Judy looked down at the slice of warm apple pie on her plate, a scoop of ice cream nestled beside it, and worried her incisors against her lower lip. “Maybe I shouldn’t have this,” she said.
Nick looked up from his own slice of apple pie, mouth already full with a bite, and mumbled around it, “Y’ gonna inshult t’ chef like ‘at?” He nodded towards Gideon Grey, who was whistling happily as he filled a cherry pie with filling behind the counter of his bakery. Judy was sitting with Nick at one of the small tables set near the front window of the shop, for customers coming in for a quick snack. He swallowed and continued, “Besides, you earned this reward.”
She had actually. Judy had jogged the six miles or so from the farm to the edge of town, huffing and sucking on a water bottle as Nick kept pace with her. It had been her furthest sustained run since she’d come back home four months ago. Better still, she’d finished it feeling exhilarated rather than exhausted like when she’d first begun her rehabilitation.
“I know I did,” Judy admitted. “I’m just not sure I want to run back home on a full stomach.”
“Walk back, we’re walking back,” Nick corrected with a grin. “Try not to run your old partner into the ground.”
“Thirty-two isn’t old,” she teased.
“Try telling me that again when you’re thirty-two.” He curled his lips over his fangs, like they were missing, and waved an imaginary cane, muttering feebly, “You gosh durned kids with your fancy computer phones and weird music. Back in my day we had to use CD players to annoy our parents!”
“All right, all right!” she said, laughing. “I’ll finish my pie.” She dug in and started chewing, Nick joining in, and conversation was put on hold for a while. You just did not waste time talking when eating one of Gideon’s creations.
Her right ear flicked back towards the front door as the bell above the sill chimed. Behind the counter, Gideon wiped his paws on the front of his apron and said, “Hey there, what can I do for… Oh, hello Travis.” She turned her head, to see Gideon looking dismayed as his former weasel friend approached the counter.
“Hey, Gid,” Travis said, his grin too sharp to be friendly. “Gimme one of those cherry pies I know you’re baking today.”
“Travis, why d’ya gotta keep coming back here?” the chubby fox replied, looking weary.
“Because ya make such great pies, Gid!” Travis replied. “Now are ya gonna get for me, or am I gonna have t’ complain about your lousy customer service?”
“H-hang on.” Gideon turned towards the line of pies on the cooling rack by the wall, returning with a cherry pie in a tin. “Twelve dollars, Travis. S-same as always.”
“You d-didn’t b-box it up, Gid,” Travis pointed out, mocking GIdeon’s stutter. It took Judy a moment to realize that the fox hadn’t stuttered at all when he’d cheerfully served her and Nick earlier.
Gideon had an expression on his face like he was just too tired to glare, as he reached under the counter, brought out a cardboard box, set the pie in it and closed the top, then repeated, “T-twelve dollars.”
Judy took a quick glance at Nick, who was sitting up in his seat now, the plate in front of him forgotten, as he watched the little play going on by the counter, Travis apparently not noticing them when he entered.
The weasel handed over three fives, making a show of checking his receipt and counting out his change as Gideon handed them over. Then, as Gideon turned back to his baking, he reached up and very deliberately shoved the box over the side of the counter, letting it flip upside down and land with a messy red splat on the clean, white and black tiled floor. “Oh, you clumsy, stupid fox,” Travis called out to Gideon’s back.
Judy watched as Gideon’s shoulders and tail stiffened, and his ears flipped back. The chubby fox then took in a deliberate breath, ears rising again as he turned around and said flatly, “S-sorry, Travis. I’ll g-get you another one.”
She spared another glance at Nick. He looked back at her, raising his eyebrow in an expression she easily interpreted as, Your town, your call, Carrots.
She nodded firmly, then shot up from her seat, Nick rising up behind her, as she shouted, “You hold it right there, Travis Wickle! You’d already paid for that pie. You pushed it off the counter deliberately! Gideon doesn’t owe you anything!”
Travis turned around in surprise. “Judy Hopps? I thought you went to Zootopia.”
