Chapter 1: Entwined
Hey all, DLW here with a new story! An AU that I swore I would never do... Also, there's important info about my update log at the bottom and stuff I'm doing exclusively on Deviant Art. Thank you to all my readers, follows, fav's and reviews and for your feedback it makes writing all the more fun. Disclaimer: Zootopia and its characters are copyright Disney.
And a HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you goes to Koraru-san (check out her Deviant Art) for doing this fantastic cover art!
"We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes."
— Madeleine L'Engle
There are times in one's life where panic and worry seem to be the only two emotions that are appropriate for the situation. And for a certain fox whose family - his entire life at that - was behind the closed doors of Saint Namela's Maternity ward, this would be one of those times.
He had already fainted upon hearing the news months ago, driven slower than usual (even when he always went the speed limit) baby proofed the apartment, called his brother in law who was going through the same thing, and fainted again upon hearing 'It's time'.
So now, here he was, padding a crevice in the linoleum floor of the hospital after being told that there were... complications.
Even after saying every manner of prayer and hope, taking to calling for a nurse for the eighth time that very minute and for nearly the 50th time that night, he was still convinced that not everything was okay.
The endless stream of what if's crossed his mind and none of them were comforting. Not even his dress apparel - mauve suit and tie, comfortable and stylish - had seemed to fit to comfort him for the scenario, and he had paw tailored them himself!
As his tail swished to and fro, he narrowly avoided colliding with the table of 'complementary' magazines he almost ran into several times. Fancy Cat was starting to irritate him, that leopards smug look almost seemed to tell him to expect the worst.
Still, though, he was happy to have the solitude if nothing else. He couldn't imagine if any other patients were-
The nanosecond he heard his name being called, John pivoted and faced the doctor with both an excited visage and grim hope. He was grasping onto the wolf's scrubs before another word even got out.
"Doctor, is she alright?!" he whined, truly desperate for any kind of answer, any sort of hope.
The grey wolf, Dr. Urlo, simply blinked and lowered himself to John's level; not usually a good sign.
"Mr. Wilde," the wolf began, clearing his throat to speak further. "Your wife and-"
John's grip on the wolf's scrubs got tighter. "Our child!" he screeched, netting him funny looks from several roaming nurses before they went back to attending their patients. He nervously shook and drew a deep, raspy breath. "A-are they-"
The wolf sighed and placed a paw on his shoulder, John felt his heart sink.
"Mr. Wilde..." repeated the wolf, canines flashing around his lips to form a smile. "They're ready to see you now."
John froze. His paws slowly fell to his side and stray tears threatened to sting at his eyes.
The wolf stood proudly and nodded. "Just follow me."
At the doctor's beckon, John didn't hesitate to follow. And follow he did, past the secure door that lead into the maternity ward itself. The same door he had cursed earlier for separating him from his beloved and his newborn kit.
As the doctor used his I.D. to open it, John stood still. It was like walking through a dream as they stepped from linoleum to plush carpeting. The air smelled sanitary, yet lemon scented as they paced past various doorways to sleeping new mothers and their children.
One whiff and he could tell the scents: lions, tigers, bears. Though it did help that they were usually labelled in front of the doors. Even above all the sight and scent, there was one that was unmistakably familiar to him. Marian!
John made to dash to the door that he could smell his beloved behind, but was stopped promptly by the wolf both shushing him and halting him.
"She's very tired after a nearly two-hour delivery. So please be as quiet as you can."
The words stung John like he was supposed to be the patient. His ears fell flat as he turned to the door.
Nodding in compliance and realizing that waking a sleeping bear could be disastrous, John composed himself (though not by much) and walked into the room.
Save for the sole night lamp in the corner, it was dark and just barely room temperature when he stepped in. The television was off and only the slight beeping of a monitor was heard beyond deep sighs and soft gurgling.
It was then when he saw her, tired and as beautiful as ever. "Marian."
The vixen looked up, and his heart swelled with love and concern. Something about her green eyes had always stunned him, how deeply they always cared despite all that they went through.
Reverently, he walked up to her and stopped when he saw a small pair of ears resting on her shoulder. The todd's eyes widened as he couldn't believe it was true.
"I-is that..." He shook and quivered as he stepped forward like he was about to face his own judgement.
The vixen nodded and cradled the ball of fluff in her arms. "Right at midnight too," she said, exhaustion clear in her tone. "It's like he was waiting."
John stepped up to her and placed one paw on the bed, and one on her arm. He felt something like water matt the fur of his cheek.
In that instant, he wrapped the two of them in his arms and kissed Marian on her forehead. "You did great, hun," he said, completely awestruck that he now had a family, a full family of his own.
The vixen rested her head on his shoulder. "We did great. And we're going to do great."
John nodded, they still had a lot of work to do. They didn't even have a name lined up and-
"Nick." The todd's ears perked up as Marian spoke. "His name will be Nicholas."
John hesitated to speak but felt that he needed to say something to complete the moment. "I was thinking Piberius."
"Nicholas Piberius Wilde?" asked his wife, yawning and slowly slumping over.
The renard smiled. "Nicholas Piberius Wilde."
He was about to call the nurses as the sleeping mother and child weren't to be disturbed and he didn't know how to take care of a kit when his phone buzzed. Thankful that he was told to put it on vibrate, he took out the 'almost woke up his kit' device and his jaw dropped a second time that day.
"Huh, well whaddya know you. Your cousin Skye, and a friends kit was born today as well."
Smiling like a giddy kit at a candy store and pocketing the device, he pressed the call button for the nurses.
They would arrive moments later, but John still had a second or two to simply wrap his family in one last uninterrupted hug and whisper "This is a dream come true. I love you all."
The Hopps household was busier than it had ever been.
For rural farmers with acres of land, they were far more modernized in BunnyBurrow than most would think. And one thing that the Hopps family was more than happy to have was the addition of their newly built nursery alongside the clinic. It was all the rave to have one for an ever growing family of rabbits.
And one such rabbit, Stu Hopps, was practically perplexed as he cradled several of the crying newborn bunny kits in his arms.
"I tell ya', Bon. If that isn't the strangest thing."
He had planned for a large family - being a bunny and all - and this wasn't his first litter, not by a long shot. But every now and then, something... odd would happen, or so he had heard, about bunny kits being born differently from the others.
The proud mother of eight new kits shook her head. "Nonsense, Stu." said Bonnie, fitting the kits in some manner of swaddling to take them to their various cribs. "It wouldn't be the first time one got stuck."
While Stu knew she was right, it still left him baffled. "For a whole ten minutes, and right into the next day!"
With her husband shouting and another kit on the verge of crying, Bonnie gave the buck a deep, scolding stare and 'shush' that he wouldn't dare try to argue with. She had just given birth after all...
And with the added help of their 'In Warren Doctor', it was far easier than last time when she was in a crowded hospital.
Stu, silently thankful that everything turned out alright looked at his newest born daughter, one that took her time and was born at just past midnight.
"Glad she's okay," he said, holding the kit that refused to stay still or even be held as if she was about to run off to an adventure any second. "Alot fussier though."
Bonnie chuckled and neared the two of them. "That means she's got a strong drive, hun."
The buck nodded and handed over the kit. "You already name all the others?"
"Mhm..." Bonnie admitted finally settling the kit down enough to swaddle her as well. "And this one's Judith."
The kit gurgled and fidgeted at her name before yawning widely and trying to un-wrap herself from being a bunny burrito.
"Our little Judy, huh?" Stu asked with a smile of his own. He had been known to nickname his kids when they grew up. I wonder if she'd like Jude the-
"Stu, I know that look..." Bonnie approached him in a parenting tone and threatening finger point. "You'd better not be trying to give them terrible names already"
The buck's eyes went wide and he whistled while sticking his paws in the pockets of his overalls. "Kinda funny."
Bonnie didn't look amused. He could tell by the twitch of her ears and paw on her hips that he'd miss desert for the next month if he said anything out of line (and she made a great blueberry pie and carrot cake).
Clearing his throat and deciding to come back to the name later (cause Jude the Dude it was) the farmer shifted his focus to something less punishing. "I- uh...just got a call from James when I was upstairs."
"Oh?" Bonnie gasped.
Stu nodded. "He said his son Jack was born a second ago," Judy shook her head at the name, something Bonnie noticed. "Well... midnight actually, and a friend of his had a kit too."
The doe was thrilled and tired.
She looked at her kits, all of them and sighed. "I've been thinking."
Seeing her act like this, Stu felt a bit out of place. "Geez, Bon. You just had kits."
Sighing, he conceded and walked by her side. He placed a tender, loving kiss on her cheek and looked her in the eye. "Alright hun. What's on your mind?"
Bonnie didn't speak for nearly a full minute and the words came to her as Judy squeaked again. "We should invite them," she said softly, finally looking her husband in the eye. "To stay."
Stu didn't know what to think, or what to say. But thinking and saying anything other than a complete and total 'yes' to a mother (also your spouse) who just had kits no less than 20 minutes ago would be a death wish.
"That'd be great, Bon!" he said with glee and knew it to be true. He and James practically grew up together, and they had plenty of space to spare. "I'll call him in the morning."
Bonnie nodded, eyes droopy and feeling the effects of working so hard for the day. She felt a sudden warmth at her side as Stu wrapped her and Judy in a hug that was so familiar to her.
He looked to his new kits and to Bonnie and gave her a solid, heartfelt kiss before telling her, "This is a dream come true. I love you all."
Sometimes, a dream can be shared without you ever knowing it.
Heya there, DLW here and I'm changing up my format for future stories. All announcements, review answers and such, I'm gonna try posting at the bottom of the page to show updates and projects followed by story space for the upcoming chapters of 'Missing You' and its format.
Alright, I've posted this before, but if you're looking to find updates on everything I'm doing, and I mean EVERYTHING, please check out my Deviant Art page.
I've been doing a series called 'Snippets' where I'll be posting story excerpts on what I'm working on and will give constant feedback almost daily.
On top of this, I do plan on doing a trivia page before Volume 2 of Predation, let me know in a pm or comment if it's something you'd like to see or just want more story.
Lastly, there's a poll up on my FF page and my DA page on what story you'd like to see more of. Please check those out as one story will recieve 2-3 chapters and the others will be updated once for the next series of postings.
Project 'G' releases this friday, so stay tuned XD
And I hope you get a chance to read this and the other stories at your leisure. All can be found here as well:
If you liked this story and have time please post a review, and if you would like to keep up with the story please fav or follow. Questions, comments, concerns, feel free to message me about anything. If you'd like updates, please check the profile page and or message me.
Till Next Time
Chapter 2: Every Shape and Colour
Every Shape and Colour
"Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action.
They must be woven together. "
― Anaïs Nin
Happy Town Zootopia isn't known for being welcoming, friendly, or quiet. It is, however, well known for being a sort of fallback plan for many of the cities predators who are trying to find affordable housing.
Wolves, badgers, lions, all kinds of predator species could be found here in some manner. Though there were few prey mammals that lived there, many sought refuge amongst their own kind. And while the community wasn't exactly terrible in some speckled spots, the reputation was bad enough to cause many to turn away.
Then there were also mammals who had long since lived there, and due to circumstances had to find a better residence soon. Mammals such as John Wilde who had to come to terms with that inevitability recently.
The Wilde's had lived in the same, rundown apartment on the edge of Happy Town for nearly a decade, and they lived in the sub-district for far longer.
One bedroom, one bathroom, creaky flooring, barred windows and vintage furnishings. While it was always clean from their tidy ways, it was becoming a bit more cramped with the addition of a crib in the small space.
Being a first-time parent is no menial, easy task to scoff at. There's a lot of planning that goes into keeping a house safe for a kit, and new things would always pop up that you would have never known. This was something that John Wilde had learned the hard way.
He was more of an... after the fact kind of new parent. After he couldn't find diapers, after Nick ate part of that napkin, after the bottled milk was a little too hot, after Nick fell off the couch (he had never been so thankful for carpeting)... all afters Marian would never, ever find out.
And while he was a good parent - caring for his kit and trying his absolute best to keep up with both work and family - it was vastly different from his job as a tailor; something that he had told his wife was more meticulous than raising a child.
If only he could have sewn his big muzzle shut when he had the chance.
It had nearly been two weeks since the day Nicholas was born, and John was more exhausted than he could have ever imagined. From home to work and back to take care of Nick while Marian was still on maternity leave was absolutely tiring. He was just thankful that she was on leave and it gave them both a welcome reprieve for a little while.
They had been looking for new housing throughout the city, something affordable and easy to reach. And now that they had a kit to take care of, they had to put his safety and education on the forefront.
So as soon as John had returned - working late night at the tailoring shop to finish some designs before morning - Marian had to go do some early morning shopping as they would have guests over later on that day to discuss several housing options.
"Alright, hun. I just fed and changed him. I'll be back in a few." The vixen looked down to their child. Dressed in a blue onesie and slumbering peacefully, the kit had still not yet opened his eyes; a little detail that was still worrying her to no end.
And though she was assured by her doctors that it was common, should Nick not open his eyes soon, she would no doubt be returning to the hospital with within the next day or so. Because it was something that every parent was both thrilled to see and worried about constantly: being there the moment they opened their eyes.
"Alright, dear," With a nod and a yawn, John kissed his wife and took young Nicholas into his arms.
With purse in paws and kissing him goodbye, Marian paused at the threshold of the door as John held it open. She turned back with a smile.
"Oh, and John," Seeing her husband perk up was priceless for what she had to say. She narrowed her eyes. "Don't let him fall off the couch again..."
As the todd's jaw dropped and he stifled a cough, Marian knew full well that he knew he was in trouble. At least he fell on the carpet.
No sooner had her tail disappeared from view, John finally blinked and looked down at Nick starting to stir. "I have no idea of how she knew that," he whispered, silently praying that Marian was out of hearing range.
He shook himself out of his stupor when Nick groaned from his sleep, squirming and on the verge of crying. Pushing the door and cradling his son, John walked over to the couch to sit down. He had a long day and would have put the kit in his cradle, but still he had some energy left and wanted to show that he was a caring father despite his mishaps.
Little paws grasped his vest and he felt the kit huffing just under his chin; he was enthralled beyond words even then. When he sat down, placing Nick on his lap and curling his tail around them, he couldn't help but smile. This was his greatest achievement yet, still blind or not.
The little kit sat, gurgling and huffing as if he were left alone. His senses still developing, he could smell his father but not his mother. Wanting both of them around, he started to get their attention the best way he knew how.
Upon the first squeak of a cry, John lightly bounced the kit on his knees. "Now, now, Nicholas. Daddy's here," he assured in a soft, comforting tone.
There were many things that the todd had gotten wrong - cross stitching, taxes, angering a shrew - but this wasn't one of them as the kit's worry turned to cooing and undefinable gurgling. It wasn't really that he could understand baby speech like Marian, but John knew in his heart that Nick would be alright.
He raised him up just at eye level, still curious and worried that he'd have to take him to the hospital to assist in his eyesight. Still, it didn't deter him from smiling at what he had up his sleeve.
"Wanna know something, Slick? I'm working on a special little gift, just for you." he said with a chuckle, causing Nick to giggle at the same time. Since the day after he was born, his little 'Nick' name became something of an endearing term. Marian wasn't amused. "Your own suit when you grow up."
Nick didn't understand a word John was saying, but he went through all the general motions you'd come to expect from a newborn: laughing at the most ridiculous things, swishing his tail, attempting to clap, and putting his paw in his mouth.
John shook his head and yawned once more; his eyelids were heavy and the couch was too comfortable. "I've been working on it all night..." His words began to trip over one another and by the time he blinked, he was out like a light.
The room fell silent save for the light snores of a fox too tired to move and the inaudible muffles of a fox kit too young to understand exhaustion.
There was much that Nick didn't know or understand, being just shy of two weeks of age. He understood 'mommy' and 'daddy' loosely enough and whenever they were around - which was always - he was a lot calmer. Yet in the peaceful bliss of their abode, his rapidly developing senses picked up on something more: an unfamiliar smell, something not like the city he knew.
He had been outside plenty to feel the warmth on his fur and hear droves of talking folks. The scents of his parents always near him made things a little more bearable when all he saw was the back of his eyelids. Still, it was a miracle that he was still functioning as he did; the fall he took the other day coupled with not being able to see was terrifying. Luckily dad was there to pick him up.
And while he had smelled plenty of strange things before, whatever his nose was picking up now was... well he didn't know many words, but he wanted to check it out like any curious member of the canid family.
So with a simple shuffle, Nick did exactly what most any (unsupervised) kit would do: put one paw forward, and fall off the couch.
Thankfully, however, with the way his father was seated, he landed somewhat gracefully on top of his feet. Without a sound, he was grateful that his father was there for his safety.
Being a kit meant a lot of things: fun and excitement, constant feeding and being small in a big world. For Nicholas Piberius Wilde, the world was a still yet unexplored place full of mystery and wonder. All the more reason for the two-week old kit to simply crawl towards whatever it was that drew his attention.
And with the added incentive of the smell of... whatever it was that captivated him, the kit happily followed his instincts and put one paw pad in front of the other. Blind or not, his curiosity would be settled in moments.
For John Wilde, Nicholas' father, helped him once more by forgetting to close the door.
The Hopps family was well known throughout the community of Bunny Burrow. Caring, helpful, and thoughtful wherever they went, they were practically the epitome of what it meant to be a bunny family.
Even now as Stu and Bonnie Hopps nervously waited in the hallway of a rundown apartment complex on the edge of Happy Town, they held each others paws and looked at the squirming kit in an orange onesie being held by her mother.
They had just passed by a vixen - taller than them and seemingly in a hurry on her way out - and held tighter to one another.
"I told ya' Bon, 'The city is no place to raise a bunny'." said Stu, taking a moment to knock on the door again when he heard someone on the other side. "And this place is the worst!"
Bonnie couldn't agree more and only held Judy closer to her. Neither of them had been to Zootopia in years, and they never expected this many predators in close proximity.
Sure the burrows had predators, but none of them seemed as... unruly or as uncivilized as what they found in this little haven in the city.
"You were right in saying they should stay with us." the buck went on to say as they passed a few more doors.
During his rant, Stu remembered the moment Bonnie had suggested getting his friend to stay with them. How James' tone had often seemed stressed from the city life whenever they spoke, even on the day his son Jackson (Jack as he called him) was born.
And the call after that was one of both joy and sorrow. For only James and Jack would be staying with them.
With all of the news happening and wanting to make things easier on his friend, Stu volunteered to take a day to bring him back, but bonnie insisted that she come as well.
So when they decided on it all being today - almost two weeks after Judy was born - they had fully planned on it being just the two of them in their little rescue mission. But even as well organized as they were, the absolute fuss that their daughter made was unbearable for them to not take her.
When they had packed, they heard her practically scream, kick and flail. When they had handed her over to the family members tending to the nursery, she writhed and clamored after them. When they set foot out the door, they received a call that she had almost fallen out of her crib.
