There's Something Sweet About You
"Even when I'm alone I have real good company — dreams and imaginations and pretendings.
I like to be alone now and then, just to think over things and taste them.
But I love friendships — and nice, jolly little times with people."
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams
Chapter idea by AStoryTellerBook on AO3
Thank you for the amazing idea of Pawpsicles. ^_^
This will definitely come back. XD
Was she really asking me out? Was all that was on Nick's mind since the day prior.
There weren't many times that he could say that - rather any that he would ever willingly admit, under any circumstance - he felt... nervous?
Just the thought of the word made his breath hitch and his stomach turn. While his nerves did play a huge part in what was going on with him, they weren't the full story.
Attempting to calm himself down by looking towards the front of the class to where his teacher was giving their final lesson for the week, he shook off the idea. No... nervous was him not studying for a test or preparing for a hustle.
Green eyes flitting with each deep breath, he tapped a claw idly on the desk to sort out this feeling... anxious maybe?
He was about to lean his head in his paws, but the sudden shift of a classmate readjusting their chair made him flinch; the badger seated to his left giving them all an apologetic smile from the sudden squeak.
Heart racing from the panic as if he had been exposed, Nick tapped his claw faster, fully defining what was going on.
No, anxious was... well, facing his mother again. Despite her calm and even-tempered nature, having to fess up to his near crimes was enough to cause heart palpitations. Somehow, hiding things from his mother did just that.
Just last night when he got home and thought that the initial jitters of a girl asking him out were gone, he had made the mistake of almost calling Judy and asking her if it was all just a joke or not. Anxiety mocked him in every one of his features from the twitch of his tail to the practiced speech he gave with a cracking voice.
Fortunately for him, he never made the call, the sense of dread - he wondered if it was actually dread or some other, deeply ingrained and hidden emotion but the filed it away with other unknown fears - helped him procrastinate. Unfortunately, however, with a paw hovering over her number, his phone rang. He was so startled by the action that the device was somehow launched ten feet away; hitting the ceiling first, then the mantle of the fireplace, and then finally crashing to the floor, his phone further cracked, leaving it a hazard to even hold.
In his haste to pick it up, he was relieved and mortified - close, but not the full feeling - to find that it was his mother calling him for the night. Still, that call left him with unbridled fear that he couldn't quite describe - petrification, even. No, not from talking to his mother, but the idea that once the chat was over, he'd have to be left with his thoughts again.
So, with trepidation, he asked a few very, very subtle tips.
Well, he would have, if he wasn't Nicholas Piberius Wilde. For he had, once again, played around with his words and hid his emotions, articulating how, "Yeah, yeah, everything's great in ye 'ol burrow. In fact, I've got a bunch of friends and we're all hanging out tomorrow on a daaaat-uhhh... day of tomorrow! So yeah, nothing big, or fancy. Just... me and a friend who happens to be a... yeah, friends! Gotta go! Love you, mom. Bye!"
He had ended the call so fast that his head spun in confusion as to what had happened. Now mentally kicking himself at the eleventh hour, Nick couldn't help but swish his tail in wonder while conversing with his own thoughts, She was just pulling my tail, right?
Uh... yeah, dummy. his brain would agree.
Hey Nick, guess what?
You know Carrots, right? Judy? The girl that asked you out just yesterday?
...Yeah, what about her?
Well, thing is, you may not have noticed as you've probably gone blind from being hit with all the Fox Repellent sprayed at you - good times with Fin and all - but... she's a rabbit!
Nick froze. At least most of him did. His eyes fixated on the clock, his tail stopped mid swish, his paws failed to tap the desk and he almost forgot to breathe with his mouth wide open.
Still, he twitched. Every synapse in his brain was trying to tell him what was happening, what incredible and potentially panic-inducing event was about to take place just after this class.
He was about to go on a date: an outing he had never experienced before, nor was prepared for... with a rabbit. A bunny. His natural prey. What was to be his main food source millennia ago. A different species.
If he wasn't already short of both breath and words, he was now. He was flummoxed from the very idea. Flummoxed? No... wait, is that even a word? What's the other one... Flabbergasted? Wait.. why am I questioning this?! S-she asked me out?! A bunny doe? Not a vixen? I-i... I-
Before he could wrap his brain around any more words, concepts, or even simple letters, the ringing of the bell to signify the end of the school day nearly made him bark. Thankfully it was no more than a squeak that only caught the attention of the students closest to him.
"And that's the bell," spoke his teacher, an elderly grey hare gathering her lesson notes. "I hope you all have a good weekend, and be prepared as we end this quarter strong."
With the blessed distraction, he carefully shut his mouth - something he hadn't done in quite a while - and mindlessly trailed the students pouring out of the classroom.
He had an almost snail-like pace as he went through the hall, taking only timid steps while his surroundings blurred around him. Lost in thought, he made his way to the entrance while the war in his mind raged on.
I-it was a joke, right? he asked.
