It had been quite a long day for Nick Wilde and his friend Finnick. After yet another day of selling Pawpsicles had concluded, the two were counting out their profits.
"Okay, bud. Let's count," Nick commented, holding onto the wad of cash.
Finnick, wearing his elephant suit with the hood off and still sucking on the pacifier, put his paw out.
"200, 250, 300, 350, 400..." Nick smiled as he placed Finnick's cut of the profits into the fennec's paw.
Finnick, though, stared right at him with an expectant stare.
"Wait... what?! $450?! Are you kittin' me? Finnick, you little... What about me?! I can't believe it! Who did most of the job, today?"
His paw still outstretched, Finnick spoke is his usual gruff voice. “Me and my outfit. You’re nothing without us, Nick.”
Nick stood there speechless for several moments before speaking again. “Oh c’mon, you’re being hard on me!” He shrugged. “Oh, forget it.. Here’s your part, Little Toot-Toot!”
“I hate that name,” the fennec thought to himself before giving another insistent grunt.
“But still, it’s not fair.” He then gave his friend an additional fifty.
“It’s called a HUSTLE, sweetheart,” came a female’s voice as the fur who spoke came around the corner. It was Judy Hopps, Nick’s friend and partner at the ZPD.
Both Nick and Finnick turned to look toward her, with Finnick looking a bit surprised to see her.
“Hey, isn’t that my favorite cottontail bunny?” Nick grinned again. “What’s up, partner?”
“Nothing particular,” the rabbit exclaimed. “Except a fox cop who was caught red-handed swindling people again!”
“Come on, Officer Fluff! Is it illegal to want to earn a little extra money? This is just business.”
“The clothes don’t make the fox. Once a cop, always a crook,” Judy thought to herself. She put her paws on her hips, staring at him disapprovingly. “Nick, you’re a cop now! I think it’s time you change some of your old habits.”
“I can’t, Carrots! If I do, who’s gonna take care of our Big Guy over here? Daddy won’t leave his poor baby alone!”
Finnick growled angrily at the taller fox’s words, and spat out the pacifier in his muzzle before crossing his arms. A look of annoyance quickly spread over his face. “Screw you, Nick. I can fend for myself, in case you forgot!” He then tucked his money under his arm. “Anyway, I’m off. Ciao.”
Nick turned toward him, watching as Finnick rounded the corner. “You leaving already? No hug? No kiss?” Nick frowned.
Finnick’s only reply was an emphasized repetition of “Screw you!”
Nick called out. “Hey son! Don’t forget your jars. This Jumbo Pop won’t sell itself, you know?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Finnick glanced back at Nick, the look of annoyance still on his face. “Who the hell do ya think I am?! I know what I’m doing, Nicky!”
A couple moments later, as Finnick looked back to the jars of Jumbo Pop juice, he sighed and muttered to himself. “Six more to load... Damnit! I have to do it all myself now. It was much simpler when that stupid fox was around!” He then began working on loading the remaining jars. “I better hurry. My new associate hates it when I’m late. At least, even if he lets me down, Nick still helps me from time to time. Like he did today.” He sighed again. “I miss that lil’ bastard more than I expected...”
Judy couldn’t help thinking about the irritated look on Finnick’s face. “I see he’s not really working with you anymore...”
“How’d you guess?!” Nick commented as he watched Finnick occasionally coming around the corner to grab the jars. “What’s your superpower? Tell me!”
“Dumb fox!” Judy looked to him. “It’s easy to notice that he’s sick and tired of you!”
Nick shook his head. “It’s a bit more complicated than that, Judes...”
“Things are ALWAYS complicated with you. What’s wrong?” Judy turned her attention toward the tall fox.
Nick just looked at her and sighed again.
“Nick?” A concerned expression showed on the rabbit’s face. “Are you okay?”
“Just tired. Being a cop and con artist at the same time and all, you know...”
Judy raised a brow. “Is it because of Finnick?”
“I guess it is.”
Judy frowned. “Looks like you miss him, don’t you?”
“Worry about him would me more appropriate.” The fox remarked. “After we separated last year... I don’t know. It kind of perturbs me.”