It was only when they agreed to take her with them that she calmed down and even fell asleep on the train.
Now here they were, in the terrifying, predator-ridden part of Zootopia with their youngest, praying that James - likely the only bunny in the building - would just open the door so they could high-tail it back to the burrows.
The moment they heard the door knob turn, the two sighed a breath of relief.
They were greeted immediately by a tired looking rabbit. He was taller than quite a few rabbits they had known. His grey fur and unusual pattern of black stripes was sleek and practically shimmered despite his demeanor. Above all his abnormalities, it was his rich amber-gold eyes that usually caught one's attention.
"Come on in. I'm just about to finish signing over what's left of this place." James greeted, taking a look at their kit and nodding towards the open bedroom door. "Jack's asleep now. I took him out earlier to meet with a friend and their newborn kit," He paused and chuckled a little "He opened his eyes then too. He looks just like me."
Nodding and stepping in, Stu pushed the door behind them, and alongside Bonnie, they took a look around.
It wasn't much of a place to call home. Torn carpet, barred windows, some straggling pictures, neat piles of paper and odd boxes here and there. Practically barren from any manner of furniture, the place looked like it was market ready in minutes.
Bonnie sighed, "Where's the restroom?"
James pointed to the closed door across from the bedroom.
Nodding, the doe turned to her husband, carefully handing Judy over to him. "I'll be right out Stu," She then turned to James and placed a paw on his arm. "We can leave for the burrows as soon as I get out."
The striped rabbit smiled as Bonnie made her way to the bathroom, hearing her hum a tune when she stopped to peer at the crib just opposite her.
Now with just the two bucks in the room and one newborn bunny, the two friends seemed to relax a little.
"Thank you both for this," James said with a little trepidation as he looked at the bedroom door morosely. "Jack... he'll really appreciate this when he grows up."
Stu pursed his lips to speak, but was interrupted by his daughters flailing. Bonnie had been right, Judy was a fighter tried and true. He thought about how to effectively deal with the feisty kit, but he didn't have to think too deep.
The apartment was carpeted and kit proofed. So, huffing a little sigh of relief, Stu set Judy down.
The moment she felt the ground, Judy crawled around in every manner she could while still being in the watchful eyes of adults. In the orange onesie and looking like a runaway carrot, her paws grabbed at loose carpet fibers. She gurgled any manner of unknown dialogue, she was a kit who longed for adventure.
"Ain't she somtehin'?" said Stu with a deep laugh. "Feistiest in the bunch and the only one with a different birthday."
James looked down at Judy with a smile. She still couldn't see yet, but was more of an anxious and adventurous kit than he had ever seen. A complete contrast to Jack being calm and quiet. "It's kinda funny, though."
Stu raised a brow. "How?"
The other buck stayed quiet for a moment before he scratched the nape of his neck. "She and Jack share a birthday with my friends kit. He's even moving out here from the Burrows."
"Is that so?" The country buck had known that Judy and Jack shared the same birthday, and was more than a little happy with several things; one of which he would assuredly tell her once she returned. "Well best of luck to them... here."
As their conversation drew on, Judy became more restless. Sure she was fed and changed earlier, but now she wanted to roam.
For Judith Laverne Hopps, everything was a fascinating splendour to be around. Whenever she could hear the subtle tones of her parents, she was genuinely calmed. But here she was, not knowing how to explain a foreign sound. Though as a kit she couldn't exactly grasp what sound was entirely.
She had no clue where she was going or what she would find, but she was determined not to let anything stop her. Plus, there was something that sounded... different. Something not like the country she knew.
Either way, like so many other pioneering bunnies before her, she kept her focus forward, listening to the faintest sounds and shuffled off as quickly as her bunny legs could carry her.
For just beyond the door hanging ajar, the muffled sound of... well whatever it was that made her ears ring. And it's not like she would let a little thing like her unopened eyes stop her, she'd investigate this to the end.
In the long stretch of hallway that was Olive Branch Apartment's third floor, Nicholas Wilde was free to explore to his hearts content.
He hadn't been able to do so before due to that menacing door in the way as well as mommy and daddy always picking him up. So with a whole new world of possibilities open to him, this was incredible.
The feel of hardwood under his paws and the exciting smell somewhere nearby, his gurgles of glee echoed everywhere around. And though difficult to pinpoint exactly where it was, his ears turned with the rest of him to hear a squeak unlike his own.
Guided by nothing more than his sense of smell, the kit shuffled on. His tail dragging behind him and his paws feeling around for anything to grab onto. His ears perked up more when the sound drew even closer.
By the time he was halfway to the strange new smell, it was already in front of him. His paws reached out to grab at whatever it was only to be grabbed themselves.
Still not understanding what it was, Nick sat down with the thing still in his grasp. It gurgled and cooed, much like he did, but it sounded far different and smelled like nothing in the city. In fact, it didn't smell like anything he knew at all.
And it even felt different. Softer than any blanket or his mother's cheeks, and it bounced around like what he experienced near his father. Yet... this was vastly more incredible than what he could even attempt to describe from either of them.
His paws reached up to it, taping at it mostly in an attempt to figure it out. And likewise, he felt something resting atop his muzzle.
Nick giggled as he felt the things bristles of fur brush against his eyes, and he heard a squeak of laughter all the same. So much was he entertained that his paws lightly brushed against Judy's own eyes at the same time.
They laughed, cooed and giggled in the hallway. They were having the time of their lives with the still unknown thing that made them happy. Neither of them could have wanted more.
Now, Nick couldn't tell what happened, but a sliver of light slowly flooded his vision. It wasn't long before his eyes fluttered open, her paws still resting on his muzzle. He blinked once... twice and saw what it actually was. A field of grey and orange, colours that he had only just begun to understand.
For Judy, it was much of the same. She felt his paws relax carefully just beside her nose. A sea of red and blue entered what little vision she had. It was something strange, something new and spectacular.
Giggling, he stared at Judy, starting to make the motion of clapping his paws as he always did when something truly excites him. His tail brushed against them and his ears swivelled to hear more of her.
Whatever this thing was, it was... well he didn't know many words at the time, not something that you could expect a two-week old fox kit to know. Still, this thing was the best thing he had ever met!
It was the most interesting thing that he had ever seen in his young life. Not to mention the only thing he had seen so far. But what made it more interesting was that strange colour that shone in its eyes.
And to Judy, the bright colour that shimmered in this... things eyes truly made her happy. She reached out to see more of it when she was abruptly hoisted into the air.
Judy squeaked as she was brought up to hear the familiar sound of the voice of her mother.
The doe huffed a sigh of frustration and drew her daughter close for a hug, nuzzling her cheek in relief. She already felt like Stu knew what was coming his way. She would have made a bee-line for the door to give him a piece of her mind when she looked down at the little fox kit who sat smiling at the two of them.
By no means was she happy that Judy had gotten away, or that a fox of all mammals was near her. She couldn't, however, simply leave a kit out on their own as any good mother would take care of them; especially with fathers who weren't paying attention.
Looking around as the kit looked up to her and more specifically Judy, Bonnie thought of what she could do. All she saw were rows of apartments that were closed, save for one just across from her that was slightly ajar.
While she wondered if he belonged there, Judy looked down at Nick with more of curiosity than before. She practically reached out to grab him as if he was the last Christmas toy on the shelf.
Seeing her do this, Nick crawled closer until he reached Bonnie's leg.
Startled at the fox kit clinging to her, the elder doe lost any sense of what she really could do. She smelled a fox's den, but her sense of smell wasn't as strong to pick up deeper scents.
The moment she looked down at the kit in worry, she heard a gasp from just down the hallway. Her eyes locked onto what looked to be the same vixen that she saw on her way into the apartment.
Taking a chance, she pointed down at the blue and red giddy bundle of joy. "I'm sorry. Is he yours?"
While taking on a front as a parent that wanted to protect her child, she was inwardly terrified. There weren't many foxes in the burrows and the few she had known were not exactly the friendly kind.
The vixen, clad in a floral dress pattern with the same deep purple as Bonnies, ran down the hall, dropping what little bag of groceries she had in order to get to the kit faster.
Bonnie took a step back, mindful that her kit was still attached to her leg, and watched as the mother picked up her child with both haste and care.
She nuzzled him and he returned the gesture, cooing into the ruffled fur of her neck.
Marian huffed. "Thank you, ma'am," she said with a gentle sincerity that Bonnie had not known foxes for at all. She then kissed the top of her son's head and went back to pick up the bag she had abandoned for her kit.
Taking all of this into account, Bonne watched as the vixen put on a stern face and walked into the open apartment that she thought was their home.
When she last saw the fox disappear, she broke into a smile. It wasn't anything against her or her species. But when she heard the name "JOHN!" being yelled at the top of her lungs, Bonnie nodded as she knew a good mother and wife when she saw one.
And now, following the same formula of putting on a stern face, she pushed open the door to the apartment. It was time for her to be a good mother and wife as well.
Bonnie Hopps was a creature of habit in many regards, much to her husband's knowledge. She always made it a point to be tidy, polite, and punctual. And whenever anyone in her family was in danger, she would often be the first there to support them, no matter what.
So, it was, after she was done thoroughly grilling Stuart over his mishap of talking about sports instead of keeping an eye on Judy, Bonnie decided to help James finish packing for their trip to to the burrows.
His paperwork was finished and he was busy trying to get Jack up, and Judy was quietly gumming on her pacifier in her mother's paws.
Stu had to resort to busying himself after he knew how much more of a talking to his wife would give him when they got home. He was no fool bunny, he knew that this was only the calm before the storm.
But even during this storm that he caused, his ears perked up for the second time that day; his smile couldn't be brighter.
He paused from the work he had done with packing a few remaining papers. "Bonnie, Hun, you're doing it again."
Though her scowl was still there, the doe raised a brow. She'd entertain him if only to break the monotony of silence.
"You're humming it again," Stu said, emphasizing the point further and not failing to look her in her beautiful amethyst eyes; the same ones that they just found that their youngest daughter had.
Mulling over his words, Bonnie's eyes widened. "You mean!"
Stu nodded. It was something that she somehow always found herself doing without recognizing it: humming the tune to 'Here Comes the Bride'.
She had often been told by her late mother that she had a knack of vocalizing the song to some degree whenever her own siblings and family met the one they would one day marry. And for whatever reason she couldn't explain, it was always accurate.
"That's the second time today, Bon." The buck walked over to her and hugged them both, hoping to reassure his wife that - though he made mistakes that could have cost them dearly - he was still a good father. "Our little Jude the dude hasn't even met Jack yet and you're already singin' it."
Bonnie looked down at Judy, but all the kit did was stare at the door almost longingly.
Though she wanted to say more the sudden creak of the bedroom door caught her attention. James stood there with Jack cradled in one arm and a suitcase in another.
They'd have time to discuss this later, practically all the time in the world. But for now, Bonnie understood, they just had to leave the city. It was no place for a bunny.
Marian Wilde busied herself for the last few hours tidying up whatever loose ends she had left in the apartment.
After she had scolded John into what looked like a nervously smiling quilt, she had to finish setting up the small dining set they had for a late lunch.
She would have asked her husband to assist her, but she instead felt as though he needed to watch Nick while being watched himself. Responsibility was key when your kit crawls out like that.
And it wasn't that she was banefully upset at him. No. She was terrified that Nick had gone out of his father's care, but was happy that John was still there. Her happiness was for all of them. For they just found that their son's eyes were green much like his fathers.
She watched as John held the giggling kit aloft. "And your cousin Skye will be here any minute."
Marian sighed at the notion, she knew her husband all too well. "John..." she said in a chastising tone. "They aren't related. At all."
The todd shrugged, pulling Nick to his lap. "But we're like family."
As Marian went to rebut the statement, she heard a knock at the door. She'd have to go over this again with him some other time.
So wiping off her dress and putting on a genuine 'my husband is in so much trouble today' smile, she went to welcome their guests.
Though they were very familiar with one another, when Marian opened the door for a family of arctic foxes, it always surprised her at how quickly she was brought into a near bone-crushing hug by the vixen of the pair.
"H-hello... to you too... Serenity." said the red vixen, struggling to pry herself free of the smaller's grasp.
"Heya family!" she shot back with a cheerful voice.
Wearing near matching business clothing, the arctic foxes were often a staple help to the Wilde's. They even managed to help secure a small tailoring shop for John in a safer part of Happy Town.
The todd of the two simply walked in, shaking his head at the two while he held a little red wrapped fox kit in his arms.
"Good to see you two." said Glen, reaching out a paw for John to shake.
With the four adult foxes finally settling down after a moment's greeting, they looked to each other's kits.
John had set Nicholas down next to the arctic fox kit in hopes to formally introduce the two. They were kits after all, and family now. And Glen had pretty much had the same set of hope.
It, however, did not go as planned.
For the second the blue eyed kit was sat down calmly, she shuffled over to Nick as quickly as she could. The todd could have never expected this to be different from the thing he was playing with earlier, but he learned very quickly that this wasn't that.
Because when Skye reached Nick, the first thing she did was start nibbling on the (then cheerful) todd's arms causing him to shriek in terror. Her teeth on the verge of forming, it was a pain unlike what the dreaded couch gave him.
He was only thankful that mom was there the instant it happened, taking him away from this terrible... well, Nick didn't know what a 'Cousin Skye' was, but he was sure it wasn't anything good to be around.
"Oh, Marian, I'm so sorry!" The other vixen, Serenity raced towards them to pick up her child who was on the express-lane to play with Nick again. "Little Skye's just started this in the last half hour or so. She opened her eyes and went for the first thing she saw."
Not surprised at the vixen's statement, Marian's eyes became half lidded. "Oh? And what was that?"
Skye didn't stop reaching out to Nick who only distanced himself. Serenity bounced her daughter in dim hopes to calm her. "Who, actually."
Marian raised a brow; she had known Serenity for years, and now she had a daughter that was just like her, trouble and all.
"Co-workers kit. And a bunny at that," said the arctic fox, "They were born at the same time and he wanted to meet up before he headed out. It's funny, but Skye was a bit more calm around him. She opened her eyes and even managed to stop biting things for a sec."
Both John and Marian's jaws dropped. Not just from the fact that Skye - the crazy fox's daughter - was calm at all, but around a bunny no less.
In fact, the only bunnies that they had really known were their odd neighbours. They had never really met, but what little interaction they had left them wondering what kind of business they owned and what was with all the briefcases.
John had often joked that they were being watched whenever the bunnies were in. But it didn't matter now, they were planning to move soon.
Before either could get another word in, Glen huffed and shook his head. "Poor guy, though. His wife went missing and he's trying to find out why."
A silence swept past all of them, save for Skye's constant gurgling and reaching for her terrified plaything.
And silence is something that John Wilde never truly liked in the midst of company. So with dramatic flair, he stood and bowed.
"Well I hope you two have a better time here," Knowing full well that they had been to the city before, he refused to not give them a proper greeting when they would be finally staying and close by at that. He gave a childish grin that made Marian roll her eyes. "Welcome, to Zootopia."
Never let a door hinder you on its hinges while you try to make your dreams come true.
Heya there, DLW here and welcome to the end notes. If you were wondering where the story's going... well, this is a glimpse of it XD
If you catch any easter eggs, please leave them in the comment/review basket if you have the time.
I was trying to have this out earlier, but I'm staying up way later to finish it.
Also, a bit of trivia. I don't know how many people were wondering what Saint Namela's Hospital is (also used in CHU!) but it's a cryptic pun. Reverse Namela and you get Aleman which translates to 'German' in Spanish. And as Saint is a shepherd... You know what! German Shepherd pun! Mind Blown!
And I'm trying to make the title for each chapter something that you can begin or end by saying 'In Our Dreams'.
[FF Review Responses]
Koraru-San: Thank you soooo much for this *hugs* And I hear that bunny burrito's are in XD
TheAssassin2: It absolutely is, and it's a really good plot element for later.
AeonFeral: *nods* absolutely curious. I wonder where this will all go X3
BubblySilverSolare05: Up-2-d-d8d! Is this what you were looking for?
Alright, I've posted this before, but if you're looking to find updates on everything I'm doing, and I mean EVERYTHING, please check out my Deviant Art page.
I've been doing a series called 'Snippets' where I'll be posting story excerpts on what I'm working on and will give constant feedback almost daily.
And I hope you get a chance to read this and the other stories at your leisure. All can be found here as well:
If you liked this story and have time please post a review, and if you would like to keep up with the story please fav or follow. Questions, comments, concerns, feel free to message me about anything. If you'd like updates, please check the profile page and or message me.
Till Next Time
Chapter 3: Your Heart's Desires
Your Heart's Desires
"Such Small Things: For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams
& even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever."
— Brian Andreas
Bright amethyst eyes soaked in every little detail around as the bunny kit's fascination was elevated from the gleaming city. Ears flopping over her pink plaid shirt, and tail giddily wagging in blue floral suspenders, the doe skipped and bounded along, completely enamored with everything that crossed her path. This was Zootopia after all, and she had always hoped to see it with her own eyes.
Not that she hadn't before - as her parents told her she had been shortly after she was born - but to truly see it in all its splendour was incredible. Though had she not been holding both of her parent's paws, her sightseeing may have just caused her to trot off into the busy intersection just ahead.
She only stopped when she felt a firm, gentle tug on her paw. Judy halted and looked up into the eyes of her chuckling father.
"Alright. Settle down there, Jude the dude," said Stu, worried a little and watching a car zoom by with Bonnie huffing at the nickname.
They had come to the city that Saturday to settle a deal with a store owner that was interested in selling their products as the Hopps' reputation had grown over the years. With an abundance of products and the need to expand to other territories, it was the smartest move they could make.
However... despite being the most viable option to sustain the farm, Stu and Bonnie Hopps had been a bit worried about the recent news of Zootopia's predator population.
Recent attacks and other mishaps revolving around various predator species had the city riled up as of late, and now the bunnies were here only to meet and hopefully strike a deal before leaving the city.
It was as terrible as a place as Stu envisioned it several years ago. In fact, the only truly good things he saw come out of the city itself were the rabbit that agreed to assist them in their venture and his son.
Seeing the traffic die down as they crossed, Stu glanced back at his friend. He had looked a little more tense as of late since they entered the city. Whereas he would usually wear some relaxing garb, he was now clad in almost business like attire, and Stu couldn't help but see the tight grip his paw had around his son's while his eyes shifted as if they were looking for any immediate danger.
James had been an amazing help to the family. He had become a consultant to them, guardian to their kits, and overall help to the community of Bunny Burrow.
Though he never understood some of James' quirks - the way he covered his stripes, the constant silence, the weird phone calls he made out in the middle of nowhere - he didn't question his friendship at all.
