged fifty years. This particular bottle comes in at the cost of nearly fifty thousand dollars," he rattled off. "Mister Wilde is to drink three glasses and then wait thirty minutes for it to enter his bloodstream. After that, mister Tepes will exact his payment."

"Wait, so this guy is making us drink really nice booze as a form of paying him?" Judy asked, confused. "Why?"

Mark looked confused. "You didn't tell her?" He asked Nick.

"She would have tried to stop me," he explained. "She's like that." He poured himself a full glass and began drinking it."

"Didn't tell me what?"

"Tepes is a vampire bat," he explained. "And he likes to take booze-infused blood as an alternative to cash," he informed her. "He's going to liquor me up and drain me dry."

"Not dry," injected Mark into the conversation. "He'll take far less than any amount that could be dangerous to Mr. Wilde."

Judy's mouth was hanging open. "Is that even legal?!" She asked incredulously.

"Actually, yes," replied Nick. "Provided I give my consent, which I have." He poured a second glass. "This is amazing Scotch, too bad it would cost me over half a year's salary to get a bottle of my own…" he lamented.

Judy huffed. "You do realize that literally paying in blood for information is absolutely insane, right?" She asked him.

"And heavily-armed street gangs aren't?" he replied. "Desperate times call for desperate measures. "Too bad about the hangover I'll have tomorrow. Three glasses of scotch, followed by a blood transfusion, does not for a good morning after make…"

"Drink some water, It'll help," suggested Mark.

Nick drank the second glass. "Seriously, I am going to savor this. I will probably never get anything like this ever again."

"Don't take too long, you'll need to have it all ready for Master Tepes."

Nick sighed and slowly drank the third glass. "Alright… Now, we wait." They had about twenty more minutes before the alcohol to be absorbed into his blood.

"You okay?" Asked Judy.

"'Course I am, just, good scotch is all…"

While Nick sat and relaxed, Judy began to explore, her curious nature getting the better of her. This part of the club looked like a trendy, high-end bar, with cool lighting and metal surfaces everywhere. She went to the lion next to the door. Mark, Nick had called him.

"Um… Excuse me?" She asked.

"Yes, miss?" He asked her, voice polite and professional.

"Um… who is Elizabeth?" She asked.

Mark looked at her carefully. "Why do you want to know?" He asked. "What is your relationship with Nick?"

"Nick's my friend. And my partner on the ZPD."

"I see. I suppose I can tell you then. Elizabeth. Or, as she's much better known, Mistress Hart," he explained. "She's one of the few non-predator employees we have working here."

"Mistress… wait. She's a-"

"Dominatrix, yes," he replied. "And Nick was a frequent client of hers. I thought at first that he had come here for a session with her. That outfit he's wearing was her favorite."

"Thank you…" Judy walked back to Nick and sat down next to him. This conversation, along with Nick coming out to her, had made her realize just how little she actually knew about him. Most of what Judy knew about him was stuff that could easily be gleaned from a social media profile. Before this, the only really personal thing she knew about him was that his middle name was "Piberius," and that he was named that because his parents were both fans of an old Gene Rodentberry sci-fi show.

"Hey, Fluff. Where'd you get off to?" He asked, unaware of her conversation with Mark.

"Just… looking around. I forgot my phone in the limo, so I'm just killing time until you do the totally insane thing you came here to do."

Nick was clearly starting to become affected by the liquor. "Ah. Bored little bunny," he teased. Then he laughed. "Hey, hey, Judy."

"Yes, Nick?" She asked.

"What do you call a three-humped camel?" He asked her. "Pregnant!" He laughed again, actually slapping his knee.

Judy laughed. Not at the joke, but at Nick's behavior. Even if she didn't know that much about him, Nick was still Nick. She genuinely got the sense that he had never been anything less than himself with her. That made her feel better.

She still wanted to grill him about that dominatrix, though.

Twenty minutes later, the door from earlier was opened. They shared a glance and walked through. Soon, they came to a room decorated from top to bottom in black marble. In the center of it, working away on a laptop, was a bat. "Nicholas… Never thought I would see you again. Not since you stopped being a courier for me…"

"Had to go my own way," he explained, sitting down in a plush chair while a wolf came over and hooked Nick up to a transfusion kit.