“I don’t think you should sweat over him like this. Finnick is a sly fox, just like you are,” the rabbit told him, trying to offer some comfort. “He may look like a toddler, but he’s a gutsy brain-box. I’m sure he will get along fine, just like he always does.”
“I have no doubt he will, Judy. But I think... he is unhappy that way.”
“Do you really think so,” Judy asked.
“I’m not really sure, Jude. It’s pretty hard to make an opinion about Finnick,” Nick told her. “He always hides his feelings when we work together.” Nick then frowned. “One day, after one of our hustles, I began to wonder if he felt alone. I know he’s been through much worse than this, and that he’s used to this life...” Nick stopped, the sad look on his face looking even sadder now.
Judy persisted. “But?”
Nick crossed his arms. “He has no family.”
Judy’s eyebrows raised and her jaw dropped. “WHAT?!”
“He’s always lived like that. No home, no relatives, no friends. He doesn’t even know where he was born...” Nick looked back toward the curb where Finnick’s van was parked. “We were in the same predicament. One day, we met and that was it. Foxes of a fur flock together...”
Judy looked absolutely stunned. “I’m so sorry! I.... I didn’t know that!”
“Don’t feel bad,” Nick told her. “The day I learned about it, I had the same reaction. I just didn’t show him.”
“That must have been terrible,” Judy replied.
“It certainly was,” Nick continued. “The fact is he never got the chance to enjoy family life. He doesn’t really know how it feels to be loved by someone.”
Finnick, unbeknownst to the two of them, was still listening to the conversation, even while loading up the jars.
“This is somewhat ironic... Especially for someone who poses as a toddler every day,” the rabbit remarked.
“Actually, he really hates doing that. Money is his only motivation... At least, I think it is anyway,” Nick told her.
“Even so, you and Finnick make a nice family.”
“I can hear you,” Finnick thought to himself.
“You don’t know how right you are,” Nick told her.
“You should keep quiet, Nick,” the fennec thought as he lifted another jar into his van.
“It’s this weird role-playing game. Me as the father, him as the son...”
Judy raised a brow again. “A father’s soul is growing in you?”
“I think it’s rubbing off on me,” Nick admitted. “I won’t lie to you, Judy. With time, bonds become closer, and...” He stopped again.
Finnick stopped dead in his tracks, hearing the pause in Nick’s conversation.
Judy urged Nick to continue. “And?”
“I think I love him,” Nick said.
Finnick’s ears raised as his ears perked up hearing Nick’s words as he pushed the last jar into his van, seeing the two had their backs turned.
“You love Finnick? In what way,” Judy asked, with a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
Still quiet and watching, Finnick’s annoyed look had began to slowly melt away, replaced at first with surprise then with sadness, as a tear fell from the small fox’s eye.
“Chill out, Carrots. I’m not IN LOVE with him. Not the way you think,” Nick told her. “I spent so many days pretending to be his father. Pampering, hugging him.... At first, it really made me laugh, until I realized I was NOT pretending.”
Judy actually smiled. “Oh, Nick... That’s so cute,” she thought to herself.
“Finnick would kill me if he knew about that,” Nick continued.
“Do you think he does?”
Nick gave Judy a look that showed his own uncertainty. “I hope not. It could hurt him even more.”
Finnick reached into the pocket of his elephant outfit, quietly pulling out the carrot pen which once belonged to Judy but was then given to Nick. He’d swiped it off of Nick some time ago, and hadn’t really thought too much about giving it back. It was only now that he was actually glad he still had it. Holding down the record button on the pen, Finnick quietly continued to watch and listen.
“It’s a terrible injustice, to live without a family. I don’t know how he could endure it for so long,” Nick commented.
“It’s not your fault, Nick. You did all you could for him,” Judy quickly replied.
“I did nothing, Carrots! Nothing but exploit him to make a quick buck, all while humiliating him!” A hint of self-loathing was quickly becoming evident in Nick’s voice. “And that simulation game isn’t helping him at all! Like he needed to remember that there is no one in the world to look after him!” Nick’s voice cracked a bit as he began tearing up.
