Spoilers for Zootopia throughout this post.
After watching Zootopia, there was basically no way I wasn’t going to end up picking a Zootopia fic for this week. More specifically, a Nick/Judy fic. While I love the two of them being really, really close friends, my predilections run more towards the shippy side of things. So I pulled my britches up high and delved into the sea of shippy fic and, readers, I don’t think I’m ever coming back. At least not until the author of this fic puts down the final few words and ties up this chapter in Nick and Judy’s potential post-movie life.
Something that impressed me with most of the fic I came across was that, despite the shippiness of them, the focus still managed to be on Nick and Judy’s business as policeanimals. And though I’m always completely here for pining, lovelorn, sappy, cheesy romance fic, for these two—especially Judy—this change-up feels right. Fandom’s exploration of the potential cases in law enforcement brings a sort of Law & Order crime drama hook that typically is saved for AUs (or other fandoms), yet no case, no melding of slow-burn romance felt quite as poignant as the tale of intrigue, murder, and social rights weaved by Vera in A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On.
Right after Nick and Judy decide to platonically move in together, they’re given their first homicide case: a young arctic fox by the name of Miranda Vine found dead in Precinct 1’s domain. Upon investigation they find out that Miranda was a good kid, if a bit naive, and that she was dating a species other than her own, which some people didn’t like. “Didn’t like” enough to kill her? Both Nick and Judy must sift through a tangled web of lies, love, bigots, and conversion therapy groups to find their answers. And the answers not only help put their case to rest, but give both officers the catalyst they needed to discuss their own situation.
A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On feels like it would be a difficult read due to the serious issues it tackles, but Vera somehow manages to explain just enough to make the topics accessible, but not horrifically visceral. For example, the ZPD busts a conversion therapy place whose horrific psychological effects can be inferred—since we know by now the results of such places in real life. While there’s enough pain to go around, the face of the survivors is an upbeat rabbit named Austin; he’s strong enough to look into the cameras and say that he was forced into an abusive institution, that his mother and sister were terrible for forcing him to go, and that he’s dying to see his boyfriend again. While it may sort of seem like a Disney-ish resolution to a terrible situation, it is rather apropos. And hell, I can appreciate good things coming from bad situations, rather than slipping down that slope into grimdark drama.
That lack of drama perfectly complements the culmination of Nick and Judy’s romantic relationship as well. It’s no fairy tale romance: it’s a slow wait between the point where Judy asks and Nick takes time to think about it, to when Nick allows himself to begin the relationship despite the fact that every day will be a fight for them. It’s both a wait for Judy and the reader as after Judy brings it up; the relationship isn’t mentioned in earnest again for about five chapters. However, like Judy, I found myself patiently waiting for Nick’s answer, unconcerned with when it would happen. The case definitely takes precedence over the romance, and that’s a good thing; who needs a case getting muddled because of feelings? Not Judy Hopps.
That’s not to say that feelings don’t veer dangerously close to interfering with the investigation, but it’s not romantic feelings that do it. Author Vera shines another light on the issues of inequality and prejudice in Zootopia with the group Mates for Mates, and how they work to keep people dating within the same species. Judy is rightfully disgusted by the premise of this group, but she has to work on keeping these feelings on the down low. She must also put aside, for the moment, her growing urge to join the activist group Equality Now, as it would influence how the public viewed their involvement with the case. However, Judy and Nick discuss some of the shittier parts of the laws they’re a part of enforcing because of this conflict.
“They’re framing it wrong,” Nick chewed through a bit of tofu, then stole one of her zucchini slices, “this whole fight.”
“What do you mean?” She stuffed more of her food in her mouth before he could infringe further.
“They keep coming back to the marriage thing, but that’s such a small piece of it. You know why the right to refuse exists?”
“It was for bars mostly. So they could turn away customers who were already drunk or belligerent. That’s it. Some stupidly clever person realized they could turn it against people they just didn’t want in their businesses.”
The first day they’d met, she’d watched the ice cream store manager turn that sign on him and she could remember the icicle of empathy that had struck through her. And that, despite everything she discovered later, had been real. It had happened again since though in light of the badge, the signs were more subtle.
She had watched him absorb that rejection, no ripples on the smooth surface he presented. Usually he found a way to turn it to his advantage, the knife of bigotry slicing both ways. But how could you live taking a thousand tiny cuts without eventually bleeding to death?
“So what do you want to do about it?” She asked.
He considered her across the gulf of cushions and cartons. She could still smell the hospital on him, acridly clean. It had nestled into his fur, clinging to wound.
“I want to fight,” he stuck another piece of tofu in his mouth.
“Good. It’ll take a few days for us to put the case to sleep. Once we do, we find the right people to talk to at Equality Now and figure out how we can help.”
Out of an estimated twelve chapters, A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On has eight chapters published, sitting at around thirty thousand words. If you’re looking for a fic that shows more of these buddy cops working on a case in their typical style, with romance on the side and a nice dose of social justice, I would highly recommend this fic. Take a look at it here at AO3.