His brain answered, Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, you've never had a girlfriend. And no, Skye doesn't count. So...
But, I mean... I'm a fox. A fox! Her natural predator! You know... the thing that used to eat cute little bunnies?
Oh good, you noticed! What about her folks?
Nearly tripping on thin air and stumbling to catch his balance, a new wave of that emotion clutched his heart. Wide-eyed at the realization, he padded forward completely automatically; never did he hear any voice of warning calling to him.
You're right! What would her family say? They're all rabbits! I'm a fox! It was unheard of! She-no, they, were natural enemies. How could she possibly ask him out? He was a tod! He was supposed to ask her out... a vixen!
... What would mom say?
There was a sharp hitch of his breath. Teeth clenched, his ears flattened, try as he might, he couldn't face up to that. What would my mom say?! came his thought, echoing through his blank mind. He passed by a few more students unaware of stairs he was walking down outside.
Possibility after possibility whispered to him. His mother's initial joy that he was making friends, him fitting in with his peers and not getting into trouble, finally getting a girlfriend and then whoopsie, she's a rabbit! What would she say to him? What would Skye's parents say to him as well when they got here? He'd be disowned for sure! He wasn't really going on a date with a bunny... was he?
The idea simply terrified him.
He barely registered where he was going, gaze set forward as his pace briskly increased. The blur of mammals swept by him as the tunnel vision increased.
Okay... maybe I should just call it off. he told himself.
It wasn't just awkward, but the feeling he got was stifling. Like he had this fear welling up inside of him that things would go wrong - everything, really. That he wouldn't know what to do, that it was a joke, a farce... oh, and that Judy Hopps was a-
Nick took a step forward, turning his head when he heard the familiar voice. He only managed to see a spec of grey rush towards him before he felt what he could only describe as a cannonball crashing into him. Though it only moved him a few feet away, stumbling as he went by, he was more disoriented than harmed.
Wide-eyed and trying to gain his bearings, he shook his head, the scene finally coming into view.
Other students and several of his band of friends were staring at him, but to his side was another, more familiar mammal. With her arms wrapped around him, Nick stared down at a rather worried looking Judy Hopps. Almost trembling that she was right there as he mentally recounted all that was going on, he lifted his eyes out of fear, catching a glimpse of a porcupine that he hadn't seen before.
He raised a brow, quickly putting two and two together that Judy moved him out of the way of being a fox-kabob. While it wasn't the first time he had nearly fallen onto the quills of a porcupine, it was the first time that a prey mammal had come to his aid.
Scratching his scruff abashedly, he chuckled.
She spoke first, her tone hiding just a hint of distress. "You okay, Nick?"
Soft, bunny paws around him, he feels himself blush as his tail wags, lightly brushing her.
"Yeah," he lied, smiling and coughing into his paw. You liar! his brain reinforced. "Just, uh... thinking a lot lately."
There was a moment where he could swear that she was judging his words from the way she knit her brow, but soon, she released him.
Much like earlier in the day, she had given him a broad, comforting smile; her ears ever slightly bent over as her amethyst eyes glistened. She swayed her carrier bag and tapped her right foot paw. "Ready to go out?"
With her asking him again, and his friends watching - more like the whole world watching while lightning struck him - he swallowed the lump in his throat.
No... I will absolutely not go out with a bunny! Furthermore I- "You bet, Carrots," he blurted out in a higher tone than he originally intended.
With her giggling back and reaching out to his arm, he was lead towards the others before he could find the words to protest.
"Well, come on!" She ushered him, marching forward without a second thought. Judy had been looking forward to this outing since the day prior, but still had to finalize what kind of place they'd go, if only for a while.
As they all gathered around with her bounding towards them, Judy took careful note of the mammals present. Shorin and Lu were there, of course. Delilah was standing just by the wolf's side while the only other mammal in sight, Jack, had been staring solely at Nick.
Judy sighed and brushed it off. She'd have to show Jack that Nick wasn't like Gideon at all. She stopped when she came face to face with them. "Well, while we're waiting for everyone else, FroZo still our plan?"
It had been lingering in her head of what to do since last night, but as of lunch, their finalized destination seemed appropriate. Though she did have to admit, Nick seemed a little... distant. Not only from Jada and Jasmine being there next to him - something she still had questions about - but his usual wit was gone and replaced with... well, she couldn't say what. He was almost as pale as a zombie.
There was a slight huff from Delilah. "Well, my sisters won't be making it today," she said, a pang of sadness in her tone. "Maria's got a 'client issue' that she needs to resolve and Nora's with your sister, Violet, at the library to re-organize a few shelves."
Despite this, the unified nods of approval followed three collective sighs of disgust from everyone but Jack meant that they were still on course. She turned to Nick and again, he was as pale as a ghost. Though this time, Judy could understand why. Somehow or another, in the little time she had talked to her friends, her sisters had popped up on either side of him.
With Jada wearing a wry smile and casting a triumphant glare towards them, she leaned against the fox casually. And then there was Jasmine; her arm wrapped around Nick the way Judy had done so moments ago, her elbow resting above his tail.