Judy’s eyes grew as she watched Nick start to tremble.
“Now, I see him, lonelier than ever. And me, his lifelong mate... I’m not there for him anymore! I settled down because I was given the chance to do it. But what did Finnick get? NOTHING!” Nick sniffled, but he was no longer able to stop his tears. “He lives alone. Among millions of animals, but still alone!”
Judy only then noticed the tears in Nick’s eyes. “Nick... A-Are you crying?”
Nick lost it at that point, the tears now flowing down his muzzle. “And I feel terrible. All those times I carried him in my arms, when I could have... Given him the love he never had! I could have... I SHOULD have! But it’s too late now!”
Judy’s ears drooped. Seeing Nick cry was not something she was used to, nor was it something she ever expected she’d see from him. “Nick, I’m sorry...”
“No! I’m the one who should be sorry! ‘Cause I did nothing for him!” Nick had lost all composure by that point, and practically howled out, “I... I LET HIM DOWN!”
Judy placed a paw on Nick’s shoulder, trying to calm him, but it seemed it was no use.
“I let him down! I let him down!! I let him down!!!” Nick repeated the words over and over.
“Nick, it’ll be okay...” Judy now shed a tear herself, hating seeing Nick this broken up. She gave Nick’s paw a gentle rub.
“I let him down,” Nick repeated again, sniffling. “I really did.”
As Finnick finally loaded the last jar into his van, he stood there quietly, listening to Nick’s sobbing.
“I’m so sorry, Finnick... I’ve failed you. Forgive me, my friend... My brother... My son...”
Those final words were all Finnick seemed to need to hear. Putting the carrot pen back in his pocket, he hopped into his van, quickly pulled the door shut, started it up and drove off quickly.
Nick and Judy’s faces immediately went from saddened to a state of shock.
“He was still here?!” Judy turned back to the street where Finnick’s van had been, as did Nick.
“Uh oh...” Nick began to look worried.
“You think he’s heard everything you said,” Judy asked him.
“I sure hope not...” Nick commented, gulping hard as the two of them stood there.
A few days later, it seemed things had gone back to normal. Nick, though, was much quieter than he had been during their previous hustle.
“Looks like he’s forgotten everything,” Finnick thought to himself, as he walked along with Nick. “That’s too bad, but I think it’s time.” Finnick then grabbed Nick’s paw and began dragging Nick across the street.
“What the... Hey!” Nick forced himself into a run to avoid falling over as the fennec pulled him along. “Finnick! What’s wrong? It’s not that way!”
Finnick remained silent as he pulled the taller fox toward an alleyway. He then began walking down it.
“Where are you taking me? Jumbeaux’s Cafe is on the other side of the road,” Nick remarked as his friend continued to pull on his arm. He then looked to his friend with a smirk. “Oh, I see. You’ve spotted a pretty vixen passing by, huh?”
Finnick said nothing, and just continued pulling his friend along.
“No? You’re not gonna tell me? Come on.”
Finnick eventually did stop pulling, but not before Nick was dragged to a place he knew quite well.
Nick looked around, a ‘what the fuck’ look on his face. “My former home,” Nick thought. “Why did he bring me here?” He looked around for a moment. “No one around...” He then addressed his friend again. “Alright, pal... Tell me your secret.”
Finnick let him go, looking at him in silence. Finnick himself now had a sad look on his face.
“Fin? What’s up with you? Don’t give me that face. You’re scaring me!”
Finnick turned away, hanging his head.
“C’mon, Fin! Talk to me!”
Finnick reached into his pocket, digging through it and pulling out the carrot pen again.
“Wait a sec... That pen... Where did you get it?!”
Finnick clicked the playback button on the pen several times, and Nick was forced to hear his own voice being played back every time he did. “Too late... could have... Given him the love he never had... did nothing... exploit him... humiliating... no one in the world to look after him... I’m not there for him anymore... millions of animals, but still alone... injustice, to live without a family... I spent so many days pretending to be his father...”
Nick looked terrified. “FINNICK!! Where did you... You recorded it ALL?!”
