Chapter 6 – Applications and Apartments

After they’d cleaned the dishes, Nick gave Judy some space to change, taking his own clothes into the bathroom.

Alone with her thoughts for a few minutes, Judy had some time to reflect on her epiphany in the kitchen. She knew she loved Nick, they were a great team, and he was her best friend. Judy couldn’t picture her days without him and his annoying sense of humor, but did she love love him? Judy rolled the million-dollar question around in her head.

She’d been on dates before, but she’d never had an honest to goodness boyfriend. There hadn’t been the time; her entire focus had been on becoming a cop. Now though, with that achieved, perhaps there was room to concentrate on another aspect of her life. It wasn’t like Nick would get in the way of her job, especially as he would be working with her and they would be partners. If anything, having a boyfriend who understood her job and encouraged her to work would be a dream. The memories of the bucks she’d been on dates with who’d all scoffed when she’d told them about her goal of becoming a cop left a bad taste in her mouth.

Her thoughts shifted to that of a more intimate nature. She knew she and Nick were compatible on a day-to-day basis, proven during the missing mammal’s case, but were they compatible in other, more intimate, areas? Judy wasn’t stupid, she knew there were some pretty glaringly obvious differences, the first being their species, then their sizes, and probably their mating habits too. Other than the brief mention from Marian about Nick’s tail, Judy had no clue about anything relating to fox customs. She’d have to do some research while Nick was away at the academy.

Having pulled on the pants that Marian had set out for her, Judy grabbed the shirt. Clutching the material in her paws, Judy caught a whiff of Marian’s scent. It wasn’t unpleasant, but Judy didn’t really want to be covered in Marian’s smell. Leaving Marian’s shirt over the chair at the desk, Judy pulled open the drawers under Nick’s bed, remembering that he’d stored some clothes under there. She felt a little bad for riffling through Nick’s belongings, but she had a feeling the tod wouldn’t mind.

Settling on a plain green t-shirt, Judy pulled the item on, enjoying the way it looked with Marian’s cream pants. Nick’s scent enveloped her and Judy’s mind returned to her previous thoughts.

The idea of being so intimate with Nick didn’t terrify her like she thought it would, but then the fact it didn’t terrify her terrified her. Nick was an attractive mammal; anyone could see that, with his bright green eyes, easy smile, soft fur, and fluffy tail. Couple that with his quick wit, humor, and trust in her and he was everything Judy wanted in a partner.

A quick knock on the bedroom door pulled Judy from her thoughts. She’d have to think about it later, examine her feelings some more, and do some research into fox customs.

Crossing to the door, Judy pulled it open to reveal Nick, dressed in a pair of beige pants and one of his usual pawaiian shirts, this time in yellow, and he’d complimented it with a green tie. Nick took in Judy, tail wagging as he realized she wasn’t wearing the shirt his mom had lifted out for her but had instead borrowed one of his. “Sorry, I hope you don’t mind. Your mom’s shirt was a little small.” Judy told a little white lie. Nick’s t-shirt was actually a bit too big for her, but she was too comfortable in it to care.

It took a moment for Nick’s brain to catch up, too focused on the fact that Judy was wearing his clothes again. Once again the sight of her in his shirt gave him a pleasant feeling. “Oh, sure, it’s fine.” He finally responded, offering her an easy smile, noting that his mom’s shirt was now over the back of his chair. “Mi casa es tu casa.”

The first objective of the day was to submit a new application form for Nick, so together they made way to the precinct.

“Hopps!” Chief Bogo yelled from his position on one of the balconies looking out over the atrium. Nick and Judy had only just stepped paw inside the building, but Judy jumped as her name was called, spinning on her good leg towards the Chief. She was still limping, and Nick had helped her a little during their walk over, taking some of her small weight. “I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you for the rest of the week,” he sighed, moving towards the stairs so he could descend and speak to the insubordinate bunny without yelling at her across the atrium. Nick helped Judy cross the space towards the front desk: Clawhauser sat there, paws covering his mouth in glee at the sight of Judy and Nick.

