Judy’s eyes widened. The beautiful vixen was Nick’s mom? A light brush against the back of her legs alerted Judy to Nick’s tail, which had wrapped around her legs a little, keeping her close.
“Nicky, baby, you haven’t been home in so long,” the vixen’s broad smile was still on her muzzle. Spotting Judy tucked against Nick’s side, the vixen’s attention turned to her. “Oh, and you brought home a girl! A cute one at that!”
Nick sighed, opening his mouth to protest that yes, Judy was a girl, but she wasn’t his girl. Judy offered Nick’s mom a smile, extending her free paw. She let the cute comment go, not wanting to seem rude by pulling up Nick’s mom. She’d probably never interacted with rabbits before, and more than likely didn’t know that bunnies hated being called cute by other mammals. Nick closed his mouth, letting Judy speak. “It’s lovely to meet you, Ma’am, I’m Judy.”
The vixen cooed again, ignoring Judy’s paw to give her a gentle hug. Judy’s grip on Nick loosened as Mrs. Wilde embraced her. “It’s lovely to meet you too, Judy. Ma’am makes me feel a little old, though. Please, call me Marian.” She stepped back, offering a smile to Judy. Marian’s gaze dropped, spotting the rip in Judy’s trousers and the bloodstain, not to mention her son’s tail still curled around the small rabbit protectively. “Oh, you sweet thing! What on earth happened? Nicky, don’t just stand there, help Judy inside and up onto the comfy armchair!” Marian stepped back into her home, holding the door open. Pulling Judy back to his side, Nick helped her inside, crossing to the living room and the plush armchair in the corner.
“Occupational hazard, Ma’a-Marian” Judy corrected herself as Marian shut the door behind them, fussing as Nick helped Judy across the room and into the armchair. Judy sank into the cushions, the soft fabric giving a little under her small weight.
“What is it you do, Judy?” Marian fussed, picking up some pillows from the sofa and fluffing them, arranging them to create a small ottoman for Judy’s injured leg. Judy smiled at her kindness, noting how Nick disappeared for a moment before returning with a soft red blanket.
“I’m an Officer with the ZPD. I was working on a missing mammals case a few months back and dragged Nick into helping me. I thought we’d closed the case, but we hadn’t. I found a new lead and this time Nick and I really did close the case.” Judy smiled fondly at Nick as he draped the blanket over her, tucking it in around her. A smile graced his muzzle in return as he took extra care not to jostle Judy’s injured leg.
“You’re the rabbit from the news, yes?” Marian asked, watching as her son tucked in the smaller mammal. Her Nicky was doting on a bunny. Marian would’ve laughed at the absurdity of it had she been alone. But then, her son seemed a lot happier now than the last time he had visited three months ago; he’d been so sad and moody then. Marian had almost wanted to pull her mother-knows-best card and force him to tell her what was wrong.
Judy’s ears drooped, her gaze falling to the blanket. With a gentle touch, Nick lifted her head up, not liking her guilt. “You came back, Carrots. We fixed it and solved the case. I’m sure Chief Buffalo Butt will release a statement tomorrow, and everything will be fine,” Nick reassured her.
Violet eyes found emerald eyes, again, and Judy sighed softly, giving Nick a small smile. “Couldn’t have done it without you, Slick.”
Nick, uncomfortable with the praise, grinned and took his paw from her chin to gesture at himself. “I am pretty great; it has to be said.”
Judy landed a gentle punch on his shoulder, rolling her eyes. Her features softened as she reached out, grabbing the end of Nick’s tie, using it to keep him from running away from the praise. “Yeah, you are.” Nick’s tail subconsciously wagged a little at the praise.
Marian stood by the sofa, watching her only child and the rabbit cop interact. The blush that swept through Nick as Judy told him that he was great was visible just inside his ears, his red fur hiding most of it, and the happy wag of his tail had Marian smiling at the pair. This little bunny was building him up with her praise, not tearing him down like most did. Foxes were still inherently seen as untrustworthy, a thought that saddened the vixen. She remembered the time Nick had returned from his Junior Ranger Scouts initiation, a whole hour earlier than anticipated, with red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained fur. She hadn’t pushed. Instead, she’d given her boy a hug and told him how much she loved him before he’d shut himself away in his room. A few phone calls later, and an angry tirade at the despicable mother of the bully woodchuck, and Marian found out about the muzzle they had forced on her boy. Marian had taken her concerns to the school and the leader of the Ranger Scouts, only for them to laugh at her. They hadn’t believed her, sticking to their prejudice against foxes.