"Of course, of course. This is quite the expensive bit of information you're asking me for. You might get in over your head…"

"Better than the alternative…" he sighed as the bag began filling up with blood.

Tepes grinned. "You always did go so well with scotch… thank you for this, Nicholas." He tapped a few buttons on his laptop and pulled out a flash drive. "What you need is on here. Everything I have that relates to your case. It isn't much, but you should have a solid start with it…"

"What is it?" She asked.

"A phone call that one of my agents recorded regarding that killed prisoner, and yes, he was killed. Might point you in the right direction."

"Fuckin… Sweet…" slurred Nick, clearly feeling the effects of the alcohol and the blood loss.

"Get some water in him, and I'm sure he'll be fine in a day or two."

Judy gave him a suspicious look as the wolf unhooked Nick from the IV and handed the bag of blood to the Bat, who took a moment to sample some.

"Mm… Getting in shape the way you have has done wonders for you, Nicholas. You taste better than ever," he complimented.

"Thanks, man…"

Judy helped him onto his feet. He leaned on her heavily as they exited the room and took the elevator down to the entrance level, Nick gave a wince at the noise once they were back in the leading club. He tried to convince her to dance with him, promising that he could pull it together. She was able to convince him to just go home. He was remarkably pliant, willing to go along with what she said with minimal resistance. She had expected that the alcohol would have made him more belligerent, but it seemed to have the opposite effect.

Suddenly, so many things made sense. The outfit, the dominatrix, and now his willingness to simply do as she told him. She pushed those thoughts out of her mind. Something for another day.

Luckily, they exited and made it back to the limo without incident.

"Did we get it?" Nick slurred, falling over in the seat.

"Yes, Nick, we got something. We'll have to check it out as soon as we can," she reminded him.

"Good…" He slumped into the limo seat.

Judy took out her phone and gave Bogo a call.

"Hopps?" He asked, clearly exhausted. "You had better have a good reason to call me…" he grumbled. “At half-past midnight.”

"You know that matter you asked us to look into," she said, keeping her language vague. "Well, we may have something. A Legitimate Businessman and a Nightclub Owner were very helpful."

"… I see. You'll have to tell me about it when you and Wilde report for duty tomorrow," he told her after a pause.

"About that, Sir, Detective Wilde may need some time off, let's just say that our meeting with the Nightclub Owner was quite… Draining, on him…"

Bogo, although tired, was able to put two and two together. "I suppose after making that kind of an effort for the station, Detective Wilde has earned a day or two off. Make sure he gets home safely, Hopps."

"Yes, Sir, Hopps out." She hung up.

"Judy?" Asked Nick, nearly asleep. "Did we get anything?"

She sighed. "Yes, Nick, we got something." She grabbed a bottle of water from the limo. "Now drink this, okay?"

He was somewhat resistant but drank the water anyway.

Judy took him home and began helping him into his apartment. She opened the door after fishing his keys out of his pocket and walked him to his bedroom.

"Hey, I think I already asked this, but did we get anything?" He asked her for the fourth time.

"Yes, Nick, now come on." She helped him plop down into the bed.

"Thanks, Judy. I love you," he sighed. "I love you so much." He was barely conscious at this point.

Judy froze at that. Was he… Was he serious? He always said stuff like that, but something about the way he said it made it seem like he meant it in a more-than-platonic way. "Nick, what did you say?" She asked.

She got a snore in response, Nick was already out like a light. She sighed and turned around to leave, but tripped over something. Judy looked down at it and saw an open box, with a green bow inside of it. She made a mental note to ask about it later. Judy left him alone after making sure his phone was plugged in and that he was lying on his side in case he threw up. She left the building and walked to the train station, slightly shivering. The night was chilly, and her improvised tank top didn't do much to protect her from the elements.

She needed to talk to Nick later. Only now had she realized how little she actually knew about him. She cared about him and was starting to see him as more than just a friend and partner. She needed to get to know him better.