“Technically, Sir, you told me you didn’t want to see me in the Bullpen. This is the atrium,” Judy pointed out as the Chief stood before them, strong arms crossed over his chest. Nick had to suppress his laugh.

Bogo scowled at the pair for a moment before his features softened, noticing how she was still a little unsteady on her hind paws without Nick supporting her. He hated seeing any of his officers wounded. “Then why are you here, Hopps?”

Judy looked up at Nick, offering the fox a broad smile. Nick felt a little apprehensive, a ball of tension knotting in his stomach. Turning his attention to Chief Bogo, he took a deep breath. “Judy’s a trouble magnet, she needs a partner. Plus, I can’t help but notice that you don’t have any good-looking officers and quite frankly, that’s a travesty. I feel it’s my public duty to remedy that.” Nick met Bogo’s gaze, settling for humor, hoping it would soothe his anxiety. Judy’s grip on his shirt tightened, and she let out a small noise, trying to stop her laughter.

Bogo looked down at Nick, weighing up the fox. His swapping of the serum for blueberries had been innovative, and he’d worked well with the bunny. Bogo even had some respect for how the fox had stood up to him when he’d demanded Judy’s badge. While foxes weren’t known for being trusted by other mammals of society, Bogo couldn’t deny the benefits of having Nick on the force. He’d be a good partner for Judy; it was why he’d dropped a hint back at the museum. Having the first bunny on the force on his team hadn’t been a total disaster, what could possibly go wrong with having the first fox too? “Never ask yourself that, idiot.”

“Clawhauser, see to it that Wilde gets an application form and that it’s rushed to recruitment. The next intake at the academy starts in three days.” He offered the rabbit and the fox a nod, turning to return to his office. Bogo shook his head. A fox and a rabbit…the world was indeed changing. Bogo paused, however, and turned back to call over his shoulder. “Oh, and Wilde, I’ll have you know that the ladies find me perfectly good-looking,” Bogo tried to hide his smile. He’d knock that fox’s ego down a few pegs.

“Aww Chief, they just forgot to put their glasses on,” Nick sassed with his signature lazy smile. Judy couldn’t contain her snicker, and Clawhauser had to hide behind his paws for fear of guffawing.

Bogo rolled his eyes and turned back toward the stairs, raising his voice as he left. “Shut your mouth Wilde, and fill in the damn form before I change my mind.”

Clawhauser squealed, paws falling from his mouth to rummage in the drawers of his desk. He produced a blank application form, offering it out to Nick. “O…M…Goodness! I gotta tell you, you’ll be the most adorable partnership on the force!”

Judy sighed. Clawhauser had taken her ‘cute’ comment to heart and had now settled on ‘adorable,’ never mind the fact she could take down a rhino with one kick.

Nick quirked an eyebrow, “I’m not adorable. Carrots can be the adorable one.”

Clawhauser squealed again, the sound making Judy wince, his large paws covering his mouth once more. “You call her Carrots? O…M…Goodness you have little pet names for her! That’s so romantic!”

“We’re not, it’s not, cheese and crackers!” Judy scowled at Clawhauser, the inside of her ears burning.

“Mhm…” Clawhauser grinned and picked up his pen, scribbling something on his notepad. Judy rolled her eyes. If there were one thing she’d come to know about the cheetah in her short time with the ZPD, it was that he’d think whatever he wanted and that the whole precinct would know about it within 24 hours.

Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to Nick, finding the fox watching her carefully. Uncomfortable with his intense gaze and scrutiny, Judy folded her arms over her chest. “So if I’m the adorable one then what are you, Slick?” Judy appraised the fox as she thumped her foot on the floor.

Nick hadn’t really thought that their pet names were romantic; they were names that came easily to them, offered a level of familiarity in their friendship. Sure he’d used some pet names to try and belittle Judy, to begin with, but they’d morphed into something more since then. Now, they were verbal cue’s to their relationship, a reminder of how far they’d come in such a short space of time. They were terms of endearment, rather than ones of ridicule.

