Based on one of the fun facts the directors threw out about the Night Howlers and Nick in an earlier draft of the film.
Judy glares up at the top of the pit and yells, “What are you gonna do? Kill me?”
Bellwether chuckles as she finishes adjusting the pellet gun in her hooves. “Oh no, of course not!” Taking another step forward, she raises, aims, and sneers, “He is.”
There’s only a split second for Nick to try and dodge the pellet before it explodes against his neck. With a yelp he falls to the ground, grabbing the spot where the “Night Howler” is now seeping into his skin. He looks to Judy as she stumbles over to him, calling out his name in faux fear. Above them, Bellwether is calling the police over to the Natural History Museum, reporting Officer Hopps’ murder in a panicked voice almost as convincing as Judy’s. He locks eyes with the bunny, and the look they share tells him she’s recording, that everything’s falling into place, and they just need to stall for a minute more-
He pulls his paw away and stares at the blue goop smeared into his palm, feeling a burning sensation wherever it touches him. His body goes cold when he realizes he smells fertilizer, not blueberries, wafting up from the mushy substance.
Something is wrong.
He glances up at Bellwether, sees her leering down at him with an all-too-knowing smile, and knows what is about to happen to him.
Judy is telling him to fight it, but there is no fear in her voice, not like there should be, not like there will be once it happens, so he flings himself away from her as something black and muckish oozes into the cracks of his consciousness. She scrambles towards him again, and he wants to warn her, to scream at her that she has to run, run, run from him, but he knows his warnings will fall on deaf ears, that she won’t try and fight him when he
and his fur is standing on end and he feels like he is being pulled into the cold, even though he swears he’s seeing red, and he can’t breathe like this and Judy’s too close to him, he has to tell her, he has to he has to he has to and a single tear escapes him as he shudders and pushes
He whimpers her name, one last time, and then he’s gone.
“Nick!” Judy cries, pushing herself to tears and shuffling back, getting closer to Bellwether as she can. His eyes snap open and lock onto her, and in them she sees a beast. A wild animal. A predator.
She sees the fox, and only thinks, Wow, he’s really giving it his all!
She remembers the act, scoots back further, and yells at him, “Stay back!”
The fox advances, staring her down, and Bellwether laughs again.
“Gosh, think of the headlines!” she taunts, twirling the pellet gun. “’Hero Cop Killed by Savage Fox!’”
Judy yells up at the sheep, “So that’s it? Prey fears predators and you stay in power?”
Bellwether smirks. “Yeah, pretty much.”
Judy shoves herself through the tall grass and up against the wall of the pit, keeping her distance from the approaching fox. It isn’t enough yet, she needs just a little more evidence, a little more time for the police to show up, and then they can-
“Mmm. Excellent blueberries, by the way. That fox of yours really knows his produce!”
The chill that rocks her body forces her to look up at Bellwether. The sheep pops another berry into her mouth, smiling down at her handiwork, and pats the pellet gun beside her.
“You didn’t really think I’d fall for that, did you?” she asks, tilting her head playfully at the bunny. “After all the care I’ve put into this plan, you think I would be that careless?”
Words bubble up in Judy’s throat, but stick there and choke her. Her ears snap to attention when she hears the fox sniffing for her. Enormous emerald orbs appear, shining out at her from the darkness of the grass, and every muscle in her body pulses and freezes. A second of silence thunders between the prey and the predator. She finds she’s afraid to breathe.
The fox lunges.
Bellwether smiles as the shriek rings out, echoing through the hallways and exhibits of the museum. She watches the fox smother the rabbit, and moves to put the pellet gun back in its case.
“Bye bye, bunny,” she mutters, flipping the latches of the case.
It takes her a full ten seconds to realize the screams she’s savoring are not of Judy’s immense agony, but of laughter.
“Wh-” Leaving the gun half put away, she looks back over the edge of the pit and sees the fox still atop the bunny–
“Nick!” Judy cries, confused and terrified and giggling all at the same time. “St-Stop it! What are you-” But she can say no more, because he’s pressing against her and his tail is brushing her feet and he’s nipping and nuzzling her neck and face and wasn’t she supposed to be dead?
“What!?” Bellwether roars, snatching up the gun and double-checking it.
The fox’s ears twitch at the sound of the sheep’s voice, and suddenly he changes again. Spinning around, he spreads himself over her in a protective stance and snarls up at Bellwether, his fur standing on end. Judy can only gape at the scene and try to ignore the tail swishing back and forth across her body, far too close for her to be comfortable with.
Bellwether snaps another pellet into the gun, aims, and fires at the fox. He meets it in midair, pouncing to snap at it, and catches it in his teeth. Blue goo spurts from his mouth, and when he lands he immediately starts hacking and spitting it onto the floor. Judy begins to sidle away from him, ready for the real attack to begin, but if there’s a change the Night Howler instills in him, it’s invisible to her. He finishes coughing up the drug, hisses at the sheep standing above them once more, and retreats back to the bunny’s side, curling around her to form a protective barrier with his body and pressing up against her. He nuzzles her cheek before locking eyes with Bellwether again with an expression on his face that Judy can only interpret as a warning to the ewe:
This is mine.
“Why is this happening?” Bellwether shouts, addressing no one in particular. “He’s supposed to turn into a wild beast, not some… some kind of watchdog!”
Judy wants to answer that she doesn’t know, that she’s even more confused than Bellwether, and that she would love to understand why this fox is suddenly cuddling with her, but he growls again and his chest vibrates against her whole body and it makes her breath catch in her throat. So she just sits there, head snuggled firmly into the crook of the fox’s neck, and watches Bellwether grow more and more desperate.