The fox shuddered, his stomach queasy. Nausea... this is nauseating...
"Hey, Nicky. Jack-jack." Jasmine greeted with a saccharine smile, hugging the fox a little closer when Judy stepped forward. "What are y'all up to?"
There was a moment where every mammal that wasn't a bunny (or petrified fox) shuffled a step back when Judy stepped towards her sisters, clear aggravation in her features.
"We're going out," she informed, reaching for Nick's paw and guiding him forward.
As if broken from a curse, or fleeing from an evil witch, the fox started moving; his breath hiking with each step. His departure left the other two does so stunned, so shocked that they themselves became petrified.
Jaws dropping, they asked in tandem, "You two are going out?!"
"Yeah," With Nick's paw in hers, Judy thumbed to her friends. "All of us are heading into town for a while."
Entranced by this, the two stared on. Silent, baffled, and either of them twitching. They were ignored by the rest as they moved on. Jasmine quietly left clutching her paw and Jada huffing in frustration.
Pulling the tod with her, the doe couldn't help but notice how sweaty his paw pads were. Cheese and cracker's, Nick. What's with you today? she asked herself, partially glancing over her shoulder while trying to figure him out. To say he was acting strange was a bit of an understatement. Though she had plenty of time to ask why when they were out.
"Who's driving?" Delilah's voice suddenly called over them. The sense of urgency quickly shook most of the mammals there to the core.
All eyes (save for Nick who stared blankly at Judy, her paw so soft in his) fell on the bunny buck among them, Jack. His amber yellow eyes never left Nick, but he heard the sow well. He huffed, but didn't get a word in before the top of his head was ruffled.
"Not Jack," Lu said hastily, he knew better. "I'm taking stats. I ran the numbers, all of us are guaranteed to be at least hospitalized if he's behind the wheel. Oh! Bystanders too."
Ever so slightly, beyond the little giggles, Jack craned his neck. The half-lidded stare he gave his wolf friend paled in comparison to how angry he felt about Judy inviting Nick.
Paws raised, the wolf defended his words. "Hey, I told you: I ain't dyin' before I get married!"
"I thought you said you weren't dying before 'marital benefits'?" With the voice of the ram breaking through, the wolf shot him a silencing glare. It didn't stop Shorin from laughing at the surprise on Delila's face. He hiked a hoof towards the adjacent parking lot. "Anyway, I got it covered. Mom's letting me drive today."
There was an incredulous look on the canid's face all while he wagged his tail with a forming smile.
Mode of transport covered, there was still one matter left.
"We still need to get- Oh hey! There they are! Sharla! Dawn!" she called, waving them down.
At first, the two ewe's smiled and waved back, but upon lingering for a moment and forming faces of disgust, they lowered their hooves and began to turn away.
"Excuse me for just a second," the doe apologized. Leaving Nick to be escorted to their car, Judy made a dash for the straying sheep. She managed to catch a hold of Sharla while Dawn continued to trot away. Paw on her friend's shoulder, Judy huffed and began to rapidly tap her foot against the ground. "Sharla, what's gotten into you?"
Balling her hoof and taking a deep sigh, the ewe cast her gaze at the spec of red taking baby steps away. "Judy! He's a fox!" Sharla argued.
Judy wasn't having any of it. She placed her paws at her side, raising her brow. "And?"
"He's a fox! Remember Gideon?"
"He's not Gideon! Remember ice cream?"
At this, the sheep's posture all but slumped over. She still stared daggers at Nick, but also shifted a little towards Dawn as though she was torn between an impossible decision.
Losing ground, Judy did the only thing she could. She clasped her paws together and twitched her nose a little. "Sharla... please?"
The sheep only continued switching her focus from one target to the next. "I'm thinking! Give me a sec!"
Tapping her hoof and seemingly weighing her options, Sharla heaved a frustrated, bleating sigh before begrudgingly trotting past Judy. "Fine, I'll go," she admitted, Judy cheered. "But I'm only going for the ice cream and pie that you owe me for setting me on fire again."
Mumbling something, she hurried on with the doe drawing a breath of relief. Though before they parted from the pillars at the front of the school, Judy did manage to catch a glimpse of a rather surprised Dawn.
"Thanks for the ride!" Judy called, hopping down from the greyish Cibuck with ease. She followed behind her friends, having to nearly drag Nick along when he froze in front of her. Something was wrong and she knew it, but wanted to give him space to ask.
They had finally arrived in front of FroZo's and Judy, for one, was grateful for the timing. Being after school on a Friday meant that the local shops were bustling and booming with outgoing families, hard-working mammals enjoying their week's reprieve, and, likely most of all, students hanging out with their friends.
The ice-cream shop was no exception. Being on the cusp of summer, it was as busy as ever. Underneath the awning, a small line had formed. And just to the left of that, the patio seats were nearly full with mammals of all sizes. She could only imagine what the inside of the shop was like right now, even beyond the decorated glass that greeted them.