Nick opened his arms, paws facing up to the sky as he shrugged, a smile tugging at his lips. “Courageous, witty, charming, handsome, sexy…the list goes on Carrots, take your pick.”

Judy rolled her eyes, thumping Nick in the side. The fox flinched; paw rubbing the spot where Judy had walloped him. “Watch it Fluff, I don’t fight fair.” The paw that had been rubbing his side shot out, tickling Judy’s side through the shirt she’d borrowed from him. Judy’s squeal filled the atrium, and several officers turned to look at her. She blushed, the color visible in the tips of her ears as Nick pulled his hand away, offering her a lazy grin. He found pleasure in teasing her and pulling as many new noises from her as possible. After all, she’d pulled some embarrassing noises from him at the dinner table the night before. Judy was extremely ticklish, had been ever since she’d been a kit, but few knew how to exploit that weakness.

“Don’t even think about it!” Nick raised a paw at Clawhauser, silencing him before he could squeal again. The cheetah hid his excitement, shoving a donut into his mouth to try and keep quiet. Judy, now recovered from the impromptu tickle, shook her head fondly.

“Could we get that form please?” Judy looked up at Clawhauser, aware that she and Nick had a busy day ahead of them searching for somewhere to live. Clawhauser grabbed the relevant form and a pen, offering them down to Nick. The fox took them, leaning against the side of the front desk to fill it in. Judy, meanwhile, limped around the desk to rummage through the bottom drawer. Clawhauser returned to his donuts and scribbling, watching the two smaller mammals.

Nick filled in the application form, the details exactly the same as before. With that done, he offered the pen and paper back to Clawhauser. “Carrots?” He called out once the cheetah had taken the items from him.

Judy reappeared from behind the desk, paws behind her back. “Close your eyes, Nick,” she spoke in a singsong voice, rocking on her good hind paw.

Indulging her with a small sigh, Nick did as he was asked and closed his eyes. Judy approached and gently attached a new ‘Junior ZPD Officer’ sticker to the breast pocket of Nick’s shirt.

Though his eyes were closed, Nick could feel what Judy was doing, and it brought a smile to his muzzle. Once he was sure she was done, he opened his eyes and looked down at the little gold sticker. “Until you get your official badge,” She patted the sticker.

Nick chuckled, grabbing Judy’s paw in his own. “Thanks, Carrots.” He held her gaze, hoping she would understand that his thanks stretched to more than just the sticker now adorning his shirt.

“OHH……!” Clawhauser cooed from behind the desk, breaking their moment. Judy sighed, ears drooping as she shook her head. The cheetah meant well.

“I’ll see you Monday, Clawhauser.” Judy ushered Nick out of the building. “The whole precinct will know by tomorrow morning,” she groaned, thumping her good hind paw on the sidewalk. Nick marveled at how she was able to thump it so quickly.

“You make it sound like we indulged in rough, primal mating in the middle of the atrium,” Nick teased, enjoying how Judy seemed concerned with gossip about her being spread through the precinct. When he finally earned his badge, his first port of call would be Clawhauser. He could spread a tiny white lie or two about his favorite rabbit, watch as she tried to figure out where the story had originated from, all the while blushing furiously at the gossip. ”You’re good Wilde, you’re good.”

Judy’s eyes widened at the comment, ears falling flat, the inside of them flushed bright red. She needed to move the conversation on to a safer topic, set a clear boundary. She couldn’t have Nick suspecting that she had less than innocent feelings for him before he left for the academy for nine months. “We would never…I mean…we could, maybe, no, wait, yes, argh…” She stumbled over her words, paws up in panic. “Great, just great! Nice one, Judy.”