Her ears twitch. Outside the museum, she can hear sirens. The fox hears them a few seconds later, and huddles tighter around Judy, a low rumbling resounding through his chest.
Smiling, Judy strokes his neck, watching Bellwether make it two steps before Chief Bogo backs her up to the edge of the pit again.
“It’s alright, Nick,” she murmurs into his ear. “We’re gonna be alright.”
Somewhere far off, something savage screams at him. There comes a moment of elevation through someplace cold, the sensation of a heavy sludge dripping off of him, and then he’s back.
Nick stares up at the ceiling, trying to remember why he’s there, or where “there” is, exactly. His limbs feel like they don’t belong to him; they’re lead pipes attached to his torso, unwilling to move without the greatest of efforts. He grunts on his first try, and hears a shuffle to his right.
Like a key turning in a lock, the sound of her voice opens him to the surrounding world, and he realizes he’s in a hospital room. Blinking, he turns in his bed, looking across the room to see Judy sitting in the visitor’s chair a few feet away, beaming at him. Tears of relief well in her eyes, and she sets the book in her paws on the table beside her. When she stands, Nick notices the brace around her knee.
What are you gonna do? Kill me?
Oh no, of course not! He is!
“Judy,” he chokes, memories crushing him under their weight. He makes a lame attempt to run to her, still delirious and withdrawn from reality, and tumbles over the side of the bed. But she catches him, already at his side, and holds him steady as he wraps his arms around her and shatters.
“I thought– The Night Howler– When she got me–” Words won’t come, not the way he needs them to, and they’re punctuated by heaves that he hates himself for being unable to control. His paws run over every inch of her they can, making sure the fabric and fur and skin he feels is real and warm and hers.
“I’m fine, Nick,” she assures him, settling him further back onto his bed. “It’s okay.”
“Did I hurt you?” The smallness of his voice and the fear he packs into it makes him feel like a child, but he can’t make the sentence come out any other way. He pulls back from her, cupping her cheek, so that he can scan her face.
“No.” She leans into his paw, reaching up and rubbing it with her own. “You would never.” Seeing his gaze flicker to the brace, she smiles and says, “That’s just on while my leg heals. Remember, I got hurt before we fell into the pit?”
“But– But I went savage–” Feeling the word on his lips makes his stomach flip, and he swallows hard. “I– I wanted to–”
He sees her in his mind, lying in the pit, fang marks fresh on her pretty, broken neck, and he has to cover his mouth and bite into his palm to keep from vomiting.
Sensing his panic, she hushes and strokes him, running gentle paws down from his cheeks to his neck. She brings him close, close enough that they share breaths, and locks eyes with him.
“You didn’t, Nick,” she whispers, still stroking his neck. “You protected me. You saved me.”
“I– What?” He pulls back, frowning. “How?”
“That’s what I was wondering, too.” With a grin, she nods back at the book on the table. “So I did some research.”
He squints over at the title: Foxes: A Psychology.
“At first I thought the Night Howler just didn’t work on you, but then you didn’t stop… um…” Her face flushes, and he’s about to ask when she coughs and continues, “So, I figured it had something to do with instinct, and sure enough, when I looked it up…” She trails off, grinning up at him.
Still very much in need of answers, he asks “What? What did you find?”
Rocking back and forth on her heels, Judy bites her lip, her cheeks growing hot. Twisting her paws behind her back, she mutters, “Well, it took a while to read through everything, and I needed to keep a dictionary at my side the whole time, but the gist of it is… There’s this instinct foxes have, where they protect what’s important to them. And I guess, once you got close enough… you recognized me.”
He’s partly wondering why she’s so sheepish about telling him this, mostly thanking any and every god there may be that he didn’t hurt her. Releasing a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, Nick slumps into his pillow, wiping his face and breathing normally for the first time since waking.
“I protected you,” he breathes, chuckling. “You weren’t food, you were just–”
His ears twitch, hearing something far off that he can’t exactly place. He stares at the buzzing fluorescent lights on the ceiling, mouth open only a sliver, thinking of something to say.
“I didn’t realize,” Judy goes on, swaying over to his bedside, her eyes scanning the ground for nothing in particular, “that I was so important to you.” She looks back up at him, her look questioning him, wondering if she’s right.
He wants to tell her that god, yes, of course she’s important to him, how could she not be when she’s the only person he’s met in twenty years who’s ever cared for him so much, the only person who’s ever fought for him, the only person who’s ever made him believe he could be more than what he is. He wants to tell her she’s the most important thing in his life, that he’s more than happy to keep on protecting her as long as he possibly can, that he wants to protect and hold her so badly he’s sick with it. He wants to tell her that he needs her, that he’s never needed anyone the way he needs her now, and that he thinks that maybe, by god, could it be that he, Nicholas Piberius Wilde, a fox, was actually possibly probably falling in love with a bunny, just because she makes him feel happy to be alive for once, and hey, maybe he knows that she feels that way too, and they’re both just waiting for the other to go ahead and say it so they can–
But he’s exhausted, and weak, and still fuzzy in the head, so instead he says, “Are you that important to me?”
In the pause that follows, doubt clouds her eyes and her smile falters. Then he pats the empty patch of bed beside him and gives her a cheeky grin.
“Yes. Yes you are.”
Her smile returns in all it’s beatific glory, and she leaps up to sit next to him, punching him gently.
Your dumb fox, he thinks, rubbing his arm, and laughs with her.