As the bunnies made it to the other side of the street and to the front of a grocery store where a spotted hare stood by waving at potential costumers, Stu smiled. "Alright, Judy," He knew better than to say her nickname when Bonnie gave him that look. "You stay with James and Jack at the park while your mom and I finish this deal."
Judy's eyes went wide when she heard that, she had wanted to see what the parks were like here, and there was one not too far away that James had told her about many times: The Watering Hole.
With her parent's letting go of her paws, she hugged them both. "Thanks, Dad! Thanks, Mom!" she shrieked, running to James as he nodded and grabbed hold of her paw.
She bounced in place as the her father and mother waved them off before heading into the store. Watching them disappear, Judy smiled at her bunny buddy who would be accompanying her. He was like a small version of his father - unusually stoic, amber eyes capturing everything in sight, stripes covered since they had started school, constantly silent - in fact, the only real difference (aside from height and age) was that Jack looked a little more relaxed in his child size suit and tie.
With Jack smiling back at her, Judy tugged a little on James' paw. "Can we go to the park now?" she asked, practically jumping in place.
Now, Judy had fully expected him to say 'yes' to some degree, but what she couldn't have guessed was the the older bunnies impassive silence. He had his ears pointed just behind him and she felt his paw tense.
Instantly, she was worried. "Mr. James?"
His paw loosened a little. "Let's go," he said, barely a mumble as he carefully lead them.
While they walked, paw in paw to the edge of a large section of the city, Judy kept soaking in everything she could. The large buildings, the numerous species that she had never seen, the different smells that were never in the country. All of it was so much better than anyone had told her.
When they reached the edge of a somewhat grassy field that met the edges of a large body of water, Judy almost broke into a run. Thankfully, though, James held her paw.
Looking up at the buck, she could tell he didn't approve. "Stay where I can see you at all times." he said sternly, crossing the last intersection before they met the sidewalk that the park resided on. "There's a playground just ahead, so you two can have fun all you want. I need to make a phone call. Just be careful."
Sure enough, just as James said, there was a full on playground with numerous kids of all species running around and having the time of their young lives.
By the time she let go of his paw, she had taken off like a force of nature. She was already ahead of Jack and looking around to explore the park.
It was like being in the fields at home except there were so many more mammals that she had never seen that it was overwhelming. She didn't even know where this field ended or where it began, it was just that amazing.
No sooner had Judy began to explore, she had gotten lost somewhere beyond what looked like a series of small buildings at the edge of the park. She could have sworn that she was still near the playground, but when she looked around, there wasn't a single bush anywhere. Just a single, small tree.
And James and Jack were nowhere to be found.
It was the weekend, and Nick was glad to have it.
Being near the end of spring and on the verge of his first ever summer vacation, the todd was more than thrilled at the prospect of having more time to spend outside of school.
He was even given the okay from his mom to go with Glen and Serenity to the park while she went to that courthouse for some big case that his dad was a part of. He couldn't be more happy as he didn't really like to be bored with grown up stuff.
Not that he really minded, but being on the green grass of the Watering Hole was always fun. It was even more so with his friend that looked at a bunch of shrubbery with him.
Well... more than a friend to him. A classmate as well as neighbor that shared the same birthday as him. One that they celebrated not but a few weeks back that made him question her a lot as when they started singing 'Happy Birthday' in class, she was already covered in cake.
"Look! It's a caterpillar!" said the arctic fox vixen, holding her paws out almost directly into his eyes.
Sure enough, scrunched up within was some poor squirming bug that Skye had managed to wrangle from its leafy home to try and investigate.
And the moment the smiling todd went to try to relieve the pitied critter away from her, the vixen shoved the bug into her mouth and loudly chewed it.
-his weird best friend with a voracious appetite.
"Eww! Skye!" Nick reeled, moving back a few steps and hopefully away. But he knew that she always had some trick up her sleeves. Oddly enough, she was wearing a smiley face shirt (blue to contrast his green) and suspenders today as it was impossible for her to wear any kind of dress, she hated them.
"Want one?" she offered happily, having snatched another away from the bush and poking it with the tip of her claw. "They're good."
Nick was about to protest and put it back where it belonged when a familiar voice called, "Kids! Pawpsicles!"
It took less than a second for Nick to hear hurried footfalls in the direction; Skye had taken off. In knowing what was to come, Nick sighed and followed.
When he rounded the shrubs, he saw the small family of arctic foxes relaxing on a blanket with a small picnic set around them. The two adults embraced Skye lovingly, nuzzling her while she tried repeatedly to reach the cooler to grab her prize and go.
The moment they let go and gave her what she sought, Skye ran off somewhere again. Shaking their heads, the two foxes waved Nick over to hand him a pawpsicle of his own.
"Here you go, Nick." said Serenity, handing him a blueberry flavoured one that he eagerly took and thanked them for. "Just stay where we can both see you."
With a nod and looking around, the kit thought of what he could do. Instantly, he fumbled around in the pockets of his pants for the writing tool he was given not too long ago.
Producing an orange and green pen in the shape of a carrot, he looked up to his two watchers. "Can I draw some?"
Serenity looked at him curiously and giggled, "Sure thing, sweetie."
He was glad to have the two with him as they always had some paper or something that he could write or draw on. He was even starting to learn cursive in class so he could practice that.
The moment stationery reached his paw, he went over to where he had last seen Skye. She was busy balancing on a seesaw with her pawpsicle loosely hanging from her muzzle.
What should I draw, he pondered, looking for a place to sit with his paper that she would hopefully not run over to and drip the raspberry flavoured ice treat all over it.
When he approached the seesaw silently pleading for her not to notice, a gentle spring gust tore the paper away from his paws and out into the open air.
Emerald green eyes went wide as the only paper he had gone flying skyward. And without hearing the call of his friend, he gave chase.
Skye had watched Nick awkwardly chase after the glistening piece of paper and shrugged. He was his own kit, and she just wanted to play and eat a bunch of bugs when she found them.
Only... it was more fun with her friend around. She didn't want to play on the main playground because there were a few kids that she didn't get along with. She never did like being alone, and her parents were talking about grownup stuff. When she finally realized this, Nick was out of sight.
So souring her face and about to go look for him, the vixen hopped down from the end of the seesaw and scanned the area. All she saw were the other kids, no Nick at all.
Resolving to find him, she thought to start where they last were: the bushes.
He's gotta be there, right? she mused, wondering who didn't like bugs at all and why it bothered Nick so much. They were delicious.
By the time she made the decision and got there, she couldn't see a single strand of fur from him. Thought there was some other kid standing around.
She had truly wanted to play with Nick, but whoever this kid was, she had never seen in her life. Not that she hadn't seen plenty of kids around her, but this one was interesting. He looked to be of a species she had only seen on television but never got a chance to ask her parents what they were.
He even wore something that she had only seen adults wear and was idly playing with a toy in his paw that flashed blue and white. Those two being her fur and eye colours, she couldn't help but be drawn to it.
When she reached the curious kit, he had looked quite a bit bored. She couldn't tell what he was, but he had his back to her.
"HI!" she shouted, boasting a big, toothy grin to the newcomer.
Startled, the kit twirled around, nearly falling, but bracing himself and only stumbling into the bush.
Skye was often told that she was weird, different, and odd. One of the reasons was her sense of humor. So when the other kit fell, she didn't bother to stop herself from going down in a laughing fit.
The other, hearing her laughter, felt his cheeks grow bright red in embarrassment. He had never experienced something like this in his life and only wanted to get out of the bush and back to his dad. He didn't even know why he came out here in the first place.
Slowly but surely, Skye's laughter died down to a simple fit of giggles. She was surprisingly the first to stand to see the long-eared thing struggle to get out of the shrubbery.
Rolling her eyes at the stuck kit, she offered him a paw. "What are you?" she asked, waiting for him to stretch out his paw.
The other kid looked at her for a moment, struck in awe and wonder before he finally took her help. "I'm a bunny," he replied, not fully understanding what was standing in front of him. "What are yo-"
He was roughly tugged out of the bush, feeling some of the leaves brush against him and hearing twigs snap. The buck was then brought face to face with a smiling row of teeth and white fur.
"I'm Skye!" said the vixen, shaking his paw and thrashing her tail about. She lazily waved her pawpsicle about and stared into the bunnies eyes.
Yellow, being her favourite colour, she found them fascinating. She didn't even realize she was leaning closer for a better look.
The bunny leaned back a little when the other kit moved in. Not that he had much room as he was stuck between a fox and a bush. "I'm Jack," he said a little nervously, but never looked away from the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
As the two kits stared at each other, something else caught Skye's attention and she immediately let go of Jack's paw to reach for it.
Jack was both stunned and curious as to what she was reaching for, but when Skye pulled her paw away from his shoulder, he saw a squirming little caterpillar, much like those he saw around home.
A bit startled that the thing was on him, Jack reached up to inspect it when the vixen held it out for him. "Want it?" she offered, tail swishing and pawpsicle dripping in the afternoon sun.
Raising a brow at the thing in her paws, Jack quickly took hold of it before more damage could be done and placed it back in the bush. It was what his father often did, so he thought to follow his example.
Skye huffed. "That's what Nick would do." She had seen the todd do that kind of thing before: play with bugs and then let them go. Why he didn't just eat them as food was something she never understood.
But still, the thing this bunny had still wrapped in his paws was gaining her attention. "What's that?" she asked, abandoning the thought of Nick altogether.
Jack had just met this thing and still didn't know how to make tail or ears out of her, but she seemed... familiar in a way that he couldn't describe. So clutching the small device in his paws, he held it up to her.
"It's a laser pointer," he exclaimed, showing Skye the shimmering white pen. "It can write secret messages too. My dad let me have one." He demonstrated the device's potential by uncapping one end to show that it had a marker on it and pressed a button to show a blue light flash from the other end.
Skye's attention was somewhat split when it came to actually capturing what was needed. "Laser?!" Was the word she not only stopped at and focused on, but also wanted to play with since the day learned what it meant.
Jack nodded and was about to explain more when the pen was torn away from his paws. "We gotta try this out!" He heard Skye say when she trotted off in the direction of other kids.
Terrified that his best gift would be broken and he'd have to explain it to his father, Jack ran after her. He didn't have to go very far as Skye stood at the edge of the nearby playground, eyeing a small group of kids and lining up the laser with one of them: a sheep.
Watching her repeatedly press the button to flash the blue light, Jack didn't get it. "What are you doing?"
She pressed the button a few more times before replying, "I'm trying to make Doug's head turn to mush!" Furiously pressing the button, she quickly realized the ram's head was still intact. "Now how do you make this work?"
Jack laughed. "The laser only shows you secret messages from the marker. It doesn't make peoples heads explode... And why would you want that?"
Skye grumbled at the pen, knowing now that she wouldn't have her revenge on the sheep. "'Cause he's mean, and has a big dumb face!" Enraged, she turned to talk the bunny into making it work like they did on her favourite cartoons, but the moment she turned to give it back to him, her pawpsicle brushed against his face.
Jack took a step back, feeling the cold treat freeze his cheek before he placed a paw there. And when he took it away, he nearly froze in shock.
Skye looked at him and back down to her now powder covered treat. She let it fall to the ground. "Eww... what's that stuff on your face?" she grimaced.
Shyly, Jack turned away to cup a paw to the now exposed thin lines of deep grey fur. "Dad says I gotta wear it to cover these," he explained, wondering how his father would react when he was told specifically not to remove it under any circumstances while outside.
The vixen kit was both curious and outraged. She thought the markings were cool and she still had the pen in her paw. But then again, she was now down a frozen paw-shaped and raspberry tasting snack. That alone was enough to get the gears in her head to turn to give her the best idea she had ever.
"Well," She had to think of something and the words just came to her naturally. "Now you owe me a pawpsicle!" Whether or not it was her fault (which it was) was of no concern to her, the bunny would pay. So in pointing at him faux threateningly with a smirk, she added, "And they're two-hundred dollars."
Skye didn't really know how much anything was as she had no concept of money, but she figured if she put a price on it she'd get at least that much out of the deal. She practically drooled from the sheer amount of pawpsicle that she'd get in the end.
Jack, on the other paw, was horrified. "What?!" he shrieked in protest. "But... but I-i can't pay that!"
And truly he couldn't. His dad told him about the horrors of debt, and how getting a good education could be costly and worth it. However, he never said anything about owing an astronomical amount from an accident.
Now impatient, the vixen huffed and tried to figure out a solution. She eyed the pen and smiled; this new plan had to work.
"Then you'll just have to be my boyfriend." she said with a smirk and folded her arms.
Jack's jaw dropped. "WHAT?!"
Again, his father's sage advice was coming back to him in droves. Stay in school, Jack. Get good grades, Jack. Don't get a girlfriend until you're older, Jack.
Even in his classes, he had been popular and well-off. And being on the verge of completing kindergarten, he was already showing promise. Now all seemed to come to a crashing halt.
"Uhuh," Skye furiously nodded and began a singsong style of storytelling. "'Cause mama says when I get a boyfriend, we can get married and share everything." Her mother would be proud had she paid attention to her actual quotes instead of loose cannon things that she made up.
But what did she care, she was owed a pawpsicle; her eyes narrowed threateningly. "Or you can pay me two hundred dollars."
Seeing no way out and now terrified that his father would find out that he was either getting married without permission or had to pay money, Jack admitted defeat.
"Okay," said the bunny, ears hanging low and on the verge of a mental breakdown. "I'll be your boyfri-"
Immediately his arm was grabbed and he felt himself being pulled in one direction.
"YES!" Skye shouted, not paying any mind to the other kids on the playground and how much attention she was garnering. "Come on! I gotta tell mom and dad we're married!"
Marriage?! Jack's inner thought shouted at him. He couldn't fathom it!
He was often told as a bunny what it meant. He was told by his father that he would be responsible for his wife. From Mr. Stu, he was scolded that he'd have to have a job to support his family. And by Mrs. Bonnie, he'd have to take care of his kids.
A chill ran down his spine at the horror of what he had agreed to.
He tugged at her arm. "Wait!" he protested, stopping the marching vixen in her tracks and forcing her to listen. "I-i can't be m-married! I-i don't have a job! How am I gonna h-help my kids?! I-i don't have a-a brief-c-case! I don't even h-have my o-own h-house-" He started tearing up, choking as he was at a loss of what to do.
Though his mind reeled, a gentle touch on his arm brought him to look at her. Her blue eyes were both calm and saddened.
Her lip quivered. "But you promised..."
If there was one thing that Jackson was good at, it was keeping his word. Above all other things in life and every lesson he had learned so far, his father telling him to keep his word was what made him come to his senses.
Weakly, he wiped at his eyes. A promise was a promise. "Alright..."
Seeing the strange kit smile, Jack started a weak smile of his own. He was going to keep his word no matter what.
As Skye stepped forward, his eyes widened. "Wait! I just remembered something!"
Instead of halting completely, Skye felt her paw being dragged towards him. Before she knew it, Jack had brought her back to the same shrub that she got the bugs from when he let go of her paw.
She watched him rummage through the foliage at a pace that rivaled her own when she was digging in her mom's garden again. Though, in this case, instead of the sound of dirt, all she heard was twigs being snapped and leaves being pushed away.
In a matter of seconds, Jack held up a near circular array of foliage that he brought over to her.
Immediately, Skye recognized what it was from all the books she read. "Is this a T-" She tried, fumbling over the word again and again. " A Tie.. Tea..." She gave up and let him place the thing on her head. It fit awkwardly, wrapping around one ear and hanging loosely. "A princes's crown?"
Jack shrugged, he couldn't remember what it was called, but understood what it was for, kind of.
"Mr. and Mrs. Hopps said that you do this when you become a family."
Not understanding a word that he said, Skye took his paw and tore off back to her parents. When they were just in sight, she shouted, "MOM! DAD!"
She didn't know where Nick was and she didn't really care at the moment, she was having the time of her life.
The two arctic foxes smiled and waved her over, but their paws were clasped over their faces when they saw that she had (again) brought someone over that was barely able to keep up with her spitfire pace.
Serenity chuckled, "Skye. Who are you dragging off this time?"
It was actually common for her now as Serenity had gotten to know her daughter over the years. She'd constantly almost abduct some other kid if she could; she brought home an otter from her class once and the poor kid cried until his parents were called. They remembered it well, they had shrimp that afternoon.
Only stopping when she was on the blanket and dragging Jack in front of her to see them, Skye presented the newest member of their family. "This is my boyfriend, Jim!" she exclaimed proudly. "We're married now."
Jack would have corrected her, but standing in front of his extended family, he refused to not be polite.
Her parents had been busy chatting over sandwiches and quickly stopped at the mention of what their daughter had gotten herself into over the course of five minutes. They awkwardly took a second to stare at one another when Glen shrugged and whispered a 'just like you' to his wife.
The mother vixen sighed and shook her head. Marian was right. she mused.
She had to fix this, the bunny kit looked horrified to meet his in-laws for the afternoon. "Skye, sweetie," she soothed, looking at the bouncy boisterous kit with an unimaginable smile. "You can't be married... yet."
The kit's thrashing tail slowly became a gentle wag. She tilted her head curiously and asked, "But how come?"
It was Glen to answer after clearing his voice and hoping to ease the mental trauma that his daughter caused the bunny. "Not until you're older," he said with a stern, calm voice that made Jack breathe a sigh.
Still, he couldn't help but see the twinge of regret on the bunny's face. Wait. Are those stripes? he wondered.
Moving around her no-longer-betrothed, Skye went to settle her debts. "But he owes me a pawpsicle!" She wasn't going to let this go.
Her mother laughed, "Honey... last time it was Nick that owed you because he ate the last cookie."
Hearing her problems not being taken seriously, she raised her arms to make her argument stick. "He still owes me a million bucks!"
Not wanting to keep them any longer as he was actually enjoying the afternoon, Glen decided to keep the peace for as long as he could, the only way he knew how.
"Well, consider your debt paid." He reached into the cooler to get two more of the pawpsicles that he loved and handed one over to Skye.
She greedily grabbed the thing and was off before he could get in a word edgewise.
This left Jack alone with her parents; mammals he still didn't know the exact species of. Nervously, he fidgeted with his paws, he didn't know what to say or do.
That is until a little red pawpsicle was held in front of him. "Would you like one as well?" Glen offered, watching his shy personality melt away.
Jack carefully took it and gave a gracious "Thank you Mr." before he walked away.
He didn't know exactly what was going on, but he had to find his dad quickly. He wanted to tell him everything that happened and-
A sudden realization hit him. "Samantha still has my pen!"
Nick had been chasing his paper through the wind for a full minute now; dodging and ducking around mammals that would only cause it to flutter further away. He narrowly managed to avoid colliding with a few taller mammals and watched as the stationery hovered around elephants, rhino's and even what he could describe as a round cheetah.
It wasn't until he was near the edge of the park that the elusive thing managed to get snagged on the stray branch of a tree only slightly taller than he was.
