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One of the worst days of Officer Nick Wilde’s life to date started like most of them did - with mock-arguments and ribbing.

The topic today was his taste in clothing - a rousing battle of wits between the valiant defenders of his right to wear bright colours and the dread scourge of fun that was her sense of fashion.

 

“-honestly, would it kill you to wear a colour that doesn’t come out of a crayon?”

“Don’t know, only time I have is on the job, and for all I know the badge keeps me alive.”

“Hah. One of these days, we’ll get you in some actually nice clothes, and you’ll see. If I get my way with you you’ll burn those shirts and thank me.”

“Not happening, Fluff. Putting my foot down, never happening.”

 

He half-turned, half-lunged, stomping his foot with a grin to punctuate the quip - and froze.

She flinched . It was brief - but he saw it. The flicker of fear, anger, doubt that crossed her features, before being schooled behind a calm, tight smile. His mood plummeted. She still doesn’t trust me.

He schooled his features from the disappointment, easing back, lifting emotional walls. What else did I expect. Dumb fox. “Anyway. Your stop, Carrots.” A couple of steps backwards, a lazily tossed-off salute with two fingers. “Catch you tomorrow.”

And before she could say anything, before the bubble around his annoyance and disappointment could be pierced, he turned and walked away.

 

----------

 

The worst week of Officer NIck Wilde’s life to date started mostly like every other one he’d had before.

 

Wake up - check.

Get washed and dressed - check.

Grab something light to snack on with his coffee on the way out - check

Silently pray for death until the coffee kicks in - check

Get to the precinct - check

Greet Carrots - check.

Then things got strange.

 

“Hey Carrots.” The greeting rolled off, warm and with only traces of the prior day’s bitterness. Amazing what a night of dumb TV and blueberry ice cream can do for the mood, really.

No response.

The fox raised an eyebrow, glancing Judy’s way. She was sat at their usual desk in the Bullpen, back ramrod straight, head down, eyes glued to her phone, some game he’d never bothered to learn the name of on screen.

“Setting a new high-score, Officer Cottontail?” He remarked, nudging her with an elbow.

Nothing.

“...oookay…” This was starting to unsettle him. Still nothing. She could hear him - her ear twitched when he talked, and he could see her gaze flick his way, every so often, but other than that, she was blanking him.

Well. Maybe she didn’t want to talk about it in front of the others. He’d get it out of her in the cruiser.

 

----------

 

“Hopps. Parking duty.”

“Wilde. Desk work.”

 

The day was just getting weirder and weirder.

He wasn’t one to complain about desk work - contrary to popular belief (and his carefully crafted image), he was actually pretty good at the paperwork. It was easy work, and Bogo didn’t much care what he did so long as he got his allotment done and wasn’t pestering anyone else, so it was a good chance to relax.

Which would be fine, except he still had no idea what was going on with Judy.

“So hey, someone’s out on the couch huh?”

 

Oh, and it meant putting up with Grizzoli. Who was about as tactful as he was lithe and graceful.

And even by polar bear standards - ‘lithe’ and ‘graceful’, Grizzoli most definitely was not.

 

“Very funny. Forgive me if I decline to laugh. Allergies, you know.”

“Allergies?”

“To bullshit.” On the plus side, he was one of the few officers Nick could get away with mouthing off that bluntly with. Whatever other faults the bear might have, he took as good as he gave.

“Hah. Nah but, hey, you and Hopps are thick as thieves-”

“Hardly.  I knew thieves. Most of them would sell their mothers for twenty bucks.”

It’s a saying . What’d you do?”

This actually got him to look up from his work, arching an eyebrow. “What makes you think I did something?”

“Come on, you go home Tuesday, you’re all buddy buddy, joined at the hip. You come in today, she won’t give you the time of day and you’re trying to play it cool.” Grizzoli grinned, not even pretending to keep at his own work. “You stuck your foot in it, buddy.”

“Your faith in me is inspiring. Truly touching. I might cry.” He left the conversation there, going back to cross-checking reports, until he felt the fixed stare of the other officer. “What.”

“Well? What’d you do?”

“I did nothing. And even if I did do something, we aren’t talking about this.“

 

----------

 

Day two was more of the same. He shows up, she ignores him, Bogo gives her parking duty and him desk work. Grizzoli at least seemed to accept he wasn’t getting anything out of the fox, though his shit-eating grin made Nick consider punching him regardless.

 

Day three added only the notes of his wheedling, in the Bullpen - “Come on, Carrots, talk to me.” … “Fluff, this is getting really old now.” … “Judy, please…” … “...”

Grizzoli’s humming of ‘Hard Habit To Break’ wasn’t helping his fraying nerves.

 

It wasn’t until day four that he decided to take things into his own paws. This wasn’t fixing itself, and it was starting to look like Judy’d be entirely happy to ignore him right through their days off.

He needed to talk to an expert. And there weren’t many mammals who knew Judy better than he did.

The plan was masterful in its simplicity. Bogo enters the Bullpen, Judy’s phone goes into her pocket. Nick’s paw dips in after it less than a second later, light and quick. A break to the bathroom, after assignments are handed out. Breaking into her phone’s quick work - 1992 failed, 0792 failed, 3080 and in. Memo to self, talk to Judy about password security. Your badge number is not a secure passphrase. It’s only a few seconds more to get the number he needs copied across, and then it’s just a matter of walking casually back to the Bullpen, dropping the phone on her seat, and walking away.

Slick Nick’s still got it.

 

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“Hopps Family Farm, Bonnie Hopps speaking. Who is this?” The voice on the other end of the line’s warm, lower than Judy’s, with less of an accent than he would’ve expected.

“Hi, Missus Hopps, my name’s Nick. Nick Wilde. I’m your daughter’s partner in the ZPD?”