When Nick had finally emerged from his room, he was different. He fell off the wagon, dropping out of school and hanging with the wrong crowds. He was angry all the time but tried to play it off with humor and sarcasm. Marian saw through his act – it was a mother’s job to understand her children entirely, after all. Now, as her boy interacted with the sweet bunny, Marian could see parts of her baby coming back, parts that had been crushed by the cruel and unnecessary actions of that fateful night. While it was true that this little bunny had incited a whole host of hatred and intolerance with her press conference speech, if what her boy was saying was true, and she’d come back to fix it, Marian would let it go and forgive her.
Marian had tried so hard to raise Nick properly, to instill good values in him. The world saw foxes as sly and untrustworthy, and Marian hadn’t wanted her baby to experience any of their cruelty. The world had other plans. Her husband, Robert, had been a good mammal. Together, they’d loved and raised Nick, until Robert had died.
Marian shook her head, not wanting to think about her husband. The pain of losing him would never go away, especially when she looked at her boy and saw so much of Robert in him. “Let me cook you both some dinner,” Marian gently interrupted them; Judy’s paws quickly letting go of Nick’s tie, the fabric falling back against his chest. The wide eyes of the pair reminded Marian of naughty kits caught with their paws in the cookie jar. So lost in their little bubble, they’d forgotten the presence of the old fox.
“That would be great, thanks, mom,” Nick nodded.
With something to do, Marian turned her attention to Judy. “What would you like sweetheart? I hate to sound like I’m stereotyping, but I do make a mean carrot soup,” she offered.
Judy relaxed, snuggling back into the chair. “I grew up on a carrot farm, so I love them. That would be wonderful, thank you.”
Marian gave a sigh of relief. “I’ll cook up some salmon for you, Nicky?” Eyes widening as she remembered the prey mammal in the room, Marian was quick to offer an alternative. “Or I could just make some more carrot soup?”
Judy chuckled, shaking her head. “It’s okay Marian; I know you and Nick have different dietary requirements. Please, have salmon if you want. It doesn’t bother me,” she reassured them, pulling the blanket around her a little more as she found the perfect comfy spot.
“Alright. Come on Nicky, leave the poor girl alone to rest.” Marian ushered Nick out of the room, but not before Nick could tell Judy to shout should she need anything.
Entering the small kitchen, Marian set to work, pulling out pans from a cupboard and produce from the fridge. “Will you peel the carrots for me, please?” She asked, setting them to one side. Picking up the peeler, Nick was quick to start peeling them, using a kitchen knife to cut them into small chunks ready for his mother to cook. They worked in companionable silence for a few minutes, but Nick could tell his mother was itching to ask questions. Her ears were pulled back slightly, and her movements were slow and leisurely.
Keeping occupied, Nick knew what was coming next. “Five, four, three, two….”
“She dragged you into helping her with a case, hm?” Marian opened the conversation. Nick shook his head, knowing his mom would take the opportunity to pry. He didn’t mind, not really. She was his mother, after all, and one of only two people he actually trusted. The other was asleep in the living room. Sure, he had Finnick, but the fennec fox was more business associate than confidant.
Nick, not wanting his mom to know anything about his con-mammal ways, took the reins and made sure to omit a few details. “Yeah, I was one of the last few mammals to see an otter before he went missing.”
Having already weighed out the brown rice for the steamed salmon and vegetable rice bowl she was making for her and Nick, Marian started sorting through the green beans, topping and tailing them. “Mhm…and you helped Judy with the whole investigation?”
Continuing to peel the carrots, Nick nodded. “Yeah, it was her first case. She staked her entire career on it. I couldn’t let her lose her job.”
Marian hid her smile. Like hell did her Nicky help out of the goodness of his heart. Marian in no way doubted her boy did have a good heart, he was her son after all, but Nick rarely did anything these days unless it benefitted him, too. “She mentioned that you thought you closed the case?” She prodded a little more.
Nick paused, carrot peeling forgotten for a moment. “We found the mammals. The press conference happened, and I may have overreacted a little afterwards,” he confessed, returning to his task. It was easier to talk to his mom when he wasn’t being forced to look at her. The memory of raising his paws to Judy, claws exposed, made him frown.