Breathing a breath of relief, Nick sought to claim his prize. But when he walked over to reach up and grab it, he noticed a small figure curled up next to it.
It was no decoration as far as he could see, but its odd colours (grey, pink, and blue) really stood out to him. Curious as to what it was, he neared it and sat next to it.
Carefully, he reached a paw over to it, gently tapping the top of whatever it was. In a moment of awe, he felt the softest fur he had ever come in contact with and it was bizarrely familiar.
While he thought, the things ears waved backward from their drooping selves, and a mass of grey was lifted to reveal a brilliant white. Nick had never seen the face of such a creature up close, only on television.
But the fox's own eyes stared unblinking at the shimmer of the deepest purple colour he had ever seen. He could practically say that he saw his own reflection in the eyes of this... What did they call them again?
Before he could even ask, the little thing started sniffling; not a good sign from what he experienced. And the closer he looked, the more he could see little streaks of damp tears on this things face. So out of concern, he asked, "What's wrong?"
Through tear stained eyes, Judy saw a little red thing sitting near her. She didn't know who or what it was, but it sounded comforting enough unlike all those other scary tall mammals she had seen before.
Though when she saw the flash of green in this mammals eyes that reminded her of the rolling hills of home, she turned away and buried her head in her folded arms again. How can I get back home? How do I get out of this city? Where's mom and dad and Mr. James?
All of these questions caused her to sob once more. "I-i-" cried the bunny in muffled, squeaky tones. "I don't know where Mr. James is."
She curled her arms closer and sat there completely lost. Her father told her that the big city wasn't easy to get around and everyone was scary compared to back home. The only thing around that was even close to her was... well whoever this was.
While she felt another wave of tears threaten to sting her eyes, she felt something scoot next to her.
Startled, she cast her head up to see that the red-orange mammal had moved closer and looked a little more curious than before. And if she had to be honest - which she always was because her mother told her that it's the best quality for a bunny - the other mammal didn't look scary at all.
Nick didn't know what to really say, but he loved helping out where he could. So he hooked his arm around her, thinking of how to best solve the problem and unlike Skye (who only solved stuff by chewing on it) he started at the root of the problem.
"Where did you see him last?" A simple question that he hoped would get the other kit talking. And it wasn't that he was trying to hurry and get to his writing or drawing, but there was something familiar and calming about her that he couldn't describe.
Feeling a little better, Judy thought back to when she left James and Jack. "W-we were at the playground a-and-" She stopped; feeling another shudder as she remembered clearly that James said to stay in his sights.
But instead of the tears rolling down her cheeks once again, she felt something warm and familiar press down on her shoulder.
She looked into his eyes and saw herself. "I know where that is. I can take you there."
Nick stood up and stretched out his paw. He had completely abandoned the idea of retrieving the paper.
For the first time since she had gotten lost, Judy's ears perked up. If she could just get back to James then all would be okay. She could get home again!
But then the simple thought that plagued her was one that she was always told never to do. So shyly, she turned away from his paw. "Mom told me never to go with strangers."
Nick's ears fell, he remembered the same thing as well. Only... his father also told him to try his best at everything. And this was one of those times.
"Well," he said with renewed confidence, taking Judy's paw into his own without a second thought and shaking it. "I'm Nick."
What he didn't expect was how soft the bunny's paws were compared to his own. Having paw pads was different to the plush fur that she had.
And Judy didn't expect for his fur to be so fluffy. She wanted to go with him to get back home, but the thing was that she couldn't think to go against her mother's word.
While Nick tried to convince her that he wasn't a bad guy, he smiled and knew what to say, "We can't be strangers if we're friends, right?"
To him it was true. A friend was never a stranger, but he did have a strange friend. She still hadn't let go of the fact that he owed her either a million dollars or a cookie.
Feeling his paw encompass hers, she rubbed her eyes again. "I-i'm Judy," she said shyly, hoping that this would all pass soon.
Though while she dwelled on this hope, a small glimmer of green and orange caught her eye. This kit had something in his other paw that drew her attention like nothing else. It had the feeling of home and many of the vegetables that she was introduced to. This one being her favourite.
"What's that?" she asked as curious as any child would at a strange new phenomenon. "Is it a carrot?"
Taking account of her pointing, Nick held up the orange carrot pen, immediately seeing a glint of happiness fill Judy's eyes. He was only happy himself to help.
"My dad gave it to me," he stated proudly, fumbling over the device and letting Judy get a closer look. "It's the coolest thing ever! Watch."
Aside from being the average pen with an artistic flair and comical design, Nick pressed one of the few buttons on its side and held the front facing grooves to his muzzle.
"This is Zootopia. Where anyone can be anything!" he said with all the theatrics his father had spoken with many, many times.
And when he clicked the button again, Judy was confused as to why he would make such a blatant statement; Zootopia was the best... if you could find your way.
As she went to ask him what he was doing, Nick surprised her by pressing a button below it.
'This is Zootopia. Where anyone can be anything!'
His voice shouted from the little carrot pen, stunning Judy completely. She had never seen such a thing and only reached out to grab it to try it herself, and Nick gave it to her.
She went to work, pressing all the buttons to figure it out and actually got it right on the second try. After watching Nick, she figured it wasn't difficult at all. This was the best thing she ever held in her paws for so long and just the idea that it was a voice recorder in the shape of a carrot sent her to the moon!
Nick watched her, chuckling the entire way. Even he hadn't had that much fun with it. But a simple idea struck him. He smiled. "You can have it if you want."
Judy gasped, she was delighted beyond reason. Only the word 'YES' filled her head, but in her heart, she looked at the other and shook her head. "It's yours." She held out the pen to give it back to him, but he waved his paws dismissively.
"Dad and I are gonna go to the store when he gets back. We always go on Saturdays."
Seeing that there was no harm in taking it now, Judy used the little clip to attach it to her suspenders. The doe was so excited to have it, she couldn't wait to tell mom and dad about her new friend.
Nodding in satisfaction, Nick waved her on. "I can show you where the playground is now."
Judy complied and took a step forward. She felt both happy and a bit saddened by the encounter. Why was that? She didn't give him something back.
"Wait!" shrieked the bunny, catching the fox's attention before he could break into a sprint.
Nick halted to see Judy reach up to the small tree, his paper had blown away. Not that he'd need it as he didn't have anything to write with, but watching Judy meticulously and precisely snap off twigs and leaves left him wondering.
In a matter of moments, she had a perfect circle of interlaced branches and twine. Inspecting her work, she was satisfied that it looked okay. And as she padded over to Nick, she reached up and put the ring of repurposed fauna on his head. It fit perfectly between his ears and he tried to pick at it.
"What's this?" he asked, curious as to why she made a wooden crown to give to him. Not that he minded in the slightest as it made him feel important.
Judy smiled and rocked on her heels. "Um... Mom and Dad said that they do this when-" She mulled over the situation. It hadn't been many times that she had seen it and only twice within her home that spring. Truly, she didn't know but liked the idea. "When someone becomes part of our family. They called it a g... a gr-" But that was the thing, she never could remember the name. "A gira-"
Still, Nick seemed to like it. She didn't need to know what it was called, only what it meant.
Again, he reached out his paw and she took it instantly. They were friends now, and she considered him family.
It didn't take long for the duo to reach the end of a tree line that separated the main park from the rest of the Watering Hole. Kids were seen shouting and playing along in various areas.
Judy still held Nick's paw and walked by his side. And though she was still fascinated with the whole of Zootopia, her friend was now the most interesting thing she had seen in her life.
She still didn't know what he was, but his pointed ears and fluffy tail made her happy in a way that she couldn't describe. By the time she opened her mouth to ask him, she saw two bunnies in the distance that she recognized. Both in business like attire; one adult, and one child.
"Mr. James!" shouted the doe, elated that she made it back. She took off in the direction not realizing that she let go of Nick until she was already halfway there. When she finally did see that her friend wasn't there, but far back and waving to her, she returned the gesture. "Bye Nate!" she said, thankful for everything that he did. "Thanks for the pen!"
Nick only smiled and waved, knowing that she wouldn't really hear his name at that distance.
He heaved a sigh at both a good deed and the fact that his friend was leaving. It was time for him to head back too.
The todd knew his way around to the picnic area easily, and while he marched on, he played and toyed with his new crown. He still didn't get it, though.
But when he looked ahead, the family of arctic foxes (sans Skye, thankfully) was sitting on either side of Marian Wilde.
His eyes widened, the court thing was finally over. "Mom! Mom!" he shouted, running to them at full speed and almost tripping.
When he was only a few feet away, he could see his mother carefully wiping away at her eyes to look at him. He had seen her cry before, but couldn't understand what could upset her on such a perfect day.
As always, the first thing that Nick did was hug her the moment he saw her. It was more than just a fox thing and their thing, but he loved both of his parents dearly.
Her arm wrapped around him and he felt his mother's warm embrace. He had something to tell her while being smothered in the crook of her neck. "Mom! I made a new friend today!"
There was something wrong, and he could feel it. If not for her light shudders and seeing a deep concern from the two arctic foxes, he may have missed it. "That's-" Her voice was weak, tired and strained. "That's nice, dear. What was their name?"
She was always looking out for him and he pulled away for a moment to try and remember the name. Even scratching his head and jostling the crown didn't help much. "Um... Trudy?"
In the moments that followed, silence crept up on the young todd. He was missing something and it only hit him then that one mammal was absent from the picture.
Gently, he looked skyward, feeling a single drop of what he thought was rain until it rolled again from his mother's cheek. "Mom," he began, looking in all directions but he couldn't find him. "Where's dad?"
He got no immediate answer. But instead, he felt the embrace of three foxes surrounding him.
The heart of your dream will always know what it wants
Heya there, DLW here and welcome to the end notes.
Yep... Skye's one of those kits XD
A lot of head cannons (mostly bunny) are coming up quickly, and a special prize goes to the first reviewer that can figure out what Judy and Jack are doing with the leaves and exactly what it's called ;)
Just post it in a review and tell me what you'd like in the story. Something within reason that I can work with.
[FF Review Responses]
GusTheBear: It absolutely was XD
If you're looking to find updates on everything I'm doing, and I mean EVERYTHING, please check out my Deviant Art page.
I've been doing a series called 'Snippets' where I'll be posting story excerpts on what I'm working on and will give constant feedback almost daily.
And I hope you get a chance to read this and the other stories at your leisure. All can be found here as well:
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Till Next Time
Far Far Away
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
― Langston Hughes
P.S. 118 was a very busy place for a young kit in the growing city of Zootopia. Both predator and prey children alike had some place within its walls of academia to be challenged every day and strive for a better, brighter future.
Being one of the many elementary schools in Savanna Central, it had plenty of perks - mainly weather related as it didn't get the runoff of excess water from the Weather Wall or marshes. Instead, it was in a stable climate that gave its students a chance to learn about not only the other climates around them but also the whole world itself.
Their few class field trips were like no other as many had never seen the scorching sandstorms of the Sahara, the frigid wonders of Tundra Town, or even the torrential downpours of the Rainforest. There wasn't a single kit who didn't smile and beam at each wonder as their teacher told them about the climate like they were exploring a vast, strange new world.
And for energetic children, such a place was a wonderland, a paradise for one to constantly question and make friends as their parents often told them. Two such mammals (friends since birth) attended this school for this very reason. Neither of them could have been happier to be there on this special day. For they were making new friends in a very different way.
"Can't catch me!" The little arctic fox vixen roared, racing around the room at blinding speed. She ducked under a desk and pranced around teasingly towards her now angry red fox friend.
And friends they were, but... they didn't always see things eye to eye.
"Skye! Give that back!" Nick shouted, paws grasping desperately for the little letter she played 'keep away' with.
Nick knew Skye was only teasing him, but he was really upset. Finally seven and being a second grader, his mother encouraging him to make more friends; he felt all the pressure needed to try to do so. And it just so happened that when he tried to make a new friend, Skye was there to ruin it.
She was an oddball like that, and he still couldn't understand why. She was as energetic as ever; blue eyes always shimmering and tail wagging like she had sugar even though her mother expressly forbade it. It still never stopped her, though, it made her try harder to successfully 'find' candy that other students had in their backpacks to fuel her antics.
Just a few weeks ago she had even... how did her parent's put it? Successfully eaten his prized Cosmo Corssac action figure. He didn't know what they meant by it, but he got a new one recently. Skye was always trouble.
But despite her inattentiveness and excessive, sugar-fueled habits, she was one of - if not the - brightest students in her class. Constantly saying or doing something beyond the textbook because she managed to figure it out, the vixen had even started intermediate math. She was doing division and even helped Nick in her own way by showing him one cookie divided by one Skye equals a cookieless Nick.
She even fixed her family's toaster - though her mother had to stop her when it was still plugged in - by simply figuring out the wires... that was only after the fire she started because she wanted toast with jelly and didn't want to wait.
Her parents decided to get her a tutor when she got to grade school, but they only chose this path because of her lack of focus... and her terrible, terrible spelling and grammar. It wasn't that she couldn't spell - math and meddling with things were her strong points - but she was too focused on food to get words right.
And it wasn't just that that was odd about her - though he hadn't met any other foxes in his school - but her fur was constantly growing in awkward ways. If it wasn't for her mother brushing and snipping it, she would have looked like a fox marshmallow that morning.
So there stood (more so danced) the menacing fox culprit, laughing around the classroom the moment she snatched the letter away from the poor tod. Nick would have certainly enjoyed reading what was within like several of the other students laughing at him. Skye already had her own letter and her afternoon snack, what more could she want?
Instead of complying, the fox kit giggled, "Nu-uh! I bet it has cooties on it!" Even if it did, Nick didn't care. She tested the letter by mockingly licking its corner, grossing Nick out and further frustrating him. Why did she have to taunt him so? All he wanted to do was read the letter!
Many Zootopian schools had started a new program that year. One that tried to culturally educate its growing students while connecting to other schools everywhere. Many of the districts had gotten into this under the new budget. It was experimental and fun.
The concept was simple: have each student write an anonymous letter to another student in a selected school, and when they got your letter, they'd write you back. It was a basic form of having a pen pal, but the schools deemed it a learning experience with someone miles away so they could learn a thing or two about different places in the world.
There were also a few rules such as: the teacher had to approve of your letter, you couldn't tell them your name, no gender or species identifying terms, and only one pen pal per mammal. And each school did something different with the way they interacted another for the program.
Some chose other schools in the same district, others chose schools in other districts. P.S. 118, however, being one of the last ones on board, managed to land a deal and communicate with a school in Bunnyburrow. Odd as it was, the students were happy.
Just days ago, Nick had neatly written his first letter to an anonymous student who he'd be learning the pen-name of today. He would have written it to another mammal had Skye not swiped his first pick and closely guarded the note from him while the teacher gave him another.
And Skye would always try to find a loophole in the instructions. She even took out a weird pen that she carried with her that she told Nick wrote secret messages. She told him that it was a gift from a bunny but she couldn't remember them too much. No matter how he tried to find out what she wrote, she said only she could see it with the pen, and no he couldn't borrow it.
Now Skye had his return letter in her paws. Furious, the kit ran faster, weaving around loose backpacks and past other desks in their classroom, but Skye was faster.
The little vixen hopped on top of her own desk, barely managing to stop her momentum before sliding off. With the height advantage, she quickly turned around to stick her tongue out at the disbelieving fox kit.
"I've got your letter! I've got your letter!" she sang and waved the paper around. Nick shook and was on the verge of growling.
He would have tried to leap had it not been for the sudden pair of paws picking up the vixen.
The arctic fox yipped as she was met with the stern glare of a rather annoyed, slender tigress. Their teacher, Felicity Amur, locked her blue eyes with the now nervous looking kit's.
"Skye, did you take Nicholas' letter?" her tone was both chastising and concerned despite her annoyance.
The vixen - still carrying both notes - dangled in her paws and sheepishly looked elsewhere. "I don't know..."
Clearly a lie and not wanting for any of her students to feel bad or not learn their lesson, Felicity sighed and carefully set the fox down. "Listen, young lady. You know better than to lie and steal," Of course Skye knew better... kind of. But that didn't stop her from trying to get her paws on everything. "Now give Nick his letter back and apologize."
Skye quickly complied with what the tiger instructed her to do. "Sorry Nick," she said, passing her friend his letter.
Relieved, Nick's expression brightened the moment it was back in his paws. He sauntered back to his desk at the little ushering of the tiger's paw gently guiding him there.
"Now if you'll all have your seats, you may read your letters to find out who your pen pals are." their teacher informed, as she went back to the front of the desk. She wanted to give them a few minutes before the lesson started, but also a moment to think before writing another letter.
With Nick seated next to Skye and both kits opening their letters roughly at the same time, they gasped and beamed with glee. The pen names of their friends were plain and clear to see.
Again, Jack couldn't understand what was on the stationery before him. It was an amalgam mess of words and scribbles that looked like someone took a pencil, shut their eyes, and wrote during an earthquake and a tornado. And it had a weird off-white colouring to it that he couldn't quite figure out. Not only that, but the name... that oddly long and haphazard name was something he didn't like to write out, but he did so out of being polite as his father taught him. He was surprised that they got his pen-name right.
This being the second letter he received, it was painfully obvious that whoever this was needed to practice more when it came to their paw or hoof writing. He wondered if they were in the same grade as him with such horrible script. Even asking Judy to help him decipher the scribble, the only words they could make out were: berry (or it looked like it), salt, and oil. Questioningly, Jack thought that they were trying to bake a pie; he eventually went to the teacher for assistance in reading it.
Judy, on the other paw, was thrilled to see the neat script held in her paw. It was made a perfect day as one student - a bunny who, weeks prior, had their world come crashing down - in her class wore a bright smile and a wreath garland upon their head for a special occasion. She couldn't wait to put pencil to paper, more so pen in her case.
Judy was an excitable kit, always wanting to explore the world and see new sights and interesting things. She was neat, organized and ever ready as a bunny. It came as no surprise to her parents when she was one of the top three students in her class. Along with Jack, and Sharla, they were the best of friends and even closer.
She couldn't take all the credit though, as she had a secret weapon that inspired her all the time. Judy reached into her backpack and pulled out an orange, carrot shaped pen. It was a gift from a stranger turned friend a few years ago. One she found to be a fox over time.
Odd that a fox gave her something as there was another fox named Gideon in her class that only took things from other kits. He was a bully true and true. Still, this fox she knew as a friend gave her not only the pen but she had also remembered his encouraging words and it inspired her to want more: "This is Zootopia. Where anyone can be anything!"
She held that quote dear despite not remembering much about the day she met him or her. And it was that very pen that she used to write a letter to her newest friend, a pen pal.
But before she did, a light cough interrupted her. Just at the head of the classroom, a hare stood smiling. Mrs. Tina Rhun as she was called, easily garnered their attention... well most anyways. Gideon and Travis had been a troublesome pair even among predators in her elementary class.