She returned to her apartment, undressed, and went to bed; cuddling up with her myriad of rabbit plushies and lone fox plushie, pulling that one close to her chest as she nodded off.

***

Back at the Precinct, Bogo was working another late night when he heard the news. He growled. "TUSK…," he muttered to himself. Swinton had been pushing for something like this for years, a special force of what basically amounted to SWAT officers, but under the direct control of the Mayor. Bogo had been one of its fiercest opponents, seeing it as far to open to abuse.

"Hopps, Wilde, you had better have something good for me," he sighed as he suddenly felt his age catching up to him. He stood up and locked up his office. He needed to be back at work in seven hours, and he would better serve his officers with a full night's sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Nick was startled out of his sleep by some horrible cacophony of noise. It assaulted his ears like someone was stabbing a thousand tiny ice picks through his eardrums and into his brain! He opened his eyes to see whatever was making that horrible sound and instantly regretted it. Some kind of bright supernova of light slammed into his sensitive retinas like the world's brightest bus.

Then, the pain hit him. His head felt like an elephant was sitting on it. His entire body had dry mouth, and he wanted to die. Eventually, he managed to collect himself and realized that the source of the unholy light and sound was his phone, sitting on his nightstand. He reached over and grabbed it. Judy was calling him. The idea of talking on the phone right now sounded worse than literal, actual torture, so he declined the call.

"Fucking Tepes… Whatever he gave us had better have been worth this." he whimpered as he curled up around himself and pulled the covers over himself. There was no way he was going into work today; he physically couldn't, Nick was willing to burn a sick day if he had to. He peeked an eye open and saw a note, a bottle of water and some ibuprofen on his nightstand.

"Nick, you have the next today and tomorrow off, rest up. I'll be over after my shift ends to check on you. Drink water."

He recognized Judy's handwriting. He did his best to open the water, wincing at the cracking of the plastic seal, his hearing was painfully sensitive, and then he took the smallest, tiniest sip of water, not wanting to risk upsetting his stomach. He then took two of the pills and another small sip of water, wincing at the sensation. He groaned and looked at the clock on his nightstand, it was a little bit past eleven in the morning. He hadn't slept this late in a long time. Even when he slept in on days off, he was almost always out of bed before ten. He pulled the covers back over himself and did his best to shut out everything, light, noise, movement, anything that would hurt.

He nearly started crying when his phone rang again. He reached a paw out from under his covers and grabbed it, wincing at the dim light it created. It was from Judy again. He declined the call and sent her a quick text.

"Too hungover, talk later."

After that, he put his phone on silent and put it away, closing his eyes as he waited for the pain to go away.

*

Judy, meanwhile, got the text and sighed. She'd give him some more time. Bogo had called the chief of Precinct five, the main precinct in Tundratown, in so Judy could show tell them what Mr. Big had told her. Chief Clawson, a giant polar bear, mulled it over in her head.

"We need to move on this quickly," said Chief Bogo. "If they find out that we know about these guns, we might not get another chance like this."

"I'm a bit wary of trusting the word of a known crime boss," replied Clawson, folding her arms over her chest. "What if he's involved and is trying to cover his tracks?"

"Mr. Big isn't like that," replied Judy, doing her best to make it sound like she wasn't defending him. "He's into financial crimes, racketeering and the like. He's not a gun runner, and he especially wouldn't distribute them in his own neighborhood. Not only would it looks too suspicious, but it would put his daughter and granddaughter in grave danger.

Clawson considered her words. "Chief, do you think moving on this is a good idea?" She asked Bogo.

"Judy Hopps is one of my finest officers, she has fantastic instincts," he explained. "If she thinks we should move on this then I agree with her."

Clawson considered this for a few seconds. Officers like Judy were handpicked by Bogo himself to form a sort of elite group of officers who handled the most challenging and most dangerous cases. If Judy had been here long enough to make Detective, then she clearly knew what she was doing.

"Okay, I'll have the place scouted out and see if we can obtain a warrant to raid the premises," she decided.