‘Well I’m here now, and I ought to place you under arrest for creating a public nuisance!” Judy reached into her back pocket and pulled out her badge case, flashing it at Travis. “Now unless you want some trouble, you clean up that mess you made and stop bothering Gideon.”
Travis stood up a little straighter, glaring back at her, “This is Bunnyburrow, not Zootopia, Bunny Cop. That badge doesn’t mean nothin’. That stupid fox owes me a pie.”
“It’s all r-right, Judy…” Gideon started to say.
“That ‘stupid’ fox doesn’t owe you anything,” Nick said, stepping up to stand beside Judy. He leaned forward, until he was at eye level with Travis. “You see, the funny thing is, I’m ZPD too, just like Judy, except I disobeyed orders and got put on suspension. So while she’s not allowed to make arrests outside of Zootopia, in theory I can punch any obnoxious weasel I like, and it won’t go my official records.” He smiled at Travis, or at least bared his teeth. “Whaddya say, want to try it out?”
Travis backed up a step towards the door. “Yeah, well.. He still owes me a pie, and I’ll be back for it!” Then the weasel stepped out the door as fast as he could without running and headed down the street and out of sight.
“Th-thanks, Judy, N-nick,” Gideon stuttered, looking grateful.
Judy glanced at the red splatter of cherry pie on the floor. “That happen often, Gideon?”
“N-not often.” Gideon shrugged. “C-couple of times a week.”
Her ears flattened to her head in anger. “A couple of times a week ?”
Gideon nodded mutely. “I-I gotta get my mop and clean this clean this up. ‘scuse me.” He went over to the entrance, latching the door and turning the sign hanging in the window to “Closed” before scurrying towards the back of the bakery.
Judy traded another look with Nick. “Count of five?” he asked softly.
She nodded in agreement. “Five,” she stated.
“Four,” he replied.
“One,” she finished.
Together they turned towards the door that Gideon had gone through, pushing it open and coming into a neatly kept kitchen. As Judy had expected they found the heavyset fox standing in the center of the room, fists clenched as he turned in a slow circle, tears running down his face.
“Hey, hey, Gideon,” she called out. Judy stepped over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay,” she said softly, feeling warm tears drip down on her head.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he mumbled, hugging her back clumsily. “Travis, h-he makes me so m-m-mad when he comes into the shop. I-I’d throw him out on his tailbone, ‘cept… ‘cept….”
“If you do, then he gets to point a finger at you and say you’re a big bully of a fox, just like the old days,” Judy finished for him.
“And if you just suck it in and take it, then he knows he can do whatever he wants to you and you won’t fight back,” Nick concluded.
“Yeah.” Gideon shrugged out of Judy’s grip and started pacing back and forth, tail lashing. “Dangit, I worked hard to build this shop. I managed to finish high school, even with my own kin telling me I was too dumb to make it. I went to chef's school, chef’s school , and got a degree. None of my family ever even finished community college, and I got a degree . Two of ‘em, in Food Business and Baking & Pastry Arts. Got a loan from the bank to start this shop, and I never missed a payment, even some months when I was just eatin’ rice and chick peas to make ends meet. Managed to build a good business. Even got a deal with your folks. People come from all over the tri-burrows to have some of Gideon Grey’s pies, and none if it don’t matter because Travis can walk in anytime and make me feel like a fat, stupid ten year old kit again.” He banged his fist on an aluminum countertop. “He makes me so mad. I hate feeling mad.”
“Oh, I know that one,” Nick said. “Wilde 1.0 isn’t someone I like very much. I hate it when people remind me of what I was like before I became an officer.”
“What can we do to help?” Judy asked.
Gideon sniffed and swiped the back of his paws across his eyes, and then took in a deep breath to calm himself. “Ain’t nothin’ to be done. Travis ain’t gonna stop, so long as he thinks can get away with it,”
Nick let a smile grow on his face. ‘What if we could convince him otherwise?”
“How?” Gideon demanded.
Nick reached over and patted the younger fox’s shoulder. “Let Uncle Nick think about it for a few days. I think I can come up with something.”