Nick found Judy’s response curious. She wasn’t completely throwing out the idea of the two of them being together in such a manner. His little rabbit, not at all bothered with the possibility of an interspecies relationship. It gave him food for thought. Interspecies relationships weren’t common, no matter how progressive Zootopia was, and they still faced some prejudice, but mammals were coming around. Taking pity on her, he offered her an out. “It’s alright Carrots, I know I’m too much mammal for you. We’ll find you a nice buck. He might be able to help you finally relax, too,” he teased. The words felt like poison in his mouth, but he pushed them out anyway.

“I’m perfectly relaxed, thank you very much. I don’t need a buck.” Judy crossed her arms over her chest, scowling at the fox. She played along with it when in all honesty she just didn’t want a buck. What Judy wanted was a 4ft tall, 80lbs red fox. She couldn’t let Nick know that, though.

“Mhm, I’m sure Chief Buffalo Butt would agree,” Nick shot back sarcastically. He squinted in the sunshine, wondering when they’d finally find some shade. He was a nocturnal mammal, but being awake in the daytime had been more lucrative for his hustling.

Judy sighed, reaching into Nick’s pocket to pull out his phone. “You know, you can’t call him that when you get your badge.” She shook her head, unlocking the device and clicking on the Firefox app. Once the browser was up, Judy navigated to Zoopla, entering her search terms for a 2-bed apartment in Savannah Central, for around $800 a month. Start salaries for officers weren’t great, but they weren’t awful either. Judy had been offered $27,000 a year out of the academy, and she assumed Nick would earn the same. Take home pay would be around $1500 a month each, after taxes, so together they’d have $3000 a month to live on. With an $800 a month apartment they would hopefully be left with enough to live on and to pay back Nick’s debt.

Nick didn’t bother snatching his phone back from the bunny, nor did he question how she knew the unlock code. “Phft, course I can, just maybe out of earshot. Those horns…” Nick raised his paws to his head in a bad imitation of Bogo. He didn’t have Judy’s full attention, he could see she was engrossed in finding them some apartments to view, but she snorted nonetheless, the corners of her lips quirking upwards as she tried to hide her smile. With a few clicks, Judy handed Nick back his phone. Taking it from her, he slid it back into his pocket.

“I just booked a few viewings, come on.” Judy smiled widely, limping off in the direction of the metro. Nick wanted to be annoyed that she hadn’t consulted him before she booked viewings, but he was sure her taste was acceptable, even if she was a country bumpkin…an adorable country bumpkin.

Catching up with her, Nick wrapped an arm around her waist, paw holding her side as he helped her walk, taking some of her small weight. The EMT had told her to keep as much weight as possible off it, but Nick had a feeling Judy Hopps would never slow down.


By their third viewing, Nick was starting to lose hope. All the properties had been in their price range and in Savannah Central, but none of them had called out to him. True, the only home Nick had ever had was with his mom, and anything was better than his box under a bridge, but he wanted a nice home, somewhere he and Judy could unwind after a hard day at the precinct, somewhere he could show his mom with pride.

“That’s three duds, Slick,” Judy groaned as they emerged from the apartment building of their latest viewing.

“We don’t have to rush, Carrots. Mom says we can stay with her as long as we want,” Nick pointed out, paws in his pockets as he leaned against the front of the building, watching with thinly concealed enjoyment as the hind paw on Judy’s good leg thumped the sidewalk, a little scowl on her face.

“I don’t want to overstay my welcome. Your mom was more than gracious last night.” Judy stopped thumping her foot, reaching into Nick’s pocket once more for his phone. Her phone was in the pocket of her damaged pants, which were still on the arm of Marian’s couch.

Nick only just held on to his rude comment about her always reaching into the pocket of his pants. As much as he wanted to make her blush, he was at least a gentlemammal. “My mom probably wants to adopt you, so I wouldn’t worry about overstaying your welcome.”

Judy’s features softened into a warm smile at the mention of Marian. She pulled up Zoogle Maps, planning the route to their final viewing of the day. The city was still largely unfamiliar to her, and though she was confident Nick knew the way she didn’t want to confess to not knowing her way around. “Still, I can’t stay at your mom’s house forever. Plus, we need somewhere before you leave for the academy in three days.”