"Move fast. We need to get this done before the next attack."

Clawson nodded and departed.

Bogo turned to Judy. "Don't look so smug, Hopps," he told her. "Just tell me what you got from Tepes," he ordered.

"Right…" she reached into her pocket and pulled out the thumb drive. "Here."

Bogo took it and made sure his computer was disconnected from the internet. He plugged in the drive and watched as it was read. It was empty except for a sound file and a text file. Bogo clicked it, and it began playing.

"Boss?" Came a tired voice.

"Tomorrow night, Hooveson will be arrested by the ZPD and head in Precinct One. Listen to my instructions very carefully. Don't talk, just listen.

"In a garbage can outside the precinct, there will be a brown paper bag. Inside, there will be a syringe. Inject it into Hooveson somewhere discreet and then get out," said a heavily-modulated voice. "You're on shift tonight, so no one will be suspicious of your presence. Do this, and the usual fee will be deposited at the usual location. I trust you understand."

The call ended abruptly.

Bogo and Judy looked at the screen in silence.

Judy frowned. "Not much to go on. Do you recognize the voice?"

Bogo didn't answer. His hooves were clenched into tight fists. He was furious. A member of his precinct had wilfully participated in the murder of a suspect.

Chief?" Asked Judy. "Look, I know you're upset-"

"UPSET?!" He roared. "I was upset when someone bumped into me on the street and made me spill coffee all over my freshly-laundered uniform last week! I was upset when I lost my tickets to the Gazelle concert last year! I was upset when my phone broke, and I lost all my contacts!" He lowered his voice to a growl. "I'm not upset. I. Am. Furious."

"We'll catch whoever did this," she promised him. "Maybe check the text file. There might be more information there."

Bogo opened the file and took a look.

"This was all the information I could recover from the call. The number was encrypted, and the line was routed through several mirrors. Impossible to trace. Here are the locations of the towers the call was routed through. They're all over the city. If I intercept any more calls, I'll supply you with the relevant information, free of charge. It might help you find who did it.

"Goodbye for now."

"Must be Tepes," remarked Judy, disappointed.

"Why would an information broker give away free information?" Asked Bogo.

"I don't know. Nick seemed to know him," replied Judy. "I'll ask when I see him later today. I'm sure he has an ulterior motive."

"Good to see you're not completely naive, Hopps," said Bogo. "In the meantime, I'll go and meet with the Coroner, get them to check over every last inch of his body for a needle mark. And if they can't find one, tell them to shave every last shred of fur off of his body and check again."

Judy nodded. "Will that be all, sir?" She asked.

"Yes, Hopps. Dismissed."

Judy hopped off the chair and exited the room, needing to jump to reach the door handle. She missed Nick. He was just tall enough to reach the handle and get the door for her.

She went back to her desk and began looking over the case files. She and Nick had put together a whiteboard of all the relevant information on the case. Alternating between the board and her case notes began to make her mind numb, and she began to wish that Nick was here with her. Her thoughts drifted to Nick. The bow under his bed, his sexual interests, his past, she had learned so much about him ever since they had started working this case.

"Crackers. I really have it bad…" Judy groaned quietly to herself. She shook those thoughts out of her head and started studying the case files again. Maybe she could find something...

She was shaken out of her review when Fangmeyer walked in and asked her how things were going.

"I'm stumped. I have no idea what to do about this. Everything just seems to lead to a dead end."

"You want my advice?" Asked Fangmeyer. "Don't drive yourself crazy. You got us some great leads with those tips from Big and Tepes. Maybe wait to see if those do or don't pan out before you drive yourself up the wall."

"You think that's smart?" She asked. "This is dangerous."

"All I'm saying is that if you can't keep a cool head and relax when you need to, then you'll end up burning out and end up that depressed detective who gives up on every case and hangs out in a bar all hours of the day," he explained. "Take it from someone with a few years under his belt, sometimes, all you can do is wait for a lead to pan out."

"You really think so?" She asked.

"Yeah. That's why we all like Nick as your partner. You two really compliment each other. You pull him along and keep him on task, and he pulls you back and stops you from working yourself into an early grave."