Still, she wore a bright expression. "Now, class," the teacher paced back and forth, beaming at the little bunny with a crown on their head. "Remember the rules of what you're to do with your letters. I'll be reading and approving them by tomorrow morning, so make the best of your time until then."
The nods of agreement - mumbles of annoyance for a certain two troublemakers - were all the confirmation that the teacher needed. She sat back down at her desk in order to read something while her students began to write letters to their new friends from far away.
They would write about little things like what they wanted to be when they grew up:
What do you want to be when you grow up? I would like to be a Police Officer because I like helping everyone. I think it would be a lot of fun to be an Officer.
Cool! I would like to be a Ranger Scout because I like to play outside and help everyone too. Mom showed me how to make a band-aid out of a cloth once. I helped make one for my friend one time they made toast.
I know it's a cliche, but what would you like to be when you grow up? I'd like to be just like my dad, but he never tells me what he does. He's been teaching me karate.
I wAndt to B a mEEcanick so I cn buLid a machine that maks Doughnuts causs mom wont let me havAAny.
They would write about the most curious things in their young lives:
There is a school here in Bunnyburrow that has a really cool garden in it. They say your dreams come true if you plant a flower there. I want to go there when I'm older because it may help me be a better Officer.
That's amazing! I want to go to a school like that. Maybe I could see my dad again if I planted a flower there. Can you plant a bunch of flowers?
When I'm older, I'll be going to a high school here that has a very special garden. I haven't been there yet, but my dad told me that your dreams may come true if you go there and grow a flower. If it's true then I may become just like him someday!
I eated a fOlwwr once! It was GRAT! I wnna go to Sschcol like that cauzEE I can dream of cake nd iceCream!
They about their discoveries:
I asked my teacher how she does sign language. She taught me a few words today! Have you ever tried to ask someone something without words?
I tried to once. My friend's dad told me how to sign to someone that can't speak.
I fixtd the Refffgratro! Dad says it aWs dangrOS but IT was fun!
I tried to fix something once. My dad said that it was one of the only times he was scared. He told me that he may try later on when the car gets out of the shop.
They would even write about what could go wrong:
If a friend was in trouble, what would you do? My friend said that they're moving soon because someone took stuff from them.
That's terrible! I would ask mom and dad if they could stay here with us. My best friend even lives here because mom said someone took something from them a long time ago.
If itWs dark and their was a Buurgelr what wOOd you do?
It's not that hard to see in the dark. My dad taught me a few moves and how to block attacks so it shouldn't be too hard to fight them. All you really have to do is find their weakness.
When school ended for the summer and all the students had to say their goodbyes, it was difficult for them; for the schools as well as it was the most beloved program they had in years.
I had a lot of fun writing to you as a pen pal. I only wish we had more time. Maybe we'll see each other later on.
I had fun as too! And you're right. Grandpa always told me that you cannot always tell when you'll meet your friends later on.
I enjoyed writing to you, even though the time was short. Who knows? My friend's grandpa says we may meet each other later on someday.
Id lIke tht if we cOOld meet Eachorh somEDay. MayB we can ghet Cake!
It was a somber day for all of them. Each finding some way to cope with how to deal with not knowing how their far away friend was.
Judy kept each and every letter she had and asked her parents for a safe place to keep them safe. Jack took to trying to decipher what his friend said with every word and actually found it a little easier to understand it. Nick tried to learn more about the famous Burrows. And Skye? Well, she had a bunch of pity ice cream when she came home crying that she wouldn't be able to speak to her friend again; raspberry flavoured, her favourite.
But then, when summer was over and school was back in session, each student was surprised when their teacher announced that they would be given a second chance at it with the same school. It was no surprise, however, when many of the students asked for their pen pal by name. And soon, they continued their friendships and grew closer every day.
So they wrote:
I'm so glad I found your name again! How is school this year? Did you make new friends?
I'm glad too! School is fun, but I haven't made a lot of friends. I've learned a lot about Bunnyburrow!
Hello again. I'm happy that I was able to find your name here. How was your summer? I've been learning a lot and even managed to keep up with my dad.
Summr was fun! I had a tututur and she's rel nice. She help me with my writiing and maks the best Food ever!
I had a birthday party with my friend last week. We had a lot of fun. I just wish we had more family to share it with.
I just had a birthday party with my friend last week too. We had a lot of family there. Maybe you can join us one day.
I had a birthday with my friend last week and I eatd lots of Cake. I wanted more but mom said I couldnt haveany. Mom says I can join the grlscoutz. I'll jooin them becas they sel Cookies!
That sounds fun. I celebrated a birthday with a friend of mine too. There was a lot of cake. Maybe we can share some one day. I want to join the scouts too.
And wrote even into the next year:
I like summer but I like fall more because I get to write to you again. How is your family? My friend moves around a lot, but I don't know why.
It's good to hear from you again. My family is doing okay, we have a lot of work to do every day. We haven't ever moved since dad owned the house.
We movd again, but I can go to same school as my friend. My tuttor says that she got married to a cop! He's helpng us a lot?
I don't know if I would be used to moving a lot. Dad doesn't really like to. Cops are great!
They shared their dreams:
I had a weird dream once. I dreamt that I saw a green field near our house. We have a lot of those, but this one was special. It sparkled like the stars and I never wanted to leave.
I had a dream like that once too. I know it's weird, but I saw a purple ocean and I could see everything in it. It was fun to swim in.
I had a very odd dream the other day. I looked up and saw a bright blue sky and wanted to reach it. It made me smile.
I had a dream too! I looked up and saw a yellow ball biggr than the sun. It was reall warm and made me happy.
They shared their belief's:
Do you believe in ghosts? My friend and I went to this old house called the Ghost House this week with his dad. We couldn't find any ghosts.
I believe ghosts are real! My friend and I watch Ghost Hunters all the time. They even said they caught a ghost once, but I think it was a firefly.
My friend and I went to a ghost house last week. Dad says that there weren't ghosts there, but a couple who moved to the city. Do you believe that ghosts exist?
Du! Of coarse ghosts exst! I caught one and ate it! It glowd yellow, and mom says ghosts look like firflies.
And even their hearts:
We have a bully in our class that just won't stop. Why do you think other mammals are bullies?
I think that they are bullies because they don't know better. I'd rather have friends than be a bully.
There's a bully in our class that takes things sometimes. Do you think it's right for anyone to be a bully?
It's not right to be a buly. They shouls apologize and have dessert.
They enjoyed the program in all of its glory. Sharing every little detail that they could and learning from each other.
That is until one day...
They all got the worst news of the entire program. Due to a number of postings, and other things cut from the budget, they wouldn't be able to keep it running on either side even after such a long, arduous battle to keep it over the course of the years.
However, the teachers agreed that each student could send one gift to their pen pal, but it would have to be approved by the teachers on both sides. They couldn't afford to send out more letters along with the gifts, but each decided it best to send a thank you note at least.
This was it, it was their time to send something special before the program ended, and Judy didn't know what to think. She could just get anything, but it didn't seem appropriate.
Jack had grown quite fond of his friend over the years and felt as though a heartfelt gift would be a lot better. He even went so far as to ask his father for advice as to what they may want and he finally came up with a solution.
Nick kept staring at the name and wanted to come up with something suitable for his friend. After saving up a lot of money he had either found or was given for doing his chores, he found the perfect gift.
And Skye even put effort into not spending her allowance on pastries this time. She only asked to buy one doughnut, much to her parent's shock.
When the time came for them to send off their gifts, it was a bitter sweet day at the beginning of summer vacation. Neither side knowing what to expect but were in hopes of giving something better than they received. And needless to say, no kit was disappointed.
So there Judy sat on a cot in their home's infirmary, touching a paw to the gauze on her cheek and idly playing with a folded letter in her hat as she looked over to the bunnies on the bed beside her.
The day had started off so well. They received gifts from their far away friends just days before the start of the 'Carrot Days' festival; both she and Jack were thrilled to have them.
Judy was utterly thrilled when she opened the little box and found a police officer's hat sitting inside. It had a little ZPD badge packaged in a silver grey fabric. Much to her surprise, it fit her perfectly and she knew what she would show herself as for the upcoming play. The last letter she received was sweet as her pen pal wished her the best and that they hoped she would achieve her every dream.
Jack had received something equally as surprising and he was too excited to have it. It was a small, silver-grey watch that was a little too big for him at the time. It even came wrapped in some striped cloth that Jack found interesting. And not only that, the last letter he received was cryptic and came in all sorts of splotches off-colour. He didn't know what they were, but he quickly took to decipher what they meant; he had gotten good with it over time.
Still, now covered in gauze for his tiny form, the little bunny spoke, "Dad."
James had sat there gently resting his sons head on his side. Had he not been so calm, Judy and Jack could have sworn he would have done something drastic.
But that was never James' way of doing things. "Yes, son?"
The buck kit idly played with his own paws, trying as best as he could to not graze over the cuts he received. "W-why do the people on the phone call you..."
"Savage?" his father interrupted; Jack nodded.
He had often caught Jack following him around when he made a phone call. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't proud that his son managed to sneak up on him in the middle of a cabbage field while hoping to send make one such secretive call. His hearing was far sharper than other bunnies even at such a young age.
James sighed, smoothing over Jack's ears to comfort him. "Don't worry about it," he reassured. "It's purely for work, son. It has nothing to do with what happened today."
Jack understood a little but was far more tired than anything. The day was supposed to go by better.
After the play that Judy was part of, they were to simply enjoy the festivities that they had loved in prior years: corn mazes, frozen treats, little nick nacks that came with the sights and sounds of the small attraction.
Neither bunny could have assumed that their class bully would attempt to steal from one of their classmates in broad daylight, and further still, that Judy would confront him about it.
Being empowered by her belief's and her friend encouraging her with their words on bullying and being given the hat, the doe tried to convince Gideon to return the tickets to the sheep named Sharla.
Initially, Judy thought it would go well - she was a cop in training after all - but she quickly found that life didn't always go as planned. For one, the fox didn't 'kindly' like how she 'kindly' told him what to do. He kept the tickets and pushed her to the ground. It was when she retaliated and kicked him that things escalated.
In an instant, Gideon Grey scratched her cheek; three little marks left in wake of the fox's attack.
And as he tried to inform her that a bunny could never become a cop, Jack had found them. He didn't take too 'kindly' to the situation and immediately went for an attack himself.
Practically foregoing all he was taught and going for a straight up fight of endurance, Jack leapt forward and kicked the fox away from his friend. In ensuring that she was okay, he made his first and only mistake: never turn your back to your enemy.
It happened far faster than he could have anticipated, Gideon tackled him to the ground, enraged that not one, but two dumb bunnies tried to get the best of their natural predator. In an assault that not even Judy had withstood, the predator slashed away aimlessly at the bunny who took to trying to defend himself futilely.
What seemed to be hours went on as the fox both assaulted his prey with sharp claws and insulted all prey present with slurs and bullying speech.
But just as Gideon raised his claws again to strike down on the bleeding buck, his paw was seized by a much more powerful force.
Enraged that any should dare attempt to get in the way of his fun, Gideon instinctively bit the unfortunate mammal that tried to stop him. Only... when he felt the slight trickle of blood seep from his fangs as he stared into eyes far fiercer than any predator he had ever seen, he regretted it.
James had stood there, ears pinned and yellow eyes like a solar flare staring down on the insolent pest that didn't know his place. He didn't flinch, didn't move or even breathe as the sharp sting of the fox's fangs began to tremble at the sight before him.
From beyond a point of pain and curled up to shield himself, Jack risked a glance at what caused the break in Gideons's attack. And for a moment... he was both relieved and terrified. Despite Gideon being a fox, James looked otherworldly. He was a bunny true and true, but even with his stripes covered as usual, he looked more like a fierce predator than any he had ever seen.
Gideon had let go after a moment of clarity - a rarity indeed. With the fox running away, James took to assess the damage and get the kits out of there and to their home.
And there was that... noise. A sound that he heard Gideon make every so often. A sound that struck fear into the hearts of prey everywhere. It was as familiar as it was terrifying.
Was dad growling? Jack wondered, his thoughts causing him to freely trace his paw across his shoulder and lightly nick his gauze. He flinched and hissed out of pain, feeling a paw hold him a little tighter, yet all the more reassuringly.
Little tears stung the corner of his eyes. This wasn't supposed to happen to him, to anyone. "I-i hate them!" he spat, shuddering out of fear.
"Who, son?" Though James already knew the answer, he felt as though a lesson could be learned. Not only that, he truly cared about his only child.
Jack sniffled a little, trying to suppress his trembling. He didn't want to be seen as weak."P-predators," he squeaked, straining his voice to make his stance more specific. "F-foxes." It was a fox that attacked him, a fox who insulted him and his friends, and a fox who stole his spy pen years ago.
James feared as much. He wrapped his arm around Jack and sighed. "Now, now, Jack, don't hate someone because of what they are."
This came as a surprise to the bunny kit. He had learned that foxes and rabbits were natural enemies. History said so, the play he went to see said so, and certainly, Gideon said so as well. And yet... here was his father telling him that that wasn't the case.
That couldn't be true. "But I- he-"
"Do you hate Ms. Sunny?"
His father's voice was far softer than he had imagined. It held no fierce weight or heavy tones. It was full of warmth and instruction that Jack loved about having his dad around. It caused him to constantly think and make the world a better place; just like it had done for Judy.
The kits thoughts traced back to the predator in question. Ms. Sunny was a long time friend of theirs and she was always happy to see them. A coyote and a loner, she owned an acre of land that many bunnies actually enjoyed: an archery range. Despite it being more so of a gun range, she gave anyone options to practice their sharp shooting. Barely speaking fluid English, Sunny had always taken to Jack excitedly and toted him around when James told him not to get too close to the range; he could have hurt his ears at his age.
"N-no," Jack shook his head, straining to hold back any pain he could feel. "she's nice and-" He felt his father pat him on his head, he looked up and smiled.
"Gideon is a troubled kit, Jack. I can tell that his upbringing wasn't the best," James explained, mindful of the scars his son would have likely for the rest of his life. "This may be hard for you to understand now, but I know his family doesn't treat him well. I'm sure he's terrified of his father" his tone deepened as he said this and his voice trailed off. He remembered seeing the older tod's actions at the festival, it was anything but pleasant before and after Gideon's attack. Earl Grey had always been a town nuisance.
James knew that Jack wouldn't exactly know what it meant, but he had to do something; it wasn't in his nature to sit by idly. It even showed itself in Jack that protecting what you believe in is admirable, albeit at times foolish.
Tiredly, the kit yawned at his father's side. It had been a long day for him and being stitched up had drained him. "Dad... what happened to mom?"
The first thing Jack expected was some sort of answer, but instead, the deep, cold silence and a long drawn out sigh were all he received.
Still, James was never one to leave things unanswered. "I'll tell you when you're ready," he reassured, shuffling off the bed and allowing his son to rest against the pillow provided to him. "But sleep, for now, Jack."
He wanted to protest, to get some semblance of where his mother was, but he was too tired. Slowly his eyes closed themselves and he drifted off to sleep.
As James pulled a blanket over him to keep him comfortable, he had already determined a path of solutions as to what he'd be doing very soon. Again he sighed.
The doe froze. Not just out of fear of what she had seen, but James now talking to her somewhat worried her. She had seen other bunnies in bad conditions before - mainly older ones as no farm was without accident or incident - but never a kit, and certainly not her friend.
"Y-yes M-mr. James?" she stuttered, finding it difficult to answer the bunny she saw growling at a fox hours ago.
Sensing her trepidation, James moved closer. He knelt down and smiled at her. "There's no need to fear, little one. He's just resting. He'll be okay, trust me."
If there was one thing that she knew about James, it was that he was somehow always right. He was right about the ghost house, about Jack attempting to help fix the car, about her older families Roth IRA plans and such.
James stood up. "Jack will be tired for now... and scared, but it's that fox that I'm worried about."
Curiously, Judy tilted her head. "What will happen to Gideon?" she asked. How could anyone be worried about him when he caused so much pain?
"I'm not sure, Judith. But I'm going to speak to his family with the sheriff present. I could speak to Earl on my own, but this may require the authorities to investigate as well."
Those words excited and worried Judy. She wanted so badly to be a cop, even more than before. Gideon attacking both of them made her far more determined to reach her goal. And not only that, but she was going to be the first bunny cop in all of Zootopia.
Distracted, she didn't even see James walk towards the door. He hesitated with his paw on the door handle when he turned around to see both kits one more time.
"Judy," he spoke calmly, watching her ears turn to him. "Can you do me a favour and watch over him while I'm gone?"
She had rarely been given an order by anyone, and certainly not to guard another bunny. Beaming at the prospect, Judy donned her hat and gave a quick salute and smile to James.
The moment he left, Judy couldn't help but pace around Jack and ensure that no other bunny got too close. Not only that, the simple letter held in her paw encouraged her. It was one last attempt to reach out to her friend after the program was over. It couldn't be sent, but she memorized every word and would always cherish and hold it dear.
Maybe I can give it to them when I get to Zootopia? she mused with a smile as bright as her future.
Nick continued to take deep breaths as he felt coarse brick ruffle against his much softer fur. Never before had the kit been so upset at anything... not since the day his dad was taken away.
And even then, Nick didn't feel as though he was being hunted, chased and ousted by his peers for simply existing. In his anger and sorrow, he glanced at the metal object haphazardly tossed on the ground. Had he had more strength he would have thrown it further, but just the feeling of the that... that cage hurt more than anything he had ever experienced.
Not even Skye accidentally biting him had hurt nearly that much.
And to think that the day went by so well. He and Skye received their gifts from their pen pals just a few days ago, and they weren't disappointed in the least. They could only hope that their friends were excited as well.
Nick received a green scouts hat and a red scarf to boot. He was astounded that the thing fit and the scarf fit comfortably and perfectly! His mother was equally happy as she managed to get him the rest of his Ranger Scout's outfit within days before the scouts were opened.
Skye was happy as well. Her pen pal sent her a small (child safe) multi tool that was wrapped in an off-white coloured cloth. It came with a screwdriver, wrench, pliers, everything but a sharp edge. She was so excited that her mother had to stop her from taking apart the television then and there... she promised she would later, though. And, on top of that, Skye was going to join the girl scouts.
The two foxes had walked to separate buildings not too far away from one another. They knew the area well and promised to tell each other what it was like after their meetings. When they parted, they did so with such a beaming smile that it was impossible to ruin their day.
But here the tod was, crying against the side of a building. The scouts he had so hoped to join that day were not what he had hoped. They were all prey mammals, and that was never a problem to Nick. What was an issue, however, was that they were all bullies.
He choked back a sob as he remembered them pinning him down and shoving a muzzle onto him. He had seen plenty of cop shows and muzzles were only used on bad predators. He had done nothing wrong that he could remember, so why would they use one on him? He had never bitten anyone!