“Oh! Well, this is unexpected. Wait - oh my word. Why are you calling? Is Judy okay?!” He winced, hearing the hysteria building in her voice.

“She’s fine! She’s fine, this is uh, more of a personal call.”

“Oh, oh thank goodness. You know we’re very proud of her, we all are, but it’s so terrifying worrying about if we’ll get a phone call one day that she’s been hurt.” He could sympathise - the thought made his stomach turn.

“You have my word, I’m not going to let that happen. Assuming she doesn’t put in for a new partner, anyway. That’s, sort of why I wanted to talk to you.”

 

Nick liked Judy’s mother, he decided quickly. Once she’d stopped worrying about her daughter’s well-being, she proved a supportive voice, listening without judgement as he explained the last few days, from his perspective. It was cathartic, having someone to talk to that wasn’t looking for ammunition to use against him - even before she’d said anything, he felt lighter.

 

“...Well, it sounds like she’s waiting for an apology, but I couldn’t tell you what for…” A pause, on the line. “Nicholas, dear, would you mind MuzzleTiming?”

“Uh. I don’t mind, but why?”

“I’ll explain.” He shrugged. The whole point here was to talk to an expert, after all. A couple of button-presses, and he was muzzle to muzzle with the Hopps matriarch.

 

Cute , definitely came to mind. He could see where Judy got it from. Bonnie was bigger, motherhood and farm life settling bulkier on her frame than her daughter’s athletic lifestyle of fighting crime. She carried the weight well, though, a matronly bearing that left him wondering whether she’d be more inclined to drag him off by the ear or offer him cookies. Age had left its marks, grey fur dotting her muzzle and around her eyes, but she still seemed warm and sharp to him.

 

“Uh. Hi?” He smiled, waving, somewhat foolishly. To her credit, if she was shocked to see a fox on the other end of the phone, she didn’t show it.

“Could you repeat the last thing you said to her before she started ignoring you? Everything, how you looked, how you talked.”

“Ah, okay?” He cleared his throat, casting his mind back, slipping on the mask of his and Judy’s teasing banter. “Not happening, Fluff. Putting my foot down, never happening.”

 

He stomped his foot, flashed teeth in a grin.

She flinched .

Narrowed her eyes.

Thump. The sound of her own foot-stomp echoed loud enough to startle him even through the phone - he fumbled, briefly, and by the time he’d got the camera back in focus, the elder Hopps was smiling knowingly.

 

“Oh, bless your heart , dear. You don’t know much about rabbits, do you?”

“I’m starting to think you’re all crazy ,” he blurted, regretted it immediately. Breathed a sigh of relief, when she laughed.

“Let me explain a few things for you…”

 

----------

 

Half an hour’s in-depth explanation, two hours of bitter self-recriminations (off the phone, after the first thing he’d said out loud had the Hopps matriarch scolding him for it), and another hour’s shopping led him to Judy’s door.

Two knocks. Wait.

 

The door’s opened. He kept his gaze down, focused on a point just in front of her feet, saw the way she hesitated - double-take, at seeing him there, a triple-take at his body language, at the gift held out in his paws - banana pudding rolls, the best he could find on short notice.

 

Apologise with a gift. Food is always a good choice - carrot-cake is a classic, but her favorite sweet is banana pudding.

 

There's a pause, dragged out several seconds, until she turned away from him back into her apartment, leaving the door open - he waited for her to glance back before following, keeping his gaze down, lifting his head only enough to see her properly.

She's sat on her bed, arms crossed and glaring at him.

He crosses the small space, settling to his knees at the bedside, and leans his head in her lap.

 

Give her your head. Lay in her lap, or just hug her on your knees so your head’s below her chin. The important bit is to let her have your head beneath hers.

 

Another long few seconds.

Then her hand's at the base of his ears. A firm press, and dull little claws scratch briefly.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Don’t say anything until she touches you. Then, apologise, straight away. Then you can explain.

 

“I didn’t know what that meant to you. I thought your flinch was just a prey thing, because of my teeth. I never meant to disrespect you like that.”

 

Foot-stomping is a dominance display, dear. Like growling and snapping teeth between canids. You may as well have slapped a leash on her and dangled her in the air by it for what it said about your opinion of her.

 

Silence, for yet another few seconds. Then: “How did you get my mom’s number?”

Ears lay back. “I stole your phone. I’m sorry.”

A laugh, low and short. “Sly fox.” His ears picked up - there was amusement in her voice, too much to be faked, amusement and affection. His tail slowly started to wag, hopeful.

She picked up the box of pudding rolls, opened it. Took one out, inspecting it, as though passing judgement.

Nick held his breath.

She popped it into her muzzle.

He breathed, a sigh of relief.

 

If she accepts your gift, she’s forgiven you. She won’t even touch it if she’s still mad at you. Make sure it’s good, though, a bad gift will just make things worse.

Thank you, Mother Hopps. He made a mental note to buy Bonnie the biggest gift basket he could find when he next got paid. Something that would make an elephant jealous, if he had his way.

 

“You scared me, Carrots.”

“I was this close to putting my foot through your face.”

“I know- wait. Through ?”

“Rhino. Eight seconds. Knock-out.”

He winced. “Noted. Please tell me if I accidentally commit bunny faux pas in future? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Fluff, but I’m lacking your ears, here.”

She sighed. Took a bite of a second roll, chewed thoughtfully, swallowed, before replying. “I'm bad at this. You know that. So, compromise. If we lose our tempers, we walk away. If we haven’t talked it out after a day, we text each other and ask the other to explain. That goes both ways. Deal?”

 

The other half of the pudding’s held in front of his muzzle. He smiled, relieved and pleased and warm and genuinely for the first time all week.

 

“Deal.” And he took the peace offering, sharp teeth delicate around steady paws.