Pondering this, there was another, cheerful call.
"Thanks, mom," Shorin said with gratitude, unbuckling himself from the passenger seat.
About halfway there, Shorin had to switch seats with his mother. The lanky manned wolf smiling all while readjusting her seat and telling her son he was getting better. While to some it may have seemed patronizing, for a small sheep to drive a car made for canids over twice his height was no easy feat; he could barely see over the wheel and had to adjust his hooves constantly.
After the swap, he was able to join in on their conversation and text someone while they were in transit.
Before he could get out, she leaned over, playfully nuzzling what little cheek wool he had. The manned wolfess smiled. "I'll be back to pick you and your friends up in a little bit." Waving to them as the ram hopped out of the much larger vehicle, she pointed to the wolf, eyes narrowed. "Oh, and Lu. Your parents wanted me to keep an eye out for you. That means that Shorin will be keeping an eye out for you as well."
The canid's jaw went slack as Rin waved his mother on. "I'll make sure he keeps his shirt on this time." he acknowledged, already feeling the glare of betrayal that his cousin had.
Rolling up the window, the canid called back, "Make sure he keeps his pants on, too!"
Not even a second had gone by when he felt an almost crushing weight rest on his pompadour. Lu, in faux annoyance and with a befitting smile, waved back at his aunt.
Holding back a laugh and also mentally volunteering herself to keep an eye on the wolf, Judy took inventory of their group and the ride over.
It was relatively quiet, but she could feel a higher level of tension than there should have been. While admittedly cramped in the car, that's not what bothered her. Lu and Swinton had taken to the driver's side of the back seat while Jack sat beside them at first. Upon one frozen fox appearing, he had discreetly left the vehicle to begin a protest. Judy, of course, reminded him of his promise.
The buck finally relented and Judy found herself sandwiched between Jack and Nick with Sharla seated on the window seat.
Now out in the open with them all and standing in line, she could clearly see how divided they were. Jack and Sharla were still scowling (the buck more so staring intently) at Nick while Shorin was used as an armrest for his cousin to chat with his definitely not girlfriend. Judy had to resolve the issue of why Nick wasn't speaking, or moving for that fact. At least they're not pointing fingers... yet. she mused with a huff.
In turning to the fox, she was bewildered at his stance: rigid tail, arms equally as stiff, ears flat against his head and eyes darting around. He looked like he had just seen a ghost. Actually... I kind of need to ask him about that. But first-
She reached out, carefully grabbing his paw. "Nick?" she called softly, hoping to get his attention.
Standing on her tippy toes, she waved a paw in front of his muzzle.
"Hello, Earth to Nick."
Still no, though his eyes did seem to swing like green pendulums.
There was, however, one last idea she had.
She shrugged, tilting her head and calling him, "Blueberries, are you there?"
His reaction was almost immediate. Eyes landing on her and his breath hitching, Nick gave her a nervous, trembling smile. "H-hey... Carrotsssss."
She raised a brow, stepping a little closer. "You okay?"
He took a step back, grinning. "Me?" Pointing to himself and looking for anything to lean on, he managed to find the local bike rack. He propped his elbow up, trying to compose himself and look as suave as possible, but slipped a little before gripping the fixture with his paw and leaning on it. "Yeh'm fine, good, kay. Good, see?"
Smiling at the scene along with everyone else and glancing down at his phone at a text reading 'Your ambush has arrived', Shorin chuckled. "Great news, Lu. Looks like my order just got delivered."
Perched on the ram's pompadour, the canid bit back a laugh. "What? You got something from Amazoon while we were waiting?"
"Well, not exactly," Shorin acknowledged, crossing his arms and readying himself. "But it's still take-out."
"Wait... you ordered takeout when we're all hanging out like this?" Curious, Lu leaned down to further grill the sheep, but catching the gleam of mischief in his eye and the way he emphasized what he ordered, a sudden dread entered him. "Oh no wait!"
Before he could even lift his head, a large, icy shadow was cast on him to where he turned his back. Time seemed to slow when he began to bellow a horrified howl, the crowd looking on as a pillar of white fur embraced him and shouted, "SURPRISE!"
Hoisted in the air, barking, and flailing, the wolf was at the mercy of the mammal below. And that mammal showed none. He soon found the world spun upside down and was tossed in the air every which way amidst a sea of gasps and a few chuckles.
Thankful for nobody laying eyes on him from the show, Nick watched in amused horror at the Lou being practically juggled by a white furred, black stripped tigress. Much taller and bulkier than the canine being tossed ten feet into the air repeatedly, the feline gleefully smiled and swished her tail.
It took him a few seconds to realize that she was clad in the same school uniform as them, badge and all. Nick's face contorted with confusion. Wait... is she that one that tried to get us to all do that crazy workout regimen? What was it? A hundred pushups, situps, a ten-kilometer run and a hundred squats? Try as he might to be athletic, he wasn't that athletic.