“Even if we don’t, it’s not a problem. I trust your judgment, and anything will be an improvement…” Nick stopped himself before he could finish his sentence, not wanting to voice in the light of day his current situation.

Judy caught on, though. Her ears drooped a little as she put Nick’s phone in her own pocket, in case she needed to refer to it again. Her small paws reached out, and she let them rest on his arm, wanting him to know she meant her next words. “Nick, I want you to help pick somewhere. I want you to like wherever we live, really like it.” He hadn’t shown much interest in the places they’d viewed so far, always finding some sort of fatal fault with them.

“I got the best roomie going, Carrots. The house doesn’t bother me,” Nick deflected, not wanting to be reminded of their conversation the night before and at breakfast. He was still a little sore about being so open and vulnerable to another mammal, but he knew Judy would never betray him by using the information against him. Nick wanted their home to be perfect too if he was honest with himself, but this opportunity was too precious to throw away and risk losing. He would finally have a proper roof over his head for the first time in twenty years, he would have his best friend as his roomie, and he would be training for a job that would try to make an honest mammal out of him.

Judy knew Nick was deflecting, covering for the fact that the apartment would mean a lot to him. Did he really think that Judy had forgotten his earlier excitement when they’d been doing the dishes? “We’ve got one more to look at today, but we need to get back on the metro. We should get off at Prairie Road.” Judy had picked apartments that were only a few metro stops away from Savannah Central station, the closest stop to the precinct.

“Lead the way, Fluff.” Nick pulled his paws from his pockets, pushing off the wall to walk beside Judy. He kept an eye on her steps, ready to swoop in and help her should she start to struggle. She was slower than usual, her limp more pronounced, and Nick had half a mind to call it a day and demand they go back to his mom’s house so she could rest. But, if there was one thing Nick had learned during his short time with the bunny cop, it was that she was determined. Judy wouldn’t let her injured leg slow her down. It was that, and the thought that Nick would get to take care of her for the next few days while she recovered from over-exerting herself, that kept the fox from saying anything.

Together they entered the metro on Elm Street, swiping their passes and boarding the train. The train was busy, it always was this close to Savannah Central, and Nick insisted Judy take the last seat. “Such a gentlemammal,” Judy teased as she sat down, hind paws unable to touch the floor. Nick reached to grab for a rail to steady himself.

“Mom didn’t raise a heathen, Carrots,” Nick teased, casting a glance around the train to ensure they were safe. It was a habit, to keep an eye on his surroundings, mainly to make sure Catstro and his cronies weren’t lurking nearby. The train lurched into life. No mammal looked to be a threat, but that didn’t stop Nick from curling his tail around Judy’s ankles at the sight of some young bucks sitting a few seats away.

Feeling Nick’s tail around her ankles, and knowing now from his mom that it was a show of possessiveness, Judy cast a glance around the train. She caught sight of three young bucks sitting together a few seats away. They hadn’t even noticed Judy on the busy train, but she still smiled at the thought of her fox being so possessive. “Are you sure, ‘cause I know you’re not a morning mammal. You might leave things everywhere in your sleepy state,” Judy teased as the train pulled into Savannah Central. The next stop was Prairie Road.

Bringing his free paw to his chest, Nick gasped dramatically, “Are you accusing me of being a slob, Carrots?” He joked, offering her a smile. His nose alerted him to the fact a vixen had just boarded the train, but his attention was solely on Judy.

Judy noticed the pretty vixen entering their carriage. There was no seat for her, and as she looked around, she spotted Nick. Her eyes raked over him for a moment. Judy scowled. “Mine.” The sudden possessive thought surprised Judy, but she accepted it without question. It felt right, thinking of Nick as hers.