"I wouldn't say.. 'Early' grave," she replied weakly.

"Okay, we'll say a premature grave."

"You're an ass, sir."

"Duly noted," the tiger replied, smirking. "Come on, come with me to the break room. You've been here for ours. You missed lunch."

"What?" Asked Judy. "But I've only been here for…" she checked the time on her phone. It had been just after ten when she sat down, and it was now two o'clock. "Four hours," she groaned.

She pushed away from her desk. As she walked towards the break room, she realized how hungry she was. She hadn't thought that she would notice Nick's absence as much as she was. Nick had become an integral part of her life at Precinct One without her even realizing it. She couldn't even begin to count the number of times he had brought some kind of salad or veggie wrap to her desk during lunch, usually with some sort of sarcastic remark that she'd work herself into starvation without him there to feed her.

"You okay, Hopps?" Asked Fangmeyer.

"Starving," she replied. "Haven't eaten since breakfast."

*

A few hours later, Nick rolled out of bed, feel by a bit better. His head still hurt, but the water and medicine had done their job, and the pain in his head was now a dull throb, a significant improvement over "white-hot railroad spikes through the temples." He looked at the clock and saw that it was past noon. Even by his standards, this was really late. He dragged himself into the shower, hoping that it would wake him up.

It actually did. By the time he got out, Nick felt better still and was ready to talk to Judy.

Provided he kept the volume on his phone low.

He sent her a text, telling her that he could talk now.

He began snacking on some blueberries and enjoying the fact that he had blackout shades on all his windows. Useful for privacy and keeping the unholy abomination that was the sun at bay.

It wasn't long before Judy called him. He answered his phone when he heard it vibrate.

"Hey, Judy," he greeted.

"Hi, Nick,"

He winced. Judy wasn't particularly loud, but he turned down the volume on his phone anyway.

"How's work going?" He asked her.

"Fine. We're working on some stuff, and I gave Bogo the information that Tepes gave us. Apparently, he said he was willing to give us any more relevant info free of charge," she told him. "And idea why? Bogo and I are kind of suspicious about that."

"What, you don't think he's doing this out of the kindness of his own generous heart?" He teased.

"No."

"Good. He isn't." Nick sighed. "I can think of two reasons. One, he's trying to curry favor with the ZPD by helping us out, if we consider him a good source of information then that means more money and more blood for him," he began. "And two, he probably wants to stop things before those guns spill over into his neck of the woods and figures that helping us as the most pragmatic way to go about it," he supposed. "Dead clientele are bad for his bottom line."

"Makes sense," she replied. "I'll come over later, and we can have a nice conversation. I actually have a few things I wanted to ask you about."

"Okay, I'll be here, not like I feel up to moving."

Judy chuckled and hung up.

Nick looked at his phone and sighed, wondering what she wanted to ask him. He noticed for the first time that the box he kept his bow in was open, he closed it and slid it back under his bed. Then he went to the couch and sat down, taking some more ibuprofen and grabbing another drink of water.

*

After her shift ended, Judy went over to Nick's place, where she looked around before seeing him on the couch.

"Carrots, would you do me a favor and keep the voice low?" He pleaded. "Still hurts from last night. Thanks for the water and the medicine, though."

Judy smiled. "No problem, I'm glad they helped. How are you feeling?" She asked, keeping her voice low.

"I've been better," he shrugged, trying to play the tough guy.

"Uh-huh, I have Bogo the information, looks like the killing of Hooveson was an inside job, and we have a possible location on weapons shipments, we're coordinating with the main Tundratown precinct to investigate where the guns are being stashed. Hopefully, we can make a move on them tomorrow."

"Great, so the mother of all hangovers was worth it?" He asked.

"I hope it will be. We're banking that we'll be able to find someone who can tell us who the mastermind behind this all is."

"Any working theories?" he asked. "Motivations, connections, goals? Anything?"
He asked. "No one just sells high-powered weaponry to young predators just for shits and giggles."