Still, the words they said hurt more: "You thought we could ever trust a fox without a muzzle? You're even dumber than you look!"
He wasn't dumb, he knew what they were saying. And being a fox meant being pushed around and seen as something evil. He and Skye had been bullied by sheep before in their classes, whether pushed around by a ram or insulted by that odd little ewe, they had always been 'those foxes' to them.
And these mammals? They showed that Nick was 'just a fox' to them. Somehow in his panic to leave the building the scout meeting that was held, he managed to pick up his prized hat in panic. He wouldn't let what his friend got him go to waste on these prey that didn't even care.
He had gotten out and raced down the stairs, nearly tripping as he went. He didn't get very far as he hugged the side of the building and removed the wretched muzzle from him... life wasn't fair.
When he heard a shuffle and gasp, Nick looked around, angry as it may have been one of the other scouts to gloat at him. But when he saw a blue and white, he immediately stopped; his eyes went wide in horror.
"S-skye?" It was her alright... but something was off. When they left each other, she wore a bright blue dress and a permanent smile. Now her scout's dress had splotches of dirt and she looked annoyed. And Nick knew that Skye loved to play in the dirt, so something was clearly wrong. "What happened to-"
"I left." her answer was short, and held a sharp tone that she never had before. She folded her arms and pinned her ears to her flat. "Scouts were dumb anyway!"
Nick knew it wasn't true for her. She always talked about getting tons of cookies and fixing machines to make better cookies. She was never upset, and a much happier kit than he ever was. This was not how she ever acted.
Both kits looked at each other before Skye walked up to Nick and offered him her paw. She helped him to his feet and he held dear to the hat he carried with him. They both promised to go home together and they would; the day was ruined.
But before they could take the first step, both foxes looked down the street just beyond the discarded muzzle. Curious, they both tilted their heads at what either could assume was a fox kit much younger than them.
"Who are you?" Nick asked, moments before Skye moved forward to inspect the odd fellow with large ears and a toothy grin.
Even in opposition your dreams can grow
You have no idea of how hard it is to write Skye the way she is... And no, she's not illiterate or dumb, she just writes really fast and sloppily and can't spell well... it's supposed to be like my writng at her age. Also, it took me 5 whole seconds to come up with her pen name.
And this is the last chance to guess as to what the single plant term is that Judy and Jack know of. It is a garland, and it represents... something. Judy almost got the term right last chapter when she put it on Nick's head. What does it all mean? You'll have to wait until next chapter! The prize is still available to the first one to get it right before then. ^_^
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Till Next Time
Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams, encourage your ideas,
support your ambitions, and bring out the best in you."
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
It was drizzly outside. The kind of day in late fall that brought about a dreary mugginess to the atmosphere while somehow bringing it to full life with glints and glimmers of orange sunshine. Puddles of water greeted new drops each second while forming a calm, subtle ambiance with the roll of thunder above.
On days like this, many would seek shelter inside from the elements; getting one's fur wet was a hassle. The humidity alone would send some mammals into a frenzy while they avidly shook themselves dry. But yet... there were a few who enjoyed - or were forced to endure- the simple things such as a fall rain.
Hurried footfalls stamped in newly forming puddles as the skulk of foxes made their way to their 'usual' spot. Paws full of their varying gains, each of them bore smiles on their muzzles. The roll of thunder caused their ears to perk up just as an old bridge came into view, the first few drops of rain promising an even greater torrent in its wake.
"Hurry up, Nicky!" shouted the vixen of their group, awkwardly teetering with a mass of stuff blocking her view. Despite her clumsy sprint, she was still somehow ahead of the other two.
"Yeah Nick, move it!" followed the voice of a fox hidden under a small moving container. Though it was bigger than him - and surprisingly heavier, which tended to impress many mammals - the fennec fox managed to high tail it to the bridge just as the skies opened.
Mumbling as he was 'forced' to carry most of their stuff, the taller todd trudged his way to the tunnel, sticking to even strides as he felt the ground crumble underneath his footpads. He grit his teeth and stared at the other two safely comforted under the shelter that the bridge had to offer.
Fresh drops of rain stung his eyes and he tried to shake it off. "You guys could help, you know!" He had been annoyed as of late, and the help would be much appreciated.
Peering ahead as he started to become soaked, Nick watched the two give him awkward stares. Of the two, the small one, Finnick, would likely not help to any degree. It wasn't that they didn't get along - they were all good friends - but he was more so the kind that always wanted a favour in return for his service.
The little fox smiled, ruffling his small red striped black shirt. "For yo' share, I'd help." He added to his idea of 'help' by pointing at the box and licking his chops; Nick grunted.
Not a moment later, he thought of the other, his best friend since forever. Maybe she'll help? He wondered, now only meters away; passing by a budding purple flower as his exhaustion claimed him. But then, in his mind, he knew she wouldn't. For the vixen was always, always-
She smirked, swishing her tail. "Well, I would. But only if you pay me in two pawpsicles."
-ALWAYS had her mind on food, period. It was a miracle that she was still skinny from all the food she voraciously ate.
Nick's muzzle pinched. She's not getting my share this time. We don't have that many left, and she ate three on the way here.
Finally getting out of the sudden downpour, Nick made it under the bridge as a curtain of rain fell on both sides of the bridge. He set the bag down to the side of the tunnel and started shaking himself off. The other two foxes shielded themselves from his faux attack and laughed.
"Yo' watch the waterworks, Nick!" Finnick shouted, shaking his ears as he hated getting them wet to any degree. Being smaller and mostly ears, they were his pride and joy.
Skye only giggled. She knew full well that her mother wouldn't approve of her getting her dress dirty or dingy, but she loved playing in the rain so it didn't do anything to deter her. Besides, water was just warm ice, the same kind of ice she had been waiting for since her last pawpsicle.
Finished, Nick wiped off as much water as he could from his small Pawaiian shirt, the one his mom got him recently. He sighed in relief and looked around. It wasn't much: a drafty old tunnel that used to be part of a ravine in the old wharf. Its faded stone was etched with graffiti, and the grass outside on the hill was littered with old forgotten relics and garbage that made it look unsavory.
To many, it may have seemed like a dump, a heap of a lost world doomed to rot until the city decided to renovate it. However, to three young foxes, it was a home away from home; their safe haven not too far from their residences, but away from the eyes of their parents and strangers alike. Here, they could be free, talk about anything they wanted outside of school and home where few understood them. No mammal went there for anything as the place was a part of the abandoned section of the city.
The patter of rain bringing soft ambiance with the claps of distant thunder lulled them into a passive silence. But not for long, they all came here to enjoy their time together.
It was Skye who moved first. Striding over to the stuff she set down, she pulled out a small radio that she had fixed months ago. It wasn't anything large or fancy, just some old paw sized AM/FM thing she proudly refurbished with some spare parts. Clicking it on and adjusting it to one of their favourite stations, she set it down and they all listened in and relaxed.
'~and you're listening to 'All Things Considered' on FPR. Coming up next: The Trans Siberian Orchestra~'
Finnick went to open the box he carried with him: a small styrofoam cooler that they had acquired recently. Not more than the second he placed his paws on it did he hear - and also feel - the vixen standing behind him eagerly. Rolling his eyes, he stared up at her.
"You ain't do nothin' but eat our profit today, y'know?" he informed, popping open the lid and watching Skye's paw reach in to grab her frozen treat first. He knew he couldn't stop her no matter what he did. If she wanted food, then she would get it.
"I did all the acting, so I get more." said the vixen with an already reddish tint to her muzzle. She was on the verge of reaching for another one when Fin hopped up to grab his and Nick's.
While he was fumbling with the bag he set down, Nick watched the two others. When he saw Finnick rear up to throw his share his way, Nick stopped and stood up. Ambling to see where it was going to land, the tod nearly tripped on a raised patch of ground but managed to catch the thing in his paws. He smirked as the flustered vixen narrowed her icy blue eyes at him. "Thanks, Skye. Sharing is caring, you know," said Nick, sarcasm somehow woven in just a few words.
Already finished with her fourth one (first one since they got there) the arctic fox grimaced. "Fin, are there any more?" she asked, sifting through the ice and hoping to find at least one last stick before their day ended.
Taking his time to shrug and enjoy his part, Finnick grunted, "No." He didn't really care too much, the day was over and this was his time to chill.
Distraught, Skye looked around, desperate for her fix of sugar and ice. Her eyes landed on the only remaining two: Nick's and Finnick's. Taking that into account, if she wanted one more, it'd have to be one of them, and Fin wasn't one to give up so easily. There was only one option.
An air of silence fell upon them as the vixen pinned down her ears, looked right at Nick('s pawpsicle), and gave a low, pleading whine. Her lip quivered. "Nicky... there aren't any left."
The tod in question raised a brow at her, he knew all of her tricks by now. She somehow managed to outsmart him on an almost daily basis, and he never won any bets against her; not a single one. There was the one where she somehow figured out jellybeans in a jar and she bet she'd get it right against him, then there was the one where she bet that he couldn't climb a tree faster, a ton of math tests, races and other petty contests galore. In fact, he only managed to beat her scores in anything she didn't bet, which were her weak points.
And this vixen had a few massive weak points that he could exploit. Her flaws etched in his mind made her seem like puddy in his paws, he could easily turn this around. "Well, Skye," he began, drawling his words while flicking his wrist, a single red drop flying away. "I'll give you this one for your share next time and if you promise to do my math homework."
Nick watched Skye's face drop along with her arms and tail, yet his expression brightened; math was her strongest point, and his was literature. "So, what'll it be?"
She paused for a moment, eyes still pleading and lips pursed to say anything to help. "But Nicky, you owe me," she said, sniffling and shuffling closer, something that Nick saw all too late.
The vixen pounced at him knowing all too well that Nick wouldn't fall for it this time as he had done so before. Even in their lunch times at school, she managed to nab his food with little or no effort due to her 'sad fox' act. And it wasn't like she didn't have food or money to buy food, but she just liked having more where it was convenient.
So here she was, wrestling her best friend to the ground over his share of pawpsicles while the fennec fox laughed so hard he fell off the cooler he sat on. Had you told Nick that this would be how his day went in the end... he'd believe you. His friends were just like that.
Amidst the haste and flurry of the scuffle, Nick soon found himself flat on his back and empty pawed while a heavy force rested on his chest. It didn't take a scholar to see that Skye had won both the match and her prize.
Mockingly, she held the raspberry flavoured plunder aloft and looked down at Nick. "HA! Pinned ya'!" she shouted victoriously, maw wide and licking her chops.
Nick wouldn't have any of this. "Skye, let me up," he requested, struggling to roll to the side to get her off of him. He managed to shove her off surprisingly quickly, finding strength from out of nowhere. He stood up, feeling no pressure on him until he realized the stance she took.
Wide eyed and horrified as he was met with a crouching red-stained white fox, Nick tried to gasp, but instead felt her tackle him again. Falling and rolling with her to the ground, Nick had little leeway to say anything without getting a mouth full of dirt and stray pebbles.
When Nick could no longer feel momentum this time, he blinked and felt an immeasurable number or rocks threaten to poke at his lungs. With the pressure now on his back, he only sighed.
"Pinned ya' again!" the vixen boasted triumphantly, enjoying her new throne as she waved at the only member of the crowd.
Cackling at the spectacle as he was, Finnick somehow managed to stand and wipe a tear from his eye. "What's wrong, Nick? Can't beat your girlfriend?!" he bellowed, nearly toppling over again from how Nick never really could beat the Skye, she was too energetic despite being slightly smaller than him.
"She's not my girlfriend!" Nick wheezed, attempting to push off the ground to no avail. "Skye, can you get off now?"
She hummed. "Nu-uh."
He huffed. "Skye!"
Just as he called to her again, he felt her lift her weight off of him. Relieved, he started to get up until she came crashing down.
"Say uncle!" the arctic fox commanded with a gleeful smile.
Nick couldn't fathom why she did this but didn't want to stay there too long. So, in order to retaliate, he gave her a piece of his mind. "I don't-oof," His point of view failed, he didn't stand a chance. "I don't have an unc-AH!"
"Oh," Halting her bouncing on his back, she mulled over this. Though she only wanted him to say the word, it didn't seem right to attack him if he didn't have an uncle. "Then say, auntie!"
Immediately, she resumed.
Through pained breaths, Nick explained, "I don-ueh! Have an aunt-EEH!"
Moments passed as the vixen got bored and stood to assist Nick back to his feet. Helping him dust off, she hoped that he learned some weird, unknowable lesson from the exchange.
Now with them all calmed down and the hiss of the radio playing a steady stream of classical music and news, they had a moment to simply talk. They'd share stories, their points of view from experiences, happenings in their lives, all the good natured things of their friendships.
And this time, it was Finnick's turn to share.
"I tell ya' that ol' goat didn't know what to think," Finnick recalled, gesticulating his best with what was left of the pawpsicle in his paw as the other two sat and giggled at their finest work. "She was all: 'Young man, you need to watch out for your family and raise your son to be a good citizen and the ZPD is always lookin' out for folks and bla, bla, bla-" he mocked, though his deep voice didn't match up with the elderly ewe at all.
He, of course, was talking about the little after school activity they had been doing as of late: their game, their lot in life.
It didn't take them long to figure out the rules of the city and all three of them being so close in age - Nick and Skye at the young age of eleven while Finnick was just a few years older - they came up with a plan. Using their unique looks and respective roles in society, they forged a quick scheme to get what they wanted from unknowing mammals.
Most citizens couldn't differentiate the age of foxes their size, most prey anyway; their growth spurts helped. So, to take advantage of the more, as Finnick put it, 'sentimental' folks, they used their wit and prowess that their species was renown for. Ever the sly foxes, they had started hustling.
Fin looked out to the drizzling rain and continued with a huff, "What's funny 'bout her was she thought we was family,"
Neither Skye nor Nick could stop laughing as they remembered it all easily: their 'family' hustle. However, they didn't see the somber expression on Finnick's muzzle.
What they did was have Skye and Fin go up to unsuspecting prey with panicked expressions in their eyes. She'd tell them that Fin's father just left them and they were trying to find him. Dressed in his elephant pajamas, Fin would coo and make noises that sounded like he was worried about his 'papa'.
With Nick somewhere nearby and waiting, Skye would wander around strategically until she spotted him. Then whatever mammal joined them would talk to Nick. He'd explain that he lost his job and can't support a whole family on one income. Sometimes they scolded him for leaving, but many times they were surprisingly compassionate. Either way, they'd hand him something for his troubles and leave him with advice about staying together as a family.
Their most recent patsy was some meter-maid that they had found. While a little old for her position, she had been all too sweet in her approach. Never once did she yell at any of them about mistakes and what not, rather, she sympathized with them and said that this was her lot in life and she actually enjoyed it; sans Sahara Square in the summer. All in all, she said that she was happy to see such mammals make it this far, and she even gave all three of them complimentary ZPD stickers before telling them that anyone can be anything. Oddly enough, they all kept them when she bid them farewell and safe travels.
After, they split up their earnings and bought a few things with it. While not always much, it was enough to get them a cooler, some new stuff and definitely pawpsicles; if Skye didn't eat them all.
"Yeah," the vixen added, catching her breath. "And this family sticks together like layers of a cake."
Nick rolled his eyes. "Is cake all you ever think about?"
Not waiting to breathe, Skye nodded. She stood proudly and tutted, "Only if it's made by the renown chef-"
Nick and Finnick grumbled. "Chef, Gordon Ramsay. We get it!"
Though she looked surprised, the two tod's shook their heads. She spoke of the goat quite often and how her mom let her watch his tv shows. Always making something interesting whether it was cake or not, the guy cussed like a sailor - though it was censored for the viewing of a younger audience - and made incredible dishes. What she liked most was that he primarily lived in Zootopia, and it was her fervent dream to meet him.
"Yep! And I'm gonna marry him," she added.
Fin raised a brow at this. "You know he's in his thirties, right?"
While true, it wouldn't deter her. "Well, when I'm older, he'll marry me, and make me lots of cake and we'll own our own restaurant."
It was Nick's turn to try and dismantle her nonsense. "He's married, and he owns restaurants."
Again true, the vixen was left with what should have been a situation that she shouldn't touch. However, Skye wasn't one to give up so easily. "Well then, he'll have to get married again!" she shouted, adamant that he'd be her personal chef at least.
Not trying to argue, Nick rolled his eyes and listened to the music change. That's not how that works, Skye...
Her rant over, they came to a lull in waiting. Fin hopped down to rummage through the bags while the others thought of something to do out of boredom and in the shelter. Placing his paw on the goods he acquired, he chuckled and presented them. "YO! Kiddies!" he shouted, watching them turn to him with fascination. "Look what I got!"
Nick tilted his head. "Uh... what is it?"
Fin hastily tore open the packet, taking a small green stick in one and flicking the lighter with the other.
"Smokes," the little fox answered, holding a shiny, silver box in one paw and a small carton in the other. "Got 'em off my Pops!"
He lit up one of the sticks, watching it burn a deep ashen orange colour. Taking one puff, a deep breath of the intoxicating thing, Fin started coughing. Ears flopping and lungs burning, he tried to speak but wheezed instead; he'd try again in a second.
"My tutor and her husband moved to Bunnyburrow today,"
Broken from his thoughts by the mention of Skye's tutor, Nick listened a little more. As long as he had known her, he had never met the mammal unfortunate enough to train this monster of a vixen. Yet, from what Nick heard from her constant teachings, they were very diligent in helping. She told him about her tutor's mate, a wolf, but... she wasn't one? She never did say what she was, or figure it out even from the constant reminders.
"Mom says that's where she and Gramma used to live," Nick looked on, she swished her tail and smiled. "He was really nice, he helped us when we moved before, and he got me a bike for my birthday," her tone took a bit of a dive and her tail halted altogether. Nick remembered that birthday well, she bragged on and on about her shiny new blue bike and how some cop gave it to her. He got to see her (attempt to) ride it only to fall off half a dozen times in front of her panicked father. "I wish they could stay, they just... said it wasn't safe here anymore," she added, drawing a little in the dirt.
Nick hummed. Things were getting somewhat out of paw as they heard over the news: predators attacking prey for no reason, climate wall issues, poverty on the rise. It was a lot for them to take in, but they were glad to have each other in the midst of all this mess. And, of course, everything that they wanted was just over the horizon. Not just metaphorically as Skye wanted to go around and build random things when she got older, but Nick was looking forward to high school. He really wanted to follow in the pawprints of his-
"Dad-" Nick whispered, shuddering when the sole word slipped from his lips.
"Huh?" Nick blinked, Skye was practically in his face; blue eyes curiously glimmering with mischief. "What did you say you got?"
"I... mom said I can go see dad soon. In a few months."
Both of the foxes with him halted - Finnick more so trying to catch his breath after another puff.