Feeling like he was in free fall from how he was being tumbled, Lou howled out, "AA-aAAA-aHH-HA-aHH! PUT ME DOW-I-I'm a throw-"
The giggling tigress kept on despite his warnings. She only slowed down when a hoof was jabbed at her side. Peering down, she met the calm, slightly embarrassed eyes of Delilah.
"Molly, dear." the sow began. "Would you be so kind as to put our class president down before he paints the sidewalk with his lunch?"
Staring back, she tossed him one more time, anticipating where the wolf would fall. She caught him in both her arms, smiling cheesily as she put him down and pat the top of his head before leaning down slightly and ruffling the Shorin's wool. Freed from his torment, Lou stumbled a bit, blinking at the innumerous mammals that suddenly appeared. He would have fallen had Delilah not wrapped her arm around him.
It was hard to tell who was laughing harder between the ram and tigress, but eventually, they both calmed down. Though the second the feline composed herself to speak, her eyes landed solely on the little red fox quizzically staring at her. She gasped and, in a flash, she was in his face, hoisting him by the hem of his collar.
Barking and flailing he was picked up, Nick tried to tell her to put him down, but she had other plans.
"Hey! It's the new kid!" the feline greeted jubilantly, ignoring the shouts of others her way. "Molly! Molly Tallfescue. Nice to meetcha," She greeted, finally feeling the small tap at her heel. She peered down into the eyes of a rather angry bunny and chuckled, placing Nick down immediately. "Ooo! Friend of Judy? Nice!"
On steady ground with the bunny by his side, Nick felt a bit better. Not because the tigress put him down after Judy scolded her - or that the bunny's paws were wrapped around his arm as she pulled him to the front of the line - no; thought that was a large part of it. It was mostly due to the fact that he was surrounded by mammals that didn't really care that he was a fox.
Even as they all settled into a comfortable silence during their wait, Nick couldn't help but notice how... invisible he was compared to the city.
In most places in Zootopia, he was constantly side-eyed, whispered about, and walked around at a distance. Here was too different - comforting, even. It was nice to stroll around and blend in with everyone for once, not just his own skulk.
When he first started, he was sure that there'd be tons of criticism due to him being a fox. But now that the school week was over, he wasn't quite sure that this was the case. Yes, a few students did stare at him awkwardly - like Jack and Sharla, currently - and others like Dawn wanted to be as far away from him as possible, planets if he could guess; then Jasmine and Jada were a different story entirely. Yet... one mammal had shown that they wanted to get closer, and that's what scared him the most.
His tail rigidly swished as the idea came back to him that he was on a date. And, almost as suddenly, he was back into his fit of panic.
In the car, he did all that he could from speaking as only empty words would have croaked out. He was on a date. Being next to Judy, he tried not to look into her beautiful, amethyst eyes as he felt like he'd turn to stone. He was on a date. Stepping out of the car proved to be a challenge, not many foxes could say that they lost motor function when they were next to a bunny. He was on a date. And now stepping to the front of the line, he was about to get ice cream with his date!
HE WAS ON A DATE!
"Alright, Nick. We're next!" Judy called, hopping to the counter and checking out the menu laid out for mammals of their height. As she scanned the choices of the day, the cashier leaned down to greet them.
"Hey, Judy!" welcomed the elephant, his oversized ears flopping against the marble countertop as he waved. When the doe cheerfully waved back, he finally noticed the mammal next to her and further leaned down, his trunk hovering over them. "Who's your friend?"
He wanted to say nothing, but Judy was quicker. "This is Nick," she informed, pushing him forward. "He's new to our school."
Face to face with the pachyderm, Nick grinned and waved. The towering mammal was hard to place for him. Large ears, small red hat, and apron with a well-worn nametag that only read 'bo', the tusked mammal studied him for a moment before looking up and sighing.
"Nice to meetcha," He casually pointed his trunk at his badge. "Students around here get fifteen percent off. Twenty if it's from the one we represent. And on game day, if y'all win, it's a BOGO for that school. So whaddya like?"
Nerves a little calm from the distraction, Nick was back to thinking what his date would like.
Yet... the moment he laid eyes on Judy again, his jitters finally calmed. Beside him was a bunny just enjoying the time and not getting her 'boyfriend' to wrap his arm around her.
In other words, Judy was just, well, Judy. She hadn't acted any different than she did on a normal day, even if he only knew her for a week. There were no telltale signs that she wanted to make this official or even try to kiss him... or would he kiss her? He shook away the thought.
So it was just a social outing? That was to say not a date. He visibly relaxed, finally feeling his muzzle unclench to allow him to speak again.
What was I so worried about? It's not like she and I could... no, why'd I even work myself up when I-
"You want a kiss?"
Nick heard two things just then. The voice of the little bunny that asked him out and the shattering mirror that was his frail psyche from the bunny asking him out.
It took him about half a minute to find his small, shaky voice. "What?"