"Sorry, no. Whoever is behind this is good at keeping themselves concealed. No one has been able to name any possible suspects. It's possible we're dealing with a newcomer. An exceptionally well-prepared newcomer."

"Fun…" Nick snarked. "Well, I hope that the raid gives us some kind of breakthrough. We need to figure out what's going on or we're screwed."

Judy sighed. "So, anyway, I had some stuff I wanted to ask you about," she said.

"Shoot," he told her.

"What's up with that bow?" She asked. "I saw it in your room when I dropped you off last night, and I'm just kind of curious. You never mentioned that you were into archery."

He shrugged. "Never came up."

"Why archery?" She asked.

"You know about Robin Hood?" He asked.

"A little bit," she said, "Wasn't he a thief and a criminal who stole from the rulers of his own kingdom?"

Nick sighed. "That's the bastardized version," he grumbled. "The one spread by bigots to make foxes look bad." He took a breath and began to explain. "Robin Hood is something of a folk hero to foxes. A noble rogue who struck back against greedy and unjust rulers."

"Yeah, that sounds very different from the storied I heard.

"Well, here's the short version. Robin Hood was a fox, he lived in the village of Nottingham. The king was absent, and in his place, a greedy and corrupt prince ruled. Allied to the king was the Sheriff of Nottingham, who forced the people to pay impossible taxes, bleeding them dry to line their own pockets. Robin Hood eventually tired of that, and so he fought back. With nothing but his wits and his bow, he struck back against the greedy prince, and eventually gained a band of followers known as the 'Merry Men.' They eventually dethroned the prince and returned the rightful king to the throne. For his service to the rightful king, Robin was given the honor and the privilege of offering his hand in marriage to a Noble Vixen, Maid Marian, whom he served faithfully for the rest of his days.

"He's something of a paragon among foxes, a role model of who we should aspire to be. He fought for justice, even though he was branded as a criminal for it. Archery was his thing, so a lot of foxes practice it. Finnick practices it as well."

Judy took a moment to process that. She hadn't expected something so profound. "Wow, that's really interesting."

"Glad you think so," he smirked. "Maybe someday I'll give you some archery lessons if you want."

"I might just take you up on that." She replied with a smirk. "Also, last night you…" she wanted to ask him about so much more, but the words died on her lips, she got cold paws and decided to drop it. "Never mind, I forgot." She felt so awkward, bringing it up!

"That's not like you," he replied. "Is my poor little bunny facing some early senility?" He teased.

"Ha.. ha…" she rolled her eyes. "Keep that up, and I'll play that song you hate at full blast, let's see how your hangover likes that!"

He winced, both at the threat and the volume. "You wouldn't dare," he replied.

"That's right foxy-loxy. ," she replied triumphantly. It was hard to get one over on Nick, so she took her victories where she could get them. "Anyway, you seem to be doing alright. Can I hang out here for a little bit?" She didn't want to admit how much she had missed him.

"Always, Carrots, always. Just keep it quiet, okay?"

*

Meanwhile, Two Officers had been sent out to investigate the tip that Mr. Big had given them. The owner of the warehouses had given them permission to poke around after they explained what was going on and who had told them what. The owner agreed to let them look around and keep it quiet. Grizzoli and Wolford had been assigned to the case.

They snuck over to the warehouse Mr. Big had pointed out and climbed the fire escape on the outside as high as it would go, and then looked into the window. Unfortunately, they were covered.

"Yeah, that's not suspicious at all," quipped Wolford. They continued along the outer perimeter of the warehouse and found a window that could be opened from the outside. Grizzoli carefully unlocked it, and Wolford cracked it open and peered inside. Luckily, no one was looking at the particular window they had opened, and they had a clear view.

"Sweet mother of god," breathed Wolford. There were guns alright, hundreds of them, and what looked like enormous crates of ammunition, tens of thousands of rounds. "Call Bogo, he whispered, closing the window before anyone saw them. "We just hit the motherlode."

*

Swinton pulled up to her house. She stepped out of her car and walked in before kicking off her Preyda shoes and threw her matching bag on her couch. She poured a belt of scotch out of a crystal and downed it all in one big gulp before pouring a second helping, taking the decanter with her as she collapsed on her couch.