Skye's jaw hung on hinges. "You can?!" While she hadn't known his father at all, she had heard of him from time to time when her parents and Marian spoke of him here and there. Stories about the tod turned tailor always had her wondering, "What's he look like?"
Thankful that they didn't notice the streak falling from his cheek, Nick shrugged. "I don't know. Mom said he might be getting better, but she doesn't know yet."
He swished his tail along side her as they watched the autumn rain pass them by. The sky grew a little darker with each passing moment, but they were happy to spend every second together.
Judy idly kicked her feet from the low hanging branch of the tree she sat on. Ruffling her plaid shirt tipping her straw hat, she looked out over the field under the late afternoon sun and sighed in relief, basking in all the glory nature had to offer. Clear skies, glistening grass after a fall drizzle that made everything seem brighter as it was a promise itself, it was beautiful; she couldn't be happier.
"So, what do you want to do now, Jack?" she asked, never looking down at the other bunny who smiled warmly at the pair of mammals sitting at one of the benches. Though quiet as he was, the buck was just as adventurous as Judy.
He fiddled around with the small knife he examined thoroughly. Sheathing and unsheathing it, balancing it, and smoothing his paw over the finished surface of the handle before he answered, "I don't know. You?"
A quick shrug and an "I dunno," was Judy's response. They had both been brought out here by Jack's father, James, as he said he urgently needed to speak to his friend, the owner of the range itself, Sunny. Of course, Jack wanted to be practically everywhere his father was, but Judy only really wanted to go explore because it was a lazy day at home, and her chores were done.
So here they were, trying to keep from boredom. James told them to stay out of trouble while he spoke to the coyote in somewhat open privacy; the outlet being closed for the day somewhat hastily so they could converse. Neither of them could hear what was being said, but the elder buck seemed quite animated in his conversation. With just them and various things littering the table space between them - a cup of water for James, some spare weapons that needed cleaning and a small silver flask - the coyote glanced at them every now and again between sips and stray words with either a confused look or a forced smirk.
They couldn't understand what it was about, but it was so long a conversation that they had already exhausted every possible form of entertainment. From acrobatics, tree climbing, running, I spy, and tons of other things that they did in the nearly two hours since they had been there; it had all been done.
Judy hummed a tune. "Wanna play cops and robbers again?"
Happy as she was, bored bunnies were generally destructive. They were both high energy creatures and it was high time that they tried something to end this tedious trip. Besides, she was going to be a cop one day, even if her parents told her that it was impossible for a bunny to be such a thing. She would go for her dream no matter what, chasing an invisible bad guy was fun.
Though he really wanted to be part of the adult conversation, he had to sit this one out. He loved mimicking the things his father did, and even always wore a suit like him. Granted that he was given the little knife as a gift from his father - a smaller version of James' own as he was deemed responsible enough from even from his begging - he had other things in mind than some silly game. "I've got a better idea."
The glint of adventure shimmering in his eyes, he stood and pointed out to the gun-range itself. Jack nodded towards it and waved Judy to follow. "I wanna try something," he informed, already starting to sprint. "Maybe dad will let us join him and Ms. Sunny after this."
Not arguing, but simply smiling, Judy leapt down from the branches. A good eight feet or so up, she held onto her hat and stuck the landing. Chuckling to herself as that's what cops did on a daily basis, she made mental notes about every little thing she did to train herself in order to become one of Zootopia's finest when she finally got there. Everything from her longer sprinting sessions, to climbing everything in sight, she would be ready.
When she got down and saw Jack already halfway there, she giggled and followed. The lull in their stay and the conversation between the two adults becoming more animated, they were practically invisible in the empty range. When Judy caught up to him, Jack was standing at one of the booths, the one his father had occupied just before he went to speak to Sunny. A vastly familiar sight, Judy could have sworn that it was James himself standing there, albeit a little smaller.
The second she heard a click and watched Jack's paws smooth over a shiny metal object, she froze. "What are you doing?!" she asked, panicked as Jack held a gun, inspecting it while his brightened yellow eyes looked out at the targets at a distance.
"I'm gonna shoot one."
Logically, it didn't make sense to Judy. "You're gonna get in trouble," she argued, recalling every cop show that she had ever seen; it never ended well for anyone with weapons.
He glanced over to the doe. "I've seen dad do this a thousand times already. If I can get one target, then maybe he'd let us join him and Ms. Sunny."
Judy had to think. Well... Mr. James does come here a lot with Jack. And if I can learn a lot of cop stuff from watching them and the Sherrif, then maybe he can hit one? Adjusting her straw hat and tipping it in approval, Judy stood back. If there was one thing that she had learned from being around bunnies and guns, it was that you should stay away from one firing one.
Thankful that Judy was on board, Jack continued his inspection of the weapon: his father's gun. It was bigger than he had imagined as he never held a gun in his life, but only seen James wield the thing with precision and expertise. Roughly the length of his arm, the burnished black weapon shimmered and glinted under sunlight; he could practically see his reflection in the engraving on either side. He had admired it since the first time he was allowed to see it in action, taking down targets at a distance with sheer force and a loud crack. And though he asked his father what was scribbled on the side, he was never told what it meant.
Taking a deep breath, Jack went over the things his father told him, those little life lessons he had deemed 'nevers' since long ago.
There were several 'nevers' that the young buck was taught in the course of his short time. Never hit a girl because you'll find a wife to love one day. Never stop trying because you can always find a way. Never go to bed angry because you'll stay awake and frustrate yourself. Never let hatred consume you because life is short. And, most importantly, never stop dreaming.
All of these he took to heart. However, there were even more 'nevers' about weapon use. They were much shorter and to the point than any others. Never aim a weapon at anyone unless it's to protect those that you love, never harm someone that's innocent, never use a weapon that's unfamiliar to you, never forget to keep whatever weapon you have somewhere safe, never forget to use the safety features of a weapon, never hold a weapon the wrong way, never try to use a weapon in one paw that's meant for two paws...
And the thing about those 'nevers' is that they were meant for the knives that his dad had. He had told him to specifically never, ever use a gun until he was much older; at least 16 in fact.
But he had to prove to his dad that he was ready.
He had seen him at the range countless times before, constantly watching him, scrutinizingly eyeing each and every minute detail.
So while James idly chatted with Sunny about this and that, Jack knew he could prove that he - being an eleven year old at the top of his class, and being called 'practically an adult' by so many - could at least shoot one of the many targets in the distance. That's what the range was for, right?
He looked at the weapon in his paw, smoothing over its surface as if it were a precious stone, he was ready.
If dad can shoot one of them, then so can I, he prepared himself mentally, taking the stance that James did so many times. And with the weapon in his capable paws, he went over his checklist.
Stance, He planted his feet firmly, anchoring himself to the ground. Check.
Peering ahead, he narrowed his eyes on the row of water jugs sitting on a fence line. Check.
He did just that, remembering to hold it with two paws like his father did. Check.
He took a deep breath, trying to still his paw. Check.
, Jack pulled the trigger, bracing himself in excitement for the target to be eliminated... but nothing happened. Believing it to be a fluke or that he didn't pull the trigger far enough, Jack tried again... yielding the same result twice, three times, four-
Okay, something's wrong. Immediately, he scratched his head with his free paw and tried to figure it out. Maybe it's stuck? Thinking that it was one of the only options, he started to flip the weapon around, but a voice in his mind stopped him.
NEVER, EVER LOOK DOWN THE BARREL OF A GUN, EVER ! CHECK. THE. CHAMBER!
It was as if his father was standing over him, shouting instructions, and James rarely yelled anything; certainly not at him. He couldn't suppress the shudder, his ears stood on end. So taking the voice's advice, he did just that and checked the chamber of the gun. There was a bullet there.
Sighing and shaking his head as he avoided something potentially deadly, he tried to figure out what may have been wrong with his father's weapon that was in perfect working order just a while ago. And when he went over the list again, he nearly face pawed.
Check the safety...
Doing so, he found it to be on; he switched it off.
Flustered that he didn't remember that, he went through his previous motions of his stance, his target, and drawing the now 'unsafe' weapon. Jack stilled himself and aimed at the soon to be obliterated water jug and smiled. Dad's gonna be so proud.
This time, when he pulled the trigger, several things happened. The loud boom of the weapon stung his sensitive bunny ears, the force of the weapon's kickback caused his arms to fly up as he couldn't counterbalance, and the world spun until he was facing the sky.
Through the ringing of his ears and dizziness, he blinked to see a pair of yellow eyes staring at him. While clearly furious, they were also full of fatherly concern. And at first, he tilted his head to understand what the bunny was saying, it soon came to him that his father was speaking.
"Jackson Percival Leaper!" James shouted again, cradling his son completely disregarding the haphazardly discarded weapon. "What on earth do you think you're doing?! Didn't I tell you to never-"
"D-did I get one?" asked Jack, rubbing his ears as the ringing dissipated. He didn't really understand what the big deal was, but if he could make his father proud, then it was all worth it.
James stopped. He looked over to the row of targets and found that one of them had literally exploded; a container that once held a gallon of water was reduced to nothing. He sighed, Just let him have this one while he can. "That you did, Jackson."
Through his headache, Jack smiled and turned to the rather sheepish looking doe. "Judy! Did you see that? I got one"
James mumbled something, picking Jack off the ground and carried him over to the table. "Judith, I want you and Jack to stay here with Sunny for a moment," he informed before walking back to the range to retrieve his weapon. Never before had he been so lax in his judgment that Jack was able to procure his weapons. You can't make mistakes like this, not when it's about Jack. Remember, what you came out here for, you have to be ready for everything. It's for his safety, he can't go with you this time.
Gritting his teeth in response to his own thoughts, he picked up his weapon and smoothed over its engraving, sighing in remembrance taking its words to heart.
'Vive quasi cras et non morieris in manibus eius'
Emptying the clip and putting the safety back on, he then stood to go retrieve the two bunnies to take back home. Being charged with watching over Judy, James was happy to do so. She was an orderly kit, much different from her littermates with the exception of Juniper. And though the youngest - born several minutes after the rest of her litter - she was the most promising of them. James was glad that Jack had a friend like her, he'd need such a bond soon.
He closed his eyes. It's for the best.
When he looked over to the mammals at the table, one little detail had his hackles raised all over again from Jack's gun fiasco. He was wobbling while his coyote caretaker laughed and the other bunny looked nearly as furious as he did. The little silver container was in Jack's paws.
"SUNNY!" he shouted, sprinting over to assess the damage that an unsupervised kit could do with an equally irresponsible mess of a tipsy canid. "What in the HE-" He stopped, carefully looking at Judy who stared back at him with a near matching rage. He had to be mindful of his words around such impressionable youth. Composing himself to what little degree he could, he stomped up to her, she was in heaps of trouble. "What do you think you're giving my son?"
Sunny smiled, adjusting her grey tank top and smoothing out her sweatpants."Is alright. See?" She pat Jack on the back and grinned. "No more headache."
James saw, alright. He saw his son giddily swaying, paws clasped on the flask and blinking every few seconds. In the literal seconds that he left him in Sunny's (less than) capable paws, she gave him alcohol. He rushed over and took it away, angrily sealing it and setting it down. He was about to scold his friend when Judy stepped in.
"You're under arrest!" the doe shouted, taking a firm stance and placing her paws on her hips. This stance was one that she took straight from an episode of 'Paw and Order' when they had one mammal cornered.
James and Sunny raised their brows. "Charges, malen'kiy priyatel'?" asked the coyote, her Prussian accent thick as she lauged; Judy tipped her hat.
The doe never understood what she was saying, but went with it anyway. "Under Bunnyburrow law, you are prohibited from the creation, consumption, and distribution of alcohol for minors under any circumstances," she informed, going over the law as much as she remembered. Reading was her favourite thing to do aside from exercise, and with the study that they had at home as well as their school library, she knew as much law as some adults. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be held against you in the court of law."
James couldn't help but smile. She will make a fine cop one day. Her parents should let her at least try, she's more mature than some of her siblings... He cut his eyes to the coyote now clapping.And definitely Sunny.
Taking no heed to the crowd, Judy seized the coyote's paw and grunted; she didn't even resist her arrest. "Um... do I call the Sherrif?"
Feigning her would be 'arrest' Sunny's lip quivered. "Oh no, olen' will take me away," she mocked with a wink and swish of her tail. "Maybe lock me in room with him?"
All James could do was rub his sore temples. It was no secret that Sunny was a bit of a flirt, especially when inebriated. In fact, twice in their short conversation, she played off crude jokes in an attempt to fluster the bunny. While it would take far more than that to get under his fur, he felt sorry for the poor Sherrif when he had to show up.
"No, Judith. Leave her be for now."
Bewildered by her caretaker, Judy stammered, "But I.. she just-"
"Trust me, Judy, he'll be busy with his new recruit," James inclined, already gathering their things and carefully lifting his half sleep son. He shuddered to think of the wolf he had met earlier that day and how... overtly adoring he was of his wife; a very polite thylacine. He even showed him hundreds (if not thousands)of photos of them together in awkward places; an arctic fox kit showed up every now and again. "And Sunny," James continued, watching her shrug the incident off nonchalantly. "I'll take care of it, Judy."
In the clear, the canid stood, nearly stumbling as she asked, "Need ride?"
Not bothering to turn back as he waved Judy along, James smirked and responded, "No, but you might."
He and the two bunnies disappeared down the road long before the coyote realized that he had taken her keys.
It was clear outside. The kind of day in early spring that brought about the crisp, clean feeling of everything being birthed anew. Flowers danced and basked in the late afternoon sunlight. Not a single puddle was in sight despite the age old adage of spring showers.
The sound of well-paced footfalls made their way to the bridge become safe haven to the trio of foxes. Each one bearing both somber looks and baggage of some kind. They were much slower today than they had been in a while despite the clear, unmuddied terrain; each of them had reasons of why.
When they finally sat down to set up their temporary encampment, it was far quieter than any of them realized. Their usual raucous was replaced by the monotonous work of unpacking.
Skye pulled out her radio, fumbling with a piece that had to be taped back together. It had certainly seen better days, but now wasn't one of them. It hissed as it whistled to life.
'~and you're listening to 'All Things Considered' on FPR. Coming up next: Issues around the city with our newly appointed Chief of Police, Aonghus Bogo~'
Nick went to busy himself by helping a rather tired looking Finnick by opening the cooler. And while their normal was for the arctic fox to rush in and grab her share, she patiently waited for Nick to hand her one of the three pawpsicles that they bought minutes ago.
They sat in silence. Their skulk didn't make nearly as much that day; spare change in comparison to the previous months. Even in the winter time, they had something that they could glean off of whenever they hustled. Today, it was bare bones for all of them; the hustle didn't go by nearly as well as before. Nick was scolded by some prey, and Skye was berated for having a kit at such a young age. They didn't know that Finnick was older than her.
By the time they had finished with their little snack and were reared to talk, their enthusiasm died. It was that kind of day; that kind of week.
Their radio spoke for them.
'~Thank you, Fabian. It's been the priority of the ZPD to keep the city safe from all manner of crime and danger no matter what.~'
Nick was only passively listening. Last night for him was exhausting and he just wanted a reprieve. Yet, he was more so worried about the vixen among them. She hadn't been to school that day and barely spoke during their act. It came as a surprise to Nick when he looked for her in the classroom and saw no sign of the fox at all. Finnick didn't go to the same school as them - he barely mentioned a school at all actually - so he never really worried about him.
And even though he was gripped with his own troubles, he had to cheer her up. "Skye?" He pat her shoulder, breaking her out of her stupor, her icy blue eyes far duller than they should be. That's not a good sign. "What's wrong?"
It had been the question on both of the tod's minds since their hustle. She seemed so... distant. Not only that but rather than the dress that her mom tried to get her to wear usually, she was fitted with her favourite Cosmos Corsac shirt. The same one she had begged and pleaded for from their beloved tv show.
She pursed her lips to speak, huffing and tugging on her shirt to compose herself. "W-we're moving... to Tundra Town."
'~With the recent attacks and outbreaks, we can only assume that it's some sort of virus that's plaguing our city.~'
If Nick wasn't already shocked by her mannerism's earlier - no taking his pawpsicle, tackling him, trying to eat some unfortunate bug - then he was now. "Again?! But... why? Why do-"
She stood up and yelled, "They took my bike!"
It all fell silent for a moment, save for the background hiss of the talk show.
'~We don't know why it's only affecting predators, but rest assured, we're doing the best that we can as quickly as we're able.~'
Breathing heavily, Skye tried to calm down... but she couldn't stand to look at them. "Why do people just do that?" Her arms clasped around her involuntarily, her tail had a mind of its own to do the same thing. "We didn't do anything. We've never taken anything from anyone."
Nick stayed silent, he remembered it all too well. It wasn't the first time that their family had been through this sort of heinous act before, and he wasn't too sure it would be the last with the way Zootopias predator neighbourhoods were crumbling; he was thankful that it wasn't his family.
She began to shudder. "I... I don't wanna go, Nicky," she sniffled, looking everywhere but at them. "I don't want to leave. You're family to me, both of you."
As she said this, Nick's mind began to reel at the word 'family'. His paw jittered. "I know what it's like, Skye. I... I didn't want to leave either, but I had to."
This had the vixen somewhat more upset. "But how could you?! You've been in the same house since forever!" she bared her teeth on the verge of tears.
It took more than just his sheer willpower for Nick not to tremble. He made a promise to himself, one that Fin told him long ago. Never let them see that they get to you.
"It wasn't there that I had to leave from," He took a deep breath, distrusting himself to lock eyes with any of his friends. "I... saw dad last night,"
The second his muzzle closed, he regretted the words it had spewn out. Knowing full well what the others would ask, he took the simplest option to ease his pain: show them. Before a single peep was said, Nick slowly - morosely even - took his paw and reached into his shirt pocket. Pulling out a simple folded picture, he sighed. One glance at it had him re-thinking his own visit, but he didn't care.
Smoothing it out and handing it over to Skye and Finnick, Nick turned to the open tunnel again and watched as a gentle breeze swayed a little purple flower in the distance.
With his ears focused on them, he wasn't surprised to hear one of them - he didn't really seem to notice which one - asked him what he had dreaded since that morning, "What's that?"
He didn't want to look back at it, he had it engraved in his mind all day. Though the picture was somewhat grainy and out of focus, it was easy to tell what it was. There was Nick standing in front of a glass pane, eyes wide and terrified while he tried to stay focused on the camera, but failed. It wasn't hard to see why he looked that way as a near creature like fox stood behind him, in tattered clothes, fervently scratching at the glass wall that separated them. It bore its teeth hungrily and its slit-like eyes reflected from the flash of light.
Not hearing a response from their friend, the two foxes stood on either side of Nick. Wordlessly, they all huddled together at the mouth of the tunnel. So short were the days, and so long were their troubles that all they could do was enjoy each others company in small moments and share their memories as boundless as their dreams. Whether in Zootopia, or anywhere else.