"A kiss," she repeated. "I've always wanted to try it, but I've never found someone that wanted to share one."
Nick couldn't move, and what was worse was that he fell for the trap - the beautiful, blessed trap - that was staring into her eyes again.
The rich purple colour, her smile, and the way her ears stood on end as she padded her way towards him. He felt like he was about to have several heart attacks. A stroke or two? Conniption at least? No matter, a coffin was surely his future in a matter of seconds. He couldn't stop his heavy breathing when she took his paw again. When she gently tugged on his tie to bring him a little closer, it was worse, the room was spinning.
Her directly in his face, he didn't know what to do. Even his brain refused to talk to him as it had already shut down. So left with no choice, he leaned slowly opened his muzzle.
She wants to kiss me! he told his brain, but received no message from it, he was on his own. But... she's a bunny! She wants to-to...
Giggling with Nick so close, Judy tilted her head to the menu, pointing at her choice. "See, right there."
Frozen, shaking, and inches away, he glanced to where Judy was pointing, hoping to delay the inevitable kiss when he suddenly deflated.
There on the center of the chalkboard was the word 'kiss' in bold, multicoloured lettering and circled several times. It took him longer than it should have to figure that it was one of the things they served and not a kiss from a bun with fur grey.
"It's a custard infused soft serve." Judy elaborated. "It's cheaper than most of the other stuff and serves two!"
There was a cough from behind them, Lou scratched his ear, trying to keep his stomach from turning inside out. "I thought it was 'custard inside single scoop'?"
"No, no, it's 'custard in shareable serving'." Delilah chimed in.
Above them all, the elephant huffed. "I dunno what the term started out as, but the guy that made it up thought it was the best thing to happen to ice cream in history. So we named it, discounted it, and gave one to him and his 'pumpkin' for free."
"A kiss is... sharable ice cream?" Nick whispered, feeling as though he had just dodged meteors and a collapsing star. He was so awash with relief that he took a step back, pressing himself against the counter to stay standing. As he did, the cool, frosted glass helped him cool off enough to focus. It's just a kiss... a couple's sweet treat...
He turned to face Judy with renewed resolve, but the glimmer of something behind the glass wall caught his attention. When he turned to fully see what it was, he was stunned. In front of him, in varying colours and sizes, were rows of pawpsicles. He surveyed them, completely blind to the world around him.
In that world, Judy watched. She had wanted to get a kiss for the both of them to save a bit - saving for college and her new laptop wasn't cheap - but the look on Nick's face was priceless. She'd never seen a fox dumbfounded by frozen sugar-water and food colouring, so she smiled and relented. They could share a kiss later.
Pulling a few bills out of her bag, she lifted them to the elephant. "Two pawpsicles, please. Oh, and whatever Sharla wants."
"Actually, I'll take one, too," Lou requested after her before he peered down to his side to see Delilah staring at the glass as well. "Make it two."
Seeing how the first two couples were so easy to serve, the pachyderm thought that the next pair would be so as well. But then his chances were dashed away when the tigress met him face to face.
"I'd like to obtain two of your finest sugary ice-pops," Molly bellowed, slamming a pawfull of bills on the counter. "keep the change."
The elephant looked at her, sighing. With the bills she placed down - and discounts given - it would come to the exact amount for a pop of her size and one for Shorin as well. That, however, wasn't his concern. "Didn't you get banned last week?" he asked, tapping a picture of her on the adjacent wall.
Pursing her lips and staring at the completely identical, named, fully coloured, dated, and laminated picture of her, she crossed her arms. "That's not me," she denied. "I look nothing like that today. That was last week's picture. A total fraud."
Lifting her paw off the bills, her eyes had locked themselves onto the only thing on the counter: the tip jar. Instinctively, she started tapping it with her paw, sliding it a few inches towards the edge.
He stopped her. "If you knock over this tip jar again, you'll be banned for a year!"
All of them served and making their way outside to a free table, it was vastly different from what Nick experienced. City life was rough for him, but the little red stick held in his paw brought back far more memories than he had thought possible. It was enough for him to simply stare at the treat reverently, never once taking a bite.
It wasn't until they were casually seated that Judy finally decided to ask, "What's wrong?"
She knew that he wanted the pawpsicle, but why he didn't already have a red tongue - he specifically asked for that one which surprised her because they had blueberry flavour - was beyond her.
"Well," Nick held the pawpsicle aloft, its rich red syrup beginning to melt and form little beads before he reluctantly lapped at them. "Back home, my friends and I made a bunch of these when we were younger. We used to go out and sell them to folks everywhere and share what was left at the end of the day."
Judy didn't know what to say, really. This was, more or less, what she wanted out of this outing: a chance to know him a little better. She couldn't have fathomed that a little pawpsicle would do this.
It lead her to ask, "You miss them?"