Finnick finally turned to look back at Nick. His eyes were wet with tears.
Nick’s terrified look went back to a look of shock. “Don’t tell me he’s crying...” Nick thought to himself. He covered his face in shame. “Damnit! I didn’t need that...” He then looked down, frowning. “Okay, buddy... Let me explain...”
Finnick clicked the pen again. “I think I love him... failed you...”
Finnick pressed it again. “I let him down...”
“I swear...” Nick continued.
Finnick pressed it yet again. “Friend... my brother... my son...”
Nick whimpered. “Please...”
Finnick then dropped the pen, and just stared at his friend quietly.
Nick sighed. “Fine. You win, my friend. I admit it. I let you down. Yes, I did. I never meant to, but it happened, And I’m sorry.” Nick’s eyes watched as the pen bounced off the ground. “But you have to know... What I said about you... it was true. And it still is I love you, Finnick.”
Hearing Nick’s words, Finnick turned away.
“Fin, listen... I’m really sorry for ev...”
Finnick didn’t want to hear any more. This was too much. With his back still turned to Nick, Finnick began to walk off.
“Hey,” Nick called out in a hurt tone, seeing his friend walking off.
Finnick turned back toward Nick, with an intense stare.
“Wait. I can expl...”
Once again, Nick’s words were cut short as Finnick suddenly broke into a run, dashing as fast as he could toward Nick, looking as though he was ready to lunge at him.
“Finnick! Don’t,” Nick cried out, cringing as he braced himself for what he was sure was going to be a rather severe mauling. “STOP!”
But the mauling never came. Instead, the smaller fox had clung to Nick, hugging him as best he could.
Once Nick realized his friend had no intention of hurting him, he relaxed, opening his eyes. Nick was stunned not only by feeling his smaller fox pal hugging him but also by the fact he noticed the tears in Finnick’s eyes. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. All he could do was stand there, at a loss for words, as his friend hugged him.
“I love you too,” the fennec thought to himself, finding himself unable to actually speak the words but hoping the hug was enough to get the taller fox to understand.
Neither of them spoke or moved for quite some time.
When Finnick finally let go and hopped down, he just looked at Nick, through his tear-filled eyes.
“Finnick...” That was all Nick could muster the courage to say. The longer he stood there looking at his friend, the closer he got to crying himself. When he heard a whimper come from from Finnick though, Nick broke down and started crying.
It was only then that Finnick pulled back the hood of his elephant suit to speak. “You... you really meant... all those things you said?” Finnick’s usual rough voice was cracking through his attempt to keep from crying again.
Nick sat down, right where he was, so he could look Finnick right in the eye. “Fin, I meant every word,” Nick said, when he was able to compose himself again. “I’m sorry for not being there for you when I should have been... You’ve been through hell, and rather than helping you, I took advantage of you...” He hung his head. “This game we’ve been playing... I was initially just doing it for the money... But the more we did it, the more I realized that I really DO care for you like a son... I was just... afraid to admit it to you... Afraid to admit it to myself...”
“Why,” was the only response Finnick could come up with.
“I don’t know,” Nick replied, feeling embarrassed by his own answer. “Maybe I thought that it would make you feel weird if I told you I cared about you that way.”
“Nick, NO ONE has ever told me they cared about me that way. You KNOW that,” Finnick told him.
“I know, but...” Nick sighed. “When my own life turned out to be such a disaster because I was treated like I could never be anything more than a crook, I started believing there was no point in trying to be anything else. That same belief made me think I should never allow myself to get close to anyone, out of fear I’d just get hurt again.”
“If that’s true, then how do you explain becoming a cop just because you were told what you could do was helpful for more than just hustling,” Finnick asked.
“She was the first to ever outright tell me I was worth something,” Nick said with a sigh. “But truthfully, I don’t feel....” He stopped.
“Don’t feel what,” the fennec pushed.
“I don’t feel the same... connection with Judy that I do with you. She’s a friend, and my partner at the ZPD... but I could never have the same kind of closeness with her that I have with you. Judy and I are friends at best. You and I? We’re...” Nick choked up a bit. “Family.”