Reaching forward, Judy grabbed the end of Nick’s tie, playing with it between her paws, keeping his attention on her and hoping the vixen would get the hint. The train lurched into life again. “Not at all, Slick. Just don’t expect me to be picking your dirty underwear up off the floor.” Judy’s sharp hearing caught a quiet tut from an aardvark sitting across from them. Strangely enough, Judy didn’t care about whatever the aardvark was thinking. Nothing was going on between her and Nick, they were simply best friends. “Best friends who are a bit possessive of each other.” Judy shook the thought away. Growing up in such a large family meant that Judy had hardly anything of her own as everything was shared. In the city, however, now that she was without her siblings, possession was nine-tenths of the law.

“Carrots, you wound me. I would never leave my unmentionables anywhere near your delicate sensibilities,” Nick played along, studiously ignoring the vixen that he could feel checking him out. He had to hide his smile at Judy playing with his tie. Slowly he tightened his tail around her ankles, leaning forward into her space, hoping that the vixen would get the hint. It didn’t hurt either that it drew him closer to Judy, filled his nostrils with her scent. He’d had a few flings over the years, pretty little things that were up for a good time, but in the end, they’d all wanted sometime more, to settle down and have kits, all of them thinking they could make an honest mammal out of him. They’d all been wrong. Commitment wasn’t in Nicholas P. Wilde’s vocabulary. Well, until a little gray bunny from the Burrows came along and made him question his feelings. She couldn’t know, though, how much she affected him. He needed to back off, create a clear ‘friendship’ line and never cross it. She was good to him, for him, and he would be damned if he messed up and lost her because of some silly feelings. “Put them back in the box, Wilde.”

The PA system interrupted them before Judy could respond. “Now approaching – Prairie Road.”

“That’s our cue, Fluff.” Nick leaned back, letting his tail fall away from her ankles. He offered her his free paw, which she took as she let go of his tie. Helping her stand, Nick wrapped his arm around her waist. The aardvark huffed, and Nick couldn’t help but wink at her, tightening his hold around Judy. Infuriated, the aardvark turned to look out the window. Nick led Judy through the crowd towards the carriage doors, a low rumble of amusement escaping him at having successfully riled up the aardvark. The vixen was closer now and was glaring daggers at Judy. Not liking her attitude, Nick went to drop his paw to rest on Judy’s cute fuzzy-wuzzy tail, hoping to get a rise out of the vixen while at the same time testing the waters with Judy. However, he stopped himself just shy, letting his paw sit protectively on her lower back. Though he was sorely tempted to feel Judy’s tail fluff, his mom would kick his ass if she found out he’d inappropriately groped Judy in public. He hadn’t been lying when he’d told her that his mom had raised him to be a gentlemammal.

Judy felt Nick’s paw settle on her lower back and her eyes widened at the intimate action. The weight of his paw was reassuring though, and Judy used their closeness, and her injured leg, as an excuse to lean against the fox. She let herself savor his scent, his soft fur on hers. She was finding it increasingly harder to shove her newly discovered feelings away, and though the thought of making such a confession to Nick terrified her more than anything else ever had in her life, he deserved to know how she felt. “After he graduates the academy. I don’t want to risk his future. Though it would kill me, he could be partnered with someone else if this is all one-sided.”

The train lurched to a stop, and the doors slid back. Nick helped Judy off the train and up the stairs to the surface. Swiping their passes as they left, they emerged back into the sunshine. “Urgh, the sun,” Nick grumbled, displeased when he remembered his old sunglasses were still underneath the bridge.

“How dare the sun shine,” Judy teased, enjoying the way the corners of Nick’s lips quirked upwards. Taking Nick’s phone from the pocket of her pants, she pulled up Zoogle Maps. “It’s only a few blocks away. This way.” Judy started to walk, Nick still supporting some of her weight.

A short distance away they stopped in front of a four-storey red brick house. “This is the place,” Judy called up the advert on Nick’s phone, double-checking. “The owner sent a message, said they’d meet us here,” she explained, closing the browser on Nick’s phone before she deftly put it back in the pocket of his pants. The house was well maintained, and while there was a front door on the street level that led to a whole range of apartments, there was also a set of stairs down to a basement apartment.