Nodding, Nick lifted his head to the stick that was left "I-"
He couldn't finish the sentence as a chilling sting hit his shoulder, a series of shrieks, howls, and bleats all echoed about them. By the time he was able to see that he was hit with ice-cream and find the mammals responsible, Nick had his answer in the form of a blue convertible piled high with bunnies shouting, "Got 'em!"
Without further warning or notice, they sped off, the grey-furred bunny in the driver's seat winking at Judy before they got away; several bunnies nearly fell out.
At the other end of the table, Molly had gotten up only to have Delilah stand in her way. "No, Molly," the sow warned, "You aren't going to chase them and slash their tires... or them."
She kept looking down the street, trying to figure out which way they were going to go. "But... my tiger vengeance."
Delilah, however, was adamant. "Your mother works at the DA's office. Your father would have a heart attack. The High Hopper and the Sherrif would have a field day with that case. Not to mention-" Hiking her hoof next to her, she pointed to Shorin who busied himself in removing the ice-cream cone stuck to his pompadour.
Nick finished wiping mint-postacio off of his uniform. "Who were those guys?"
"Victors." they all said in unison, deadpan.
"Victors?" he repeated, confused.
Though they exchanged looks at one another, the wolf took it upon himself to speak. "See, Nick, there are five major high schools in Bunnyburrow. Each has a specific tree that we have as our herald and our theme's based off of that."
He stood up, keeping what was left of his pawpsicle from falling as he counted off what those schools were.
"There's Paragon's Grove: The Willow, Dream School - that's us. Titans Weald: The Oak, Courage School - they're the crazy ones that dare each other 'for honour' and all that. Viscount's Stand: The Ash, Wisdom School - really odd, smart folk, never debate with 'em. Seraphs Coppice: The Birch, Renewal School - they're kinda creepy, but good folks."
He growled, "And then you have Archon's Orchard: The Poplar, Victory School."
Shorin tapped his hooves against the table. "While our school prides itself on helping everyone achieve their dreams, Victory is all about their own achievements. They're pretty much elitists compared to us."
"That bad, huh?" Nick surmised, nibbling on a now empty tongue depressor.
"They aren't that bad!" Sharla bit back, furious that he'd say something like that.
Shorin, however, had to disagree. "Doesn't Gareth hate it there?"
From the look on her face, he knew he was right.
"I heard that they have a golden statue in their courtyard," Molly chimed in.
"I heard that they have two Fabergé eggs," Delilah added.
"I heard that they have a swimming pool in the girl's locker room," Lou muttered, garnering the attention of nearly every mammal at the table. Delilah specifically.
She rested her chin on her hooves, leaning over to him with a smile; her teal eyes flashed. "Lou, how did you hear that?"
Despite her tone being sweet and calm, one could feel the accusation behind it. She was by, no means, a fool.
"Uh," Coughing and turning away, he lapped at the remains of his pawpsicle. "Rumor mill?"
The moment the elevator opened to greet the two bunnies with the wafting aroma of honeysuckle, Judy felt as though she was on top of the world.
Despite the ice-cream stain adorning her school uniform, the outing with her friends wasn't a complete disaster.
Practically skipping down the hallway to the split that separated Jack's room and hers, she thought about the day, humming.
I mean, sure, Sharla was being ridiculous. I get that she wanted to be anywhere else... and I still owe her a slice of pie, can't forget that. But did she really have to use her rival in some game as an excuse? And Jack? UGH! Is he gonna ever stop putting on this front about Nick being near me or anyone?
Shaking her head in dismay, she had noticed how Jack - still silent beside her and with a focused, non-frown but far from a smile - even with the frozen treat in his paws, never once took his eyes off of Nick. And though, yes, Nick was a fox and did look like a skinnier version of Gideon Grey with green eyes instead of blue, there was nothing, not a single hint that they were the same mammal.
Still, this aside, she was glad that he didn't cause too much of a fuss. Even less so when they all had to leave and Nick was dropped off first. Again, the fox didn't talk much. He sat quietly, admiring the pawpsicle stick with the slightest tinge of red on it. When they got to his house and said their goodbyes, he looked a little saddened by the departure but gave them all a curt wave and a smirk.
When she was dropped back home with Jack, the buck hadn't said a word, but she could feel the anxiety flowing off of him. He was uncomfortable around Nick, just as much as the tod was shy around others. Judy knew that it would take time for the two to get along, and she had to do so before her mother invited him over for dinner. And while it just might be the most difficult task that Judy could take on, there were promises that she had to keep.
Yes, she still had her promise to keep to Nick about the blueberries, but there was one that she held in high regard.
It was the one that she had from ages ago, reaching far back to when she promised Jack's father that she'd watch over him. He was her best friend, after all, and graftee of the family at that. His troubles were her troubles. And currently, Nick was his trouble.
She chanced a glance at him, nose twitching. I have to get him to see that Nick isn't trouble. Well, that and make sure Nick doesn't get into trouble with anyone. I've got to make sure that everyone's on board to have him at dinner. The last thing I need is mom and da-
The hoarse voice sent a shiver down her spine. Cringing and hoping that Jack kept his word, Judy turned to face her father as he barreled down the hall towards them. She barely had the time to blink before she was embraced along with Jack. Squeezed in a tight - too tight for comfort and certainly breathing - hug, she could only see over her father's shoulder where her mother and aunt were quietly following behind.