Finnick gave Nick a stunned look, as though, for some reason, it only just hit him that Nick wasn’t kidding. “You... you’re really serious, aren’t you?”
Nick didn’t speak another word. Instead, he looked to Finnick, paws outstretched, as though trying to get him to come close.
Slowly, the fennec did advance closer toward Nick.
When Finnick was within reach, Nick pulled him close, hugging him again. “I’ve never been more serious about anything in all my life, Son.”
Finnick made no attempt to recoil or pull away. Instead, he just rested his head on Nick’s shoulder. “I love you,” Finnick muttered quietly.
“What was that,” Nick asked, unable to hear Finnick clearly.
Finnick lifted his head and looked at Nick directly. “I love you... Daddy,” he repeated.
Nick couldn’t help but smile. “And I love you, Son... With all my heart.”
“So... what happens now,” Finnick asked.
“Now, we start acting like a family. A real family. Not a fake one to scam people,” Nick told him. “And that starts with you moving into my apartment to live with me. I’m not letting you live out of your van anymore.”
Nick shook his head. “No buts... I got out from under my bridge. It’s about time you got out of your van... Please... Don’t ask me to walk away and leave you there.”
Finnick opened his mouth to argue, but when he saw the sadness is Nick’s eyes again, he thought better of it. “Alright, alright...” He paused, then hugged Nick again. “Can we go now?”
Relieved that the fennec had relented, Nick nodded. “Of course we can. Together.” He then let go of Finnick, who hopped out of his lap, and stood.
Finnick pulled the hood of his elephant costume back up again.
Nick saw this and smiled. “Ready to go home, Little Toot-Toot?”
Finnick froze. He looked up at Nick. Just a few days ago, Nick calling him that irritated him, but now, something about it just... felt right. Finnick nodded then tooted his elephant trunk softly, looking quite happy.
“Well then... Let’s go, son...” Nick took Finnick’s paw and the two of them left the same way they had come.
The two of them made their way toward where Nick’s apartment was.
When they got there, they discovered someone else was there waiting. Standing there, right by the door, was Judy.
“Carrots?” Nick looked at her, puzzled.
Judy looked from Nick to Finnick and back again before replying with a smile. “So you two talked, huh?”
“How did you...” Nick stopped and nodded. “Yeah...”
“I meant what I said. You two make a nice family,” Judy told him as she stepped aside so Nick could open the door.
When Nick had, he stepped inside with Finnick and clicked on the light. He then looked back to Judy. “Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”
Judy shook her head. “Not really. I just came by to check on you, but you weren’t home. I see why now though, so I’ll just be on my way.”
To her surprise, Finnick pulled back his hood again and spoke. “Don’t leave yet...”
She raised a brow. “Why?”
Finnick let go of Nick’s paw and walked over to her, looking her in the eye.
“What is it, Finnick,” she asked, looking curious.
“Thank you,” Finnick responded.
“For... well...” He paused and rubbed his neck. “For helping to get things out in the open.”
“So you DID hear everything we said...”
Finnick then fished the carrot pen out of his pocket again, walking up to her and dropping it in her paw.
Judy looked at the pen in her paw with a smirk. “Sly fox...”
Finnick just looked at her with a smirk as well. “Dumb bunny.”
Things were quiet for a couple seconds before all three of them started laughing.
When they had finally calmed down again, Finnick spoke once more. “Seriously though... thank you for the help.”
Judy just smiled. “Anytime.” She looked back at Nick. “Take care of your son...”
Nick’s gulped nervously, hearing her words, and looked at Finnick. Seeing him still smiling, he relaxed and nodded. “I will, Judy. That’s a promise.”
“Good. Bye, you two.” With those words, she turned around and left.
Finnick waited until she was out of sight before turning back to Nick. “Daddy?”
Nick looked to Finnick with a smile. “Yeah, son?”
“I love you,” Finnick replied, pulling his hood back up once more.
Nick’s smile grew. “And I love you, Little Toot-Toot.”
Finnick tooted his trunk again before jumping up into Nick’s arms.
The two then embraced each other in another tight hug.