A medium-sized car parked at the curb and Nick subtly moved, putting himself between Judy and the vehicle.

From the car emerged an amur leopard, a little black handbag in one paw and a set of keys in the other. An honest to goodness amur! Judy had only heard stories about them. “Miss Hopps, right?” The amur asked locking her car as she slowly approached them, an easy smile on her face. “You have an appointment to view my property?”

Judy was still lost in thought at the fact that she was currently staring at an amur. Her mom would’ve whacked her with her wooden cooking spoon for being so rude.

Nick chuckled, offering out his paw. “I apologize about Judy. Small country bumpkin bunnies are in awe of all mammals bigger than them. Nick Wilde, pleasure to meet you.” His years on the streets had given him the ability to read animals, and the amur didn’t throw up any red flags for him.

The amur offered Judy a sweet smile, like she was an amusing little kit. “Akita Snowpaw, lovely to meet you,” she shook Nick’s hand before turning her attention back to Judy.

“Carrots,” Nick elbowed Judy, watching with amusement as the bunny suddenly realized how rude she’d been, tiny paws coming to cover her muzzle.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, how rude of me. It’s just, I’ve never met an amur before,” Judy stumbled over her apology, her paws falling from her muzzle as she looked up at Akita. Amur’s were rare, and Judy was both in awe of the mammal before her and saddened that she was one of only a few left.

Akita indulged the small rabbit, finding her reaction endearing. “No need to worry, Judy. There are so few of us in the city that it’s a miracle you can even tell me apart from your average leopard. There are a few more of us in the old world but…” Akita shrugged.

Judy finally composed herself enough to extend a paw. “It’s nice to meet you, Akita.” The amur took her outstretched paw and shook it; her massive paw dwarfing Judy’s.

“Pleasure to meet you too,” Akita smiled. “I assume the place is for both of you, given that it’s two bedrooms?

“Yes, Nick’s my partner…” Judy started to explain. Akita raised an eyebrow as she looked between the bunny and fox. “Work partner,” Judy added, wanting to clarify. Not that she’d be embarrassed to be anything more with Nick, but some mammals were funny about interspecies pairings, especially pred/prey ones.

“It doesn’t both me whether you’re work partners or not, I’m an open mammal.” Akita’s easy smile was back as she flicked through her ring of keys.

Judy’s shoulders slumped in relief. Nick relaxed too. He couldn’t allow anything to happen between him and Judy, he couldn’t risk losing her, but it was reassuring to know he wouldn’t lose his home because of his feelings.

Akita took the steps down to the basement. “It’s a basement apartment?” Nick whispered as he helped Judy down the steps.

“Is that bad? It looked good in the photos online.” Judy swallowed. She hadn’t really asked Nick what he wanted from their home. She had some idea as to what he wanted inside, and where he wanted it located, but he hadn’t mentioned anything about a floor preference.

Nick sensed her rising panic as he helped her down the last step. “It’s not bad at all, Carrots. We foxes make our dens underground, or at least we used to before we became more civilized,” Nick reassured her. If anything, he liked that this one was in the basement. His very nature meant he enjoyed seeking shelter underground. He expected it to be the same for Judy. Rabbit warrens were buried underground, too.

Keys jangled as Akita unlocked the front door, ushering them in. “So, it’s $750 a month, which includes utilities. The place has double-glazing on all the windows, all the modern appliances you’d probably ever need, and there’s a small communal garden out back too. Mr. and Mrs. Hungo, who live on the second floor, have cookouts every week in the summer months,” Akita explained, watching as the rabbit and fox took stock of their surroundings. “Tell you what, I’ll wait outside while you have a chat and look around. When you’re done I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you have,” She excused herself, giving the pair some privacy. She knew how awful it was to have someone lurking around you when you were viewing a property. This was the last property in her portfolio left to rent out. Her parents had died in a car accident and left her their entire estate – including a vast property portfolio. Akita had been struggling to find mammals to rent this last property to. She’d dropped the rent and replaced the bathroom and kitchen, but finding two small animals – for the apartment had been built with smaller mammals in mind – who liked living in the basement and were comfortable with a predator for a landlady had proven difficult. The place needed a lick of paint just to spruce it up, but other than that it was a sound little apartment. Akita crossed her claws that Judy and Nick would like it.