She never would have thought that being Mayor was so much fucking work. How did Lionheart and Bellwether make it look so easy? She grabbed her remote and switched on her television before pounding down her second glass.

Then, her phone rang.

"What?" She asked, annoyed.

"SWINTON!" Screamed Claw. "Turn on the news!"

"Claw? What the hell is going on?" She asked.

"Right the fuck now!"

She did as Claw demanded and turned on the television. She squeezed the crystal glass in her hoof hard enough to shatter it.

*

After contacting Bogo, a raid was hastily planned. Clawson and Bogo rapidly coordinated their forces, mostly Clawson's arctic-adapted officers to deal with the cold night climate. A team mainly made of arctic wolves and polar bears. All dressed in the standard Tundratown icy white SWAT armor. The breech and clear went perfectly, no one was expecting to be attacked at the Tundratown warehouse, so security was slow to react.

The officers suffered minimal casualties, no dead and a few wounded.

After clearing out the criminals, Bogo and Clawson stepped in to observe the bust.

Bogo whistled. "Enough firepower here to take over a small country. Where the hell are they getting so much?"

"And where are the funds coming from?" Asked Clawson.

Even as ZPD trucks were moved in and loaded up with the weapons to have them stored in evidence and examined, the sense of victory was bittersweet. They may have stemmed the tide, but nothing was stopping the dealer, whoever they were, from setting up elsewhere.

"Fuck yourselves! I'll never talk!" Screamed a Russian snow sheep as she was dragged into a police van by two officers.

"This is technically your jurisdiction," mused Bogo. "Will you be taking her?"

"Your case, your perp," replied Clawson. "She's all yours. We'll just hold her overnight. She'll be yours' first thing in the morning."

"I appreciate it," replied Bogo, holding out a hoof.

"No problem. You're the one with the elite officers," she teased.

Bogo smirked and punched her in the shoulder.

*

Back with Swinton, the news was reporting the breaking news about the giant raid that had just happened, and about the weapons had been seized, with many predicting that this might be the end of the deadly plague of firearms that had been gripping Zootopia.

"I am not happy, Swinton! Keeping this under wraps was your task!" He yelled at her. "If we don't get this sorted out soon we won't be able to keep the plan on course! TUSK was supposed to keep the weapons from being discovered!"

"They haven't had enough time to get into position! I had no idea that this was even happening! They must have planned and executed it overnight!" She yelled back at him. "Look! We have TUSK already set up, we just need to justify their presence until the next attack. We can move them into position early, and they'll look like heroes."

"You had better hope you can keep them in place!" He growled through the phone. "Natasha has been arrested. I know that she won't talk. In the meantime, just keep TUSK in place while I move up the schedule. I'll have to rush the shipment of new weapons."

"Fucking fine. Why call me just to yell at me if you can just do that."

"To warn you. You're valuable, Swinton, but not irreplaceable. Further failure will not be tolerated."

"What the fuck is this?! You need me!"

"We have a mutual partnership. I benefit from this, as well. We had a bargain, you have your end to hold up. And I will cut you loose if you continue to disappoint." He hung up before she could respond.

Swinton screamed and hurled her phone across the room, sending it crashing into a wall and shattering it. She took a long pull from the decanter, draining the expensive scotch until the entire decanter.

An attractive, snow leopard anchorwoman was on the television, praising the "quick and decisive action ZPD Chief Bogo," and how the bust has many calling on him to run for mayor after Swinton's term is up. Every single word made her temper boil higher and higher. And when Judy Hopps was mentioned, Swinton lost it. She threw her decanter at the television and shattered both the crystal bottle and the screen. She grabbed a second phone, a secure, difficult-to-trace line supplied by Claw.

She dialed up a number. It was picked up quickly. "Matthew, don't talk, just listen. I think that it's time to deal with a particularly annoying thorn in my side…" The image on the shattered television flickered, displaying a picture of Judy Hopps, a long, ugly crack on the screen running directly through her smiling, insufferable face.