“It’ll be fine,” Judy told Nick as he tossed a suitcase into the trunk of their rented car. Neither of them had one of their own; they could walk anywhere in the city when they weren’t on-duty, and when they were, they had access to police vehicles.
“Hey, c’mon, Carrots,” Nick said, putting on his best ‘relaxed’ tone, “do you really think I’m nervous? It’s just your parents. You’ve already made me Muzzletime them plenty.”
Judy just gave Nick a knowing look, which the fox rolled his eyes at. Judy knew that meant he'd given up on his denial, at least.
“It could be worse,” Judy offered, “my little sister Dawn bought a boy over for dinner once; my parents thought he was just a friend. She sprung the news to them over carrot pudding. It didn’t exactly go well.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Nick asked. “Because your parents might know we’re dating, but still – Hold on. You didn’t just say carrot pudding, did you?”
“Sure. What’s wrong with carrot pudding?”
Nick stared at her for a moment, before giving an exaggerated shrug. “I don’t know where to start. Forget it, Carrots.”
Judy hopped – literally, of course – into the driver’s seat of the car. It was funny, really, how ‘Carrots’ had gone from a name Nick used to keep an emotional distance from Judy to an affectionate petname. Once Nick had settled into the passenger’s seat, they started off.
“I guess we should have taken the train,” Judy sighed about an hour later, when they were caught in stand-still traffic at the city border.
“Maybe,” Nick agreed. Judy took her eyes off the road for a second or two to look quizzically at Nick, before quickly correcting herself. She was, after all, a cop.
“That’s it? ‘Maybe’? No excuse to tease me about my sense of direction? I mean, come on, surely the sly and crafty Nick Wilde knows some less-traveled route we could have taken.” She egged him on, hoping to get some normal behavior out of him.
“Eh, you pretty much always get traffic leaving Zootopia this time of day,” was all Nick said. Judy’s nose began to twitch.
“Wow, you really are nervous, aren’t you?” She supposed this was something most people did get nervous about, and it wasn’t as if Nick had any family left for her to meet. She really couldn’t make a judgement call on whether or not Nick’s nerves were justified. There was a time where they certainly would have been, but her parents really had opened their minds about predators – particularly foxes, in fact. Thank you, Gideon, she thought to herself. She considered explaining this to Nick, but… Well, it wasn’t anything new to him. Like he’d referenced earlier, her parents had already met him through Muzzletime. And unlike Dawn, she had told her parents about the relationship. Sure, they’d been surprised, but – for once – they hadn’t been scared. Maybe Nick needed a reminder. “They’re not going to be scared of you.”
“That’s not what I’m really worried about. Although I wouldn’t bank on that, either.”
Judy paused, unsure of which issue to tackle first. The fact that he had other worries was probably the bigger deal, but… She couldn’t help but feel both so sad for Nick and a bit defensive of her parents at the idea that they’d still be scared of him.
“You think they’ll be scared of you?”
“Do I think your parents, who have barely ever left Bunnyborrow, will be at least a teensy bit concerned about their daughter dating a predator? I think it’s possible, yes.” Judy’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. “It’s not their fault, Carrots, it’s just that they’re sheltered.”
“Maybe,” Judy said slowly, “but I don’t think you need to be worried about that.”
“Well, I told you, it’s not my biggest worry. You’re kind of fixating, though.”
“I just…” Judy shook her head. She was definitely feeling defensive now, but she knew that wasn’t all that justified. Her parents, as much as she loved them, did have a long history of driving her crazy with their cautious ways. “Okay. They might be a little scared, but it’ll be fine. What else are you worried about?”
Nick was quiet, and Judy waited patiently for him to speak. Even with all the changes Nick had made in his life, and even with how incredibly close they were to one another, opening up emotionally was still a challenge for the fox. She respected that. And, as usual, her patience did pay off.
“It’s not so much the fox thing as the ex-conman thing. That, and, well… I’ve never done this before.”
Judy was surprised to hear this, but only for a moment. It wasn’t like Nick was in a situation to have a serious romantic history. Judy pulled into the breakdown lane and stopped the car. Nick gave her a confused look.
“Um, yeah, I’m pretty sure you of all people know you can’t just do that.”
Judy ignored that and took one of Nick’s paws in both of her own, holding it tenderly. Her big, purple eyes met his. “Nick, it’ll be fine. Really. All you need to do is be yourself.”
“Yeah, because that’s gone so well for me in the past.”
“I mean it. Nick, you’re great. You don’t need to worry about doing anything wrong.”
“No, you’re great, Judy. I’m just me. And, let’s face it, that’s at the best of times. And if they don’t like me – ”
“If they don’t like you, they don’t like you,” Judy said matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing on the line here, Nick. You know I love you, and my parents’ opinion of you wouldn’t change that. I mean it.”
Nick nodded. “Look, it’s not that I don’t believe that, it’s just that... Well, maybe I don’t believe it entirely. They’re your parents, of course it’s going to matter to you if they like me or not.”
“I want them to like you. Of course I do. And I want you to like them, and trust me, I know that’s not always going to be easy.” That got a small laugh out of Nick, which Judy took as a good sign. “But if that doesn’t work out one way or another, that’s something I’ll make work, okay? And we’ll just have to spend Christmas with Finnick.”
At that, Nick truly laughed. “Trust me, you don’t want to do that. Clawhauser, maybe. I’m sure there’s plenty of treats at his house during Christmastime. And all the time.”
“Oh, don’t be mean,” Judy scolded. “Look, back to the point, you know by now that you can trust me, right?”
“Of course,” Nick answered, without needing a moment of thought.
“Then trust me on this. No matter what happens today – ”
“It’ll be fine?” Nick offered with a smirk. Judy smiled. Clearly, he was feeling comforted.
“We’ll be fine,” she corrected, and started the car up again.