They took their time looking around, and Nick found himself liking every aspect of the property. It was well maintained, recently renovated, and there was plenty of room for them both. It was close to the precinct and within budget too, plus Akita seemed like she’d be a lovely landlady. His excitement was hard to contain, and his tail wagged happily. The couch in the living room was large enough for them to enjoy Nutflix together, and the kitchen would give him the opportunity to learn how to cook, to finally silence his mom. The bathroom had a power shower and a furdryer on the wall, and the bedrooms had plenty of storage as well as both having double beds.

Judy remained silent as they viewed the property. It was perfect, so perfect, but she didn’t want to sway Nick’s judgment. Judy didn’t want to voice her opinion and have him go along with it because he wanted to please her and not cause a fuss. She wanted him to like the place they would be calling home. Judy noted how Nick’s tail wagged happily as he looked around, going from room to room. “What do you think, Slick?” She asked after Nick had finished scoping the place out, standing together in the small entrance hall.

“I like it, Carrots. It’s underground, it’s a good size, there’s plenty of space for both of us, and it looks like it’s been recently renovated,” Nick ticked off the positives on one of his paws. “It’s in budget too, and close to work.” He turned to look at Judy, noting how she rocked a little on the balls of her hind paws, violet eyes wide and ears standing to attention. “You like it too,” he grinned, able to read the small rabbit. They may not have spent much time together in the grand scheme of things, but their wild otter chase had given Nick the chance to study her carefully.

“I do, Nick, but your opinion is the most important. I want wherever we are to feel like home to you,” Judy spoke earnestly, paws reaching out to hold onto Nick’s arms. She found herself always reaching out for him, needing to touch him.

Nick couldn’t help but smile at Judy. She was too sweet, wanting to put his needs before her own, but then Nick had come to learn that was part and parcel of the gray bunny. She always wanted to help. The weight of her small paws on his arms reminded him of just how different they were, but they’d forged a friendship, a bond.

He took a moment to look down the small hallway and into the living room. He could see them watching Nutflix together on the couch on their days off. He turned his gaze to the open door of one of the bedrooms and the double bed in there. It would be nice to finally have a bedroom again, and a real bed. His gaze shifted again, this time to the small wooden table next to the front door. He’d put his keys there, right next to Judy’s, probably in some ridiculously adorable little carrot-shaped bowl. He’d whine about it, say how ugly it was, but he’d secretly love it. Their ZPD issue jackets would rest next to one another on the coat rail. Nick smiled. He could see them living here. He could see himself thriving here. “A fresh start.”

“It’s perfect,” he declared. “Just promise me we’re not going to have some awful carrot themed doormat. I’ll lose all my street cred if I have to wipe my hind paws on some cutesy mat,” Nick grinned, teasing his rabbit companion.

Judy’s smile turned into a scowl, and she gave Nick a gentle shove. Her features softened, though, as she realized Nick truly did like the apartment. It had been impulsive, offering for them to share a place, but Nick deserved a fresh start, he deserved some help, and though the fox wouldn’t take charity, she’d managed to convince him to at least let her help put a roof over his head and apply for an honest job. It was a start. She was proud of him. “For you to lose any street cred, wouldn’t you have had to have some?” Judy sassed, knowing Nick sank back into humor when he felt vulnerable. She was more than happy to play along. Nick worked at his own pace, he’d tell her things when he was ready. The night before had probably drained his emotional chat quota for a long while.

“Carrots, you wound me!” One of Nick’s paws covered his heart, faux hurt on his face. His paw dropped as he reached for the front door handle. “Come on, we should tell Akita we want it.” Nick tried to suppress his excitement, he truly did, but his wagging tail gave him away.

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