After a moment, Stu finally, blessedly let go, but he held their gaze, his paws never letting go of their shoulders.
"Did you hear the news?" he asked, urgency in his tone and on his worried eyes. "There's a new fox in town!"
Judy froze. Jack did too.
For a second, Stu nodded as the grafted buck slowly, incredulously turned to face Judy; guilt plastered on her face and her ears fell back.
Those few words held different meanings for the two of them. For Jack, it had been keeping silent about the matter per his promise. Not something he really wanted to do but hoped that Bonnie and Stu would catch on before the dinner date. If Nick comes here I-no, no I won't let that happen!
For Judy, however, it was a spotlight. An accusatory paw pointed at her. Someone somewhere had spilled the details. She didn't want her parents to find out, not os soon anyway. She slowly returned Jack's glare with a raised brow of her own. Jack couldn't have, could he?
Her mother, silently making her way towards them, finally spoke up. "I'm surprised that Deputy Fanghanel didn't say anything about it."
"Yeahhhh-" Judy drawled. She recalled how she had to stop him from saying anything about Nick being the 'new fox in town' after he had gone with her mother to get Stu's help. He had been excitable, but she managed to keep him from divulging the information. When he asked why, she told him that it was to be a surprise.
Though it did leave her questioning the wolf when he casually chatted about a wedding day while working on the car. She raised a brow when Stu agreed with Eliot and that 'there was no mistake that he was her special one on the count of Bonnie's humming'.
She had often heard of her mother's uncanny ability to almost sing two mammals into marriage, but never really believed it.
Judy did believe, however, that Eliot didn't say anything about Nick being the fox. That left her to question, "Who did you hear that from?"
Fully prepared to defend her point of view, but not truly great at speeches, she waited. It was Stu that informed her. "I spoke to Sharla's father." Awash with relief for a brief second, then pseudo apologizing to Jack in the next, followed by curling her paw at the mention of the ewe, Judy was a mess of emotion. Did Sharla tell him?
Stu continued, nodding. "He said that Dawn told him the fox is going to your school."
For the second time in a nearly the same amount of minutes, Judy froze. She tried not to look as though she were guilty, but her paw wouldn't unclench.
Of COURSE Dawn would say something. Hopefully she didn't say that Nick is-
"Bad enough we have the Greys around," a voice halted her thoughts from fully formulating. Just beside her father now stood her aunt Barbara - Babs to most. She looked a lot like Bonnie, and it was hard to spot the difference, usually, but her somewhat fancier clothing and blue eyes gave her away. She shook her head, groaning. "Shoulda' never allowed preds into the burrows. It's called 'Bunnyburrow' for Pete sake!"
Her words felt like little icy needles filled with spite. Judy didn't often talk to her aunt Babs - not out of fear, but she didn't often have good things to say about others, family or otherwise - but even still, everything she said stung.
How she could say that about predators was beyond her. From deputy Eliot to the newest mammals around, and many, many others, it was like Babs was stuck in her own world.
Sighing and walking around her sister to embrace the two herself, Bonnie smiled, welcoming the pair back home.
"How was your day, Bun-bun?" she greeted, motherly love apparent in every word. "Oh! And how's your new friend doing?"
Judy wanted to say more, wanted to say something about how Nick was from what she had seen about him. But she couldn't. Not yet. She had to get other bunnies (especially Jack) on her side before dinner.
So, until then, she'd have to grin and bear it.
"Great!" she said, teeth clenched and bearing the biggest, brightest, most forceful, bucktoothed and faked smile she could have ever come up with in her life. Just... GREAT!
There's something so sweet about dreams. It's like you just rest in the comfort of a different world.
Huge thanks to Koraru-san for the continued use of Eliot and Chloe. Also to JadeHopps for her character Jada(Jade) and OptimusPower92 for his OC cameo in the form of the badger at the beginning. And to AStoryTellerBook on AO3 (the pawpsicles will be back. XD)
The five schools came about during the last vote on the school mascot. I was surprised when the poplar/aspen tree - Victory's mascot - was the least popular on the polls. So, due to that, "Victory", one of the poplar/aspen trees symbolic meanings, was created. And they're the elite's of the elites.
Also, totally intentional/unintentional until it was intentional. If you look closely at the five high schools, they're all viewer ratings, from different countries. Paragon Grove (PG) pretty much standard all around for several countries. New Zeland (AO) adults only. Slovenia (VS) vodstvo staršev: parental guidance suggested. Armenia (TW) suitable for children 9 and up. Spain (SC) Sin calificación: unofficial rating refers to news, sports, and religious programs.
We'll be learning more about them in the near future. ^^
Skyebound's coming up next!
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Till Next Time