Marian pursed her lips. She’d seen the press conference on the TV, but the cameras had cut away quickly afterwards. “Whatever happened, I know it hurt you, baby. You were in such a state when you came back here to visit a few months ago. I’m glad the two of you sorted it out.”
Finishing with his task, Nick transferred the carrot pieces into the pot of water his mom had placed on the stove, letting them simmer on a low heat. “She makes me want to try and be better.”
Marian put down her knife, leaning over to pull her boy into a sideways embrace, and dropping a kiss on the top of his head. Nick grimaced, embarrassed. “It may not matter much, but I like her. I know for a fact you like her, an awful lot. You’re very close,” Marian teased, letting her boy go so she could prepare the salmon.
“Of course we’re close, we’re a good team.” Nick scowled, grabbing a wooden spoon from the drawer so he could stir the carrot pieces.
“Oh yes, your tail was most certainly thinking of teamwork when it wrapped around at the front door,” Marian continued to tease, placing the fish in another pan on the stove. The cold salmon fillets hissed as they came in contact with the warm oil in the pan. Marian was amused that her boy was showing such possessiveness over the bunny.
Eyes widening, Nick abandoned the wooden spoon, throwing his paws up in front of him to try and explain, panic etched on his face. “Mom we’re not, I mean, she’s not…”
Marian laughed, throwing her head back as her baby struggled. Reining in her laughter, she chuckled, tipping her head down again to look at Nick. “It’s okay Nicky. Whenever you’re ready to confess, then I’m all ears.”
Nick groaned, paws falling back to his side before he picked up the wooden spoon once more. “We’re not dating,” he clarified.
“Yet,” Marian tacked on, elbowing her son.
Giving up, Nick rolled his eyes, focusing on the task at paw. Marian was silent for a moment, and Nick was sure she’d given up.
Marian waited for a beat or two, letting her son think she’d dropped the subject. “She’s very pretty…”
“Damn it.” Nick scowled.
Marian tried to hide her smile at her son’s scowl. “I think the pair of you are very sweet together. Though I’m still unsure as to the mechanics of it, y’know? Bunnies are very small, much smaller than a vixen, but I’m sure they make up for it with enthusiasm, which let me tell you is very vital when…”
“Sweet mercy, please stop!” Nick dropped the spoon again, letting it clatter against the pan. Paws going to his face he hid his blush behind them. He didn’t need his mom trying to understand the mechanics of rabbits and foxes mating.
Marian, sensing that she’d perhaps pushed a little too much, took the salmon off the stove so it wouldn’t burn. Gently she pried her son’s paws away from his face, noting his flattened ears and embarrassed gaze. Cupping her son’s face, she smoothed her paws over his cheeks. “I’m sorry Nicky, you know I like to tease. Whatever is or isn’t going on between the pair of you is fine with me. I love you, no matter what. I just want you to be happy, and you look so much happier now with her around.”
“I love you too.” There was no denying how much Nick loved his mom. Everything he did was for her.
Marian smiled, though her smile morphed into a frown as she spotted the blue mark on Nick’s neck. Tipping his head to the side, Marian tried to work out what had marked her son. “Blueberries,” Nick shrugged, not wanting his mom to worry.
Sighing, Marian’s hands slipped from Nick’s face. “I’m not even going to ask. Go and clean up, I can finish up here. By the time you’re done, dinner will be ready,” Marian shooed Nick out of the kitchen, returning to the stove to finish dinner.
Pushed out of the kitchen, and with his mom distracted, Nick’s route to the bathroom involved a detour through the living room to check on Judy. He stopped at the doorway, resting against the wooden frame, watching as she snuffled in her sleep, her uninjured leg twitching along with her nose. Though she hated being called cute, Nick had to admit to himself that at that moment, curled up in his childhood home with his favorite blanket, she looked ridiculously cute. The fact she was so comfortable with him, with his mom, that she was able to fall asleep around them made him feel warm. Shaking the thought off, Nick left his post by the door and finally made his way to the bathroom.
His childhood home wasn’t much, there wasn’t an abundance of space, the furniture had seen better days, but it was familiar and pleasant and a bolthole for Nick whenever he needed it. His mom was comfortable and happy in the home she had bought with her husband. Nick hoped Judy wouldn’t ask too many questions later on about why his bedroom hadn’t changed much since he’d been a youngster, or why he hadn’t seen his mom in months.
“That’s wishful thinking, Wilde. Of course, she’ll ask.”