'~These are trying times indeed. We don't have many details on what's been happening, and even with some of the older cases, we have no full answer. So I encourage each and every citizen not to jump to conclusions and panic. And with a tenth of our police force being made of predatory mammals, I know it draws worry, but until we're able to figure out something, we're relying on everyone to inform us of incidents. Whether officers of the ZPD or citizens, it's everyone's duty to help one another. It takes all of us to make a difference in this city.~'
Judy trotted down the hallway of the Warren as quietly as possible; practically tip-toeing to not make any noise. She had become really good at it over the past few months leading up to her and Jack turning twelve. With the heavy spring rains, the buck and doe were forced to spend the remainder of their day inside; Bonnie and Stu didn't like their kits playing out in the rain too much. "Ounce of prevention," they said.
While she didn't like it much, she was more so worried that this gloomy day may just have been the even more heartbreaking for her friend. Since the sun didn't shine on what should have been a bitter-sweet day, it seemed to have affected him even more.
Nary a bunny was in sight save for the few scampering here and there in and out of this door and down that hall. None took notice of Judy as she hopped, padded and slunk her way to the end of the hall and to the entrance of a communal burrow. While it was far different from hers - the barracks for now until she became a little older and could get something of a dorm or a low chance at her own personal room - the communal's had always interested her. Instead of one large space that they shared everything in, they had a living room to share and their own personal bedrooms.
It was still nearly impossible to get your own bathroom save for her parents, visiting guests, and the elderly, but it was nice not to be suffocated in the sea of fluff every now and again. Yet... even then, it was nice to be around others.
He may have wanted to be alone, but he needs a friend now. she reassured herself, bracing for any sort of emotions her friend could have the second she opened the door. She even came prepared with snacks for the two of them hidden away under her hat: a carrot for her, and a parsnip for him.
When Judy opened the door, the warmth of the inner hall greeted her first. Not that the hallways were drafty, but it was a lot warmer in closed spaces than long halls.
Almost nervously, Judy jolted her head in every direction hoping to see the downtrodden rabbit. She was met with the local ambiance of the room and plush decor. Soft bristled carpet lined the floor and was occupied by a few recliners and couches. A small, wireless stereo system sat on a vanity in the corner while FPR played in the background. An empty game table sat in the back and gleamed with dim light. And though there was a single wall mounted tv, it didn't usually bother a lot of bunnies when it came to entertainment.
Still, even with all the room practically full, there was no bunny around. Worriedly, she called, "Jack? Jack are you here?"
Stepping in and closing the door, Judy honed her ears in for something, anything that would alert her to her best friend since birth. It took a moment for her to hear just that anything she was hoping for, and it was coming from James' old room.
Swallowing the lump in her throat as she knew the sound all too well, Judy padded her way over and cautiously opened the door to a completely darkened space. It didn't deter her, she heard sniffling.
"Jack is that you?!" she questioned, already searching for the light switch. When her nimble paws found purchase on it, she enveloped the room in light and saw a pair of black tipped ears sticking up on the other side of the bed. There was no doubt that it was him.
Both relieved and saddened that he'd just put himself away from others like that, Judy made her way over. She hadn't been in Mr. James' room too much other than to say hello to accompany Jack when they were going somewhere, but to see it this much was heartbreaking. There were only three pictures on his veranda; nothing else dared occupy the space. A single briefcase sat on his desk and no more than a few books took up space on the small bookshelf. Truly James was a remarkably tidy mammal, but his tidiness wasn't why she was here.
Rounding the corner of the bed, she found Jack set on the floor; staring blankly ahead with his knees brought up to his chest and wiping under his eyes with his sleeve. Though she looked on him with pity, her eyes were drawn to the leaf Laurel crowning his head. A garland adorned with the blue flowers he so carefully, somberly chose: Myosotis Scorpioides, Forget Me Nots.
Judy slowly sat next to him, scooting over to be right by his side. She didn't really know what to do more than stay there, her little gift of a snack seemed irrelevant.
Startled by his sudden voice, Judy sat still. She wasn't going to feign ignorance and ask him what was wrong; she knew full well what was wrong, she was there for the whole thing. Dropping the food to her side, she wrapped her arm around him.
"He-" Jack trembled at her sudden touch. "He just left."
Judy felt her own tears start to fall.
"He never even said goodbye, or... told me about mom or..."
He took a deep breath, barely able to see Judy at all. "Why would he just leave?"
Mind completely hazed, Jack thought over the past few months. The sudden 'trip' his Stu said he had to make to the city while giving him a worried, reassuring smile. The days that passed without his guidance and constant presence. The hope of finding him talking to Sunny who gave him no clear answer. The days without answer, call, or clue... and then, today.
It came as no surprise, really; when he didn't truly have a family to call his own, but only caretakers that his father had set up in case of emergencies. In the course of just a few short months, the mammal that had been present in all of his life since the day he had been born had simply... vanished. There was no trace of him. All Jack had to go off of was Judy's (now his root) father saying that he had to leave for the city.
Since that day, Jack had waited and waited. He had grown tired and wearied since: lower appetite, evading others, fervid nightmares. His separation was devastating. So, in order to try and solve the issue, Bonnie and Stu came to an ultimatum: earlier this morning Jackson Percival Leaper-Hopps had been grafted into the family.
And here sat the bunny, missing his father and not knowing what the future held for him.
The only one that truly knew him this much was Judy. She was there for the whole thing, and was his closest friend; he hugged her back.
Wordlessly, they huddled together staring at the pictures that brightened an otherwise desolate room. So few were their answers, and so many were their questions that all they could do was enjoy each others company in small moments and share their hopes as boundless as their dreams. Whether in Bunnyburrow, or anywhere else.
Hold fast to those you dream with
"Charges, malen'kiy priyatel'?" [Russian/English] "Charges, little buddy?" [Russian/English]
"Oh no, olen' will take me away," [Russian/English] "Oh no, deer will take me away,"
Alrighty, A bit of a headcanon here, so I'll explain. Bunnies (burrow bunnies really) do NOT do 'Adoptions'. With the huge amount of family that they generally have, someone's bound to take care of the less fortunate. So, in order for those who don't have such means and have essentially 'no family tree' they go through a grafting ceremony to become part of their new family.
Taken from the tree term, they are essentially a part of the family, period. However, since they are not genealogically there (genetically), they have all of the benifits of family: name, family accounts, wills, inheritance, etc, but they are not considered directly related. You'll hear the terms: Grafting, Graftee, Root (mother/father) and Scion often.
Anywho, expect another chapter fairly soon. I hope you all got a chance to see some of the easter eggs and a ton of foreshadowing. That, plus this story will have voting. TONS of voting! Class president, favourite character, favourite ship, etc, etc, etc. Lastly! Share a dream is coming soon! You have an idea or scenario? Let me know and I'll try a chapter with it. ^^
A couple of things. About Jack, the guns and alcohol, and Finnick. This is a bit of a lesson in gun safety. Sad truth is that a lot of unsupervised children get their hands on weapons and it causes devastating results. James didn't think that Jack would try it, but I urge anyone and everyone to think about the best possible options to secure a weapon if they have one.
The part with Sunny and her giving Jack alcohol is a bit of a throwback to when it was believed to alleviate headaches and toothaches. So no, I'm not saying that it's okay to give alcohol to minors (or irresponsible adults). What I'm saying is that such things should be monitored and parents should be aware of the things their kids get into.
Also! Finnick... kinda stole his stuff? I'm still working out his details.
Okay, question for... just about anyone that's ever seen the anime. Is it sad... that every time I envision guns, it's Alucard's 'Causll' and 'Jackal' from Hellsing? Either that or Dante's Ebony and Ivory. I'm honestly contemplating a Zootopia crossover with the (possibly abridged) series... Can you imagine Nick as Alucard? And would Judy be Ceres? Skye as Integra? Jack Walter? *writes away*
deviantart: [snippet exclusive]
Till Next Time
"It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence,
we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream."
― Edgar Allan Poe
A calm, confident smile ran across Nick's muzzle as he stared out the frosted glass to the falling snow of Tundra Town. Silver moonlight illuminated each flake brilliantly as they made their descent into small piles here and there about the road. Plentiful as they were, even in the summer, the glistening banks of ice were a welcome reprieve of a view compared to the rush he experienced minutes ago. And while the bitter cold nipped lightly at his fur, he was thankful to have his pelt and peace of mind.
Even the sound of metal screeching and twisting did much to ease his shot nerves. Not palpable silence, but ambient and soothing none the less.
"I told you I had a backup plan." he chuckled, twirling the remnants of a well-earned pawpsicle in his paw. Though his words were an octave or two higher than they should have been, it was better than having no voice at all.
There was a gruff huff next to him; a far deeper tone than his ever could be. "And I told you it was a bad idea," Finnick shot back, angrily shifting himself on the pile of books he sat on. The little fox didn't bother looking at Nick, opting instead to stare at the opened hood blocking his view of the street ahead of them. "I knew we shouldn't have messed with that shrew."
Nick shrugged and tried to play it cool. "It's not my fault that our getaway didn't have enough 'get' in its 'away' for our own good," he stated, tapping a claw against the dashboard. "In fact, the only thing in this rust bucket that went the speed limit was your high-pitched barking, bud."
No sooner than he said that, Nick felt a hard tap hit his nose that forced him to flinch. With the clatter of a small piece of wood falling to the seat, Nick turned to the rather flustered fox with a nervous smile; Fin was unamused.
"You kiddin' me, Wilde?" he shouted, lividly standing on his stack of books to make him only half an inch taller. "I ain't scream, and 'Ol Betsy ain't on her last tire yet." Tearing his eyes away from the annoying tod, Finnick reached over and gently pat the steering wheel. "That's alright, baby. He ain't mean it."
Nick chuckled. Ever since the day Fin had inherited his van, he had always seen it as more personable than any other mammal. He'd polish it, clean it, tell him it was singing along whenever his favourite song came on the radio. Nick kind of felt sorry for him in that regard, that he pretty much clung to the vehicle. Still, though, despite him being so attached, it did have its flaws. Namely that the thing was too big for him and he had been pulled over a few times because the police thought that a toddler was driving. He'd been there once or twice when the 'fully grown' mammal had to prove he was not only older than his passenger but old enough to drive.
It was still a step up for him, his independence and all. Nick recalled how he never talked about his family and, whenever asked, he'd brush it off. Opting instead to shrug and speak about what kind of hustle they could do, the duo silently agreed never to bring it up again.
The slam of the hood caught their attention. In seconds the image of a smiling, oil and snow-covered vixen filled their view; her bristling bushy fur doing its level best to keep the elements off of her.
Rubbing her paws together and exhaling the frost that came with the coldest region of Zootopia, she moved to the side of the vehicle and popped open the passenger door. "It's driveable, but you're gonna need a new timing belt and the radiator's leaking," said Skye, already hopping into the slightly warmer van while the other two felt the brisk chill roll over them.
She scrambled over Nick, swatting him with her tail in the process, and made her way to the back. It wasn't exactly spacious, so she pushed a few glass jars and hanging rugs out of the way before she made herself a decent spot to sit.
Watching her shake herself off and pat down her much longer fur, Finnick sighed, "So, you can fix 'er?"
It was a moment before Skye finished shaking herself free of debris; her once white jacket and red pants all but stained as deep as tar. "Well... if we can get to the junkyard in time then yeah," Finished removing what stains she could, she reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her cellphone. "Old Mr. Jenkins just lets me grab parts, so let's head there. Maybe he'll let me use his welding tool."
She put down the phone when the two other foxes gave her awkward stares. Not that it wasn't unusual, but this had an air of 'you're allowed to do things?' kind of look. Taking a glance around, she returned the gesture. "What did yall do, anyway? To get Fin's van busted?"
She received a call about half an hour ago stating that they needed to stop by for an emergency and she needed to bring her toolkit. While she was expecting for them to show up and go somewhere like the arcade - because she could either school them there or stomp other mammals online, she was too good at Fur Fighter or any number of games she played - or the diner, Skye was thrilled that Fin's van was what their emergency was; he never let her try to fix it before, she was too excitable and the vehicle was too precious. And now here she sat surrounded by various stuff that the two tods hadn't had in the vehicle last week. The red liquid in one jar caught her attention more with a slightly familiar aroma to it.
Nick pursed his lips to speak, but Finnick chuckled first. "Yeah, Nick. What did you do?" his voice was laced with knowing sarcasm. Despite his small stature, Nick seemed to be the one that was barely a foot tall.
Darting his eyes back and forth from the jars and 'rugs' he cautiously grinned. "Nothing?"
There was a cold silence in the vehicle as neither of his two friends gave him the acknowledgment he was looking for. So, opting for the high road, he sighed. "What Fin and I were trying to do was sell these fantastic, fancy rugs and make pawpsicles."
Fin cut him a glare. "They ain't fancy! You just tricked Le P-"
"This is full of pawpsicles?!"
Both foxes in the front halted the one-sided argument to see the vixen already uncapping the jar, their ears fell with the grimacing look on their faces. Skye's motions were a blur as she hastily drained the red liquid from the glass in record pace.
Nick huffed. There goes our profit...
Setting impromptu treat down and licking her chops, Skye shifted her eyes around. "Got any more?" she asked, swishing her tail in utter glee.
Frustrated that he would not only buy another jumbo pop, but also melt the thing down, Nick hastily answered. "No, Skye, we don't have any more. And those weren't cheap, you know." He should have known she would do this even before they had the chance to freeze it.
Seemingly upset and knowing where Nick was going, Skye grinned and held up the jar. "Well, consider this a mechanics payment, Nicky," The colour on Nick's face drained. "Maybe you can use one as a tip jar. Fixing cars isn't cheap, you know, Fin." Fin's eyes twitched.
Hearing the giggling of the vixen behind them (she seemed giddier now) the two tods turned to face the silent, chilly road. They wouldn't admit it, but Skye was right. Fin had gone to a licensed mechanic before, and it cost him big to have even the simplest thing done. So giving up a small part of their profit was understandable, if annoying.
Taking a deep breath, Fin shook his head and started the engine. It whirred to life, sputtering and jolting as it practically screamed in agony. And though the fennec fox was happy that his van was at least operational, he never liked hearing those wretched sounds.
Pulling away from the curb and almost snowbank he parked in, Fin eased onto the road and immediately halted. His eyes fixated on the road blinked in absolute horror and confusion. Every which way he looked, they were surrounded by miniature figures, staring blankly at them, all within reach.
Nick's jaw hung. "What the-" He peered out the window, taking in all the scene with Fin. While he had tried to stay calm, cool, and collected, he was wondering if and when someone would show up for their mishap with the rugs or worse. Thinking this may have been it, he held his breath, but nothing happened.
Taking a closer look just beyond, Nick saw a terrible, perplexing sight. The sidewalk and part of the street were literally littered with dozens of snow-mammals in terrifying displays. One, what looked to be some kind of equine, was attempting to pick up its fallen arm with its hoof. Another, a bear, had the nearby lamp post running through its body.
Both tods blinking in confusion raised their brow, but Skye simply sat back, licking the remnants of the jar clean.
"Uh, Skye... what is that?!" It was Nick to ask, knowing full well that only she would attempt something like that.
"Snow mammals." she deadpanned.
Fin shook his head and slowly peddled away. Where did she find the time to come up with this? His thoughts were a bit unnerved. He had watched her make a snow-mammal before and it was practically nightmare fuel. But to make this many when they were watching?
With an air of uncomfortable silence sweeping by as Nick looked on the last of the icy figurines - a hippo eating a laughing hyena - he cleared his throat and asked, "You wanna chill with us next week, Skye?" Despite his penchant for puns and general jokes, he really did like to include the vixen in all of their activities. She was a dear friend, and they couldn't see each other as often as they used to. "We're going up to the bridge for a little R&R before winter sets in."
While Nick and Finnick lived closer to the bridge and could always go, it wasn't the same without Skye there. Whether rain or snow, it was always more fun when they were all skulking about.
The exasperated sigh from the back made Nick's ears twitch. "Can't." He thought he heard wrong until he looked back to see her staring out the tinted window. Aside from the fact that her tail was swishing at a mile a minute and she looked like her fur was about to literally fly away, she sounded... sad? "Exams at my new school."
Nick froze from complete shock, he even caught a glimpse of Fin's reaction; that little flop of his ears when he was upset. It had been known for a few years that since Skye and her family moved, she had been from school to school just about every semester or so, or they had moved to some different part of the town entirely. Nick didn't get what was going on with them, but it seemed like they were being constantly chased around. What didn't help was the constant protests and tensions between predators and prey as of late
He was about to reply but instead found her cheek to cheek with him. "This is the last one, Nicky!" Okay, never give her sugar, he thought as she pushed her way to the passenger seat to enjoy the view. "The Meadowlands were so close that we didn't have to move!"
Her tone was a bit more excitable than earlier, and though Nick knew she could be infuriating, he was glad she was back to her usual sugar-crazed self.
As Fin continued forward, picking up speed to get to the old junkyard in time, he hit a small icy patch. Common in Tundratown as they were, the vehicle swerved a little, straight into Skye's last little set of snow mammals: a bunny and fox running in circles.
Fin grit his teeth as the grill impacted the figurines, his van rolling over it in a bump that jostled things around inside that weren't secure: the three foxes not wearing seatbelts.
With all three toppling over and Fin falling the farthest, the uncontrolled vehicle slowly rolled into a freshly made pile of snow. It softly impacted and sat, waiting for the trio to get themselves together and out of the mess. All eyes inside glared at the vixen who was the cause of it all, but she simply laughed; this was the most fun any of them had had in weeks.
Soon, the entire interior of the vehicle was filled with bouts of laughter from the skulk of foxes trapped in the ice. For just like every bank of snow in Tundratown, the three friends had always drifted - unique in their own ways like every snowflake - but they never faded away.
Judy tip-toed her way down the hall to the study-lounge, cautiously attempting to avoid any other bunny; her sister Jasmine especially. It wasn't that she had any secret to keep or wanted to sneak up on anyone, but she really needed to remind a certain bunny that he was, in fact, again, missing out on the dinner rush upstairs.
Not that it was too difficult to grab and go, but when you had upwards of seven hundred hungry mouths all clamouring for food (not to mention newborns and their mothers and also neighbours) you tend to want to get food while you can and not have to resort to fighting off hordes of others for a single biscuit. It happened once or twice, it was a bunny house, after all. And for it to be just after Thanksgiving, the leftovers were practically a treasure of a meal for anyone. Bonnie's carrot casserole was one of the best-kept secrets in the tri-burrows.
Being the ever compassionate doe, Judy opted to wait until her closest friend and scion of the family was there to eat dinner with her. He had often seemed lonely despite being literally surrounded by hundreds of friends and family. But around her, he tended to open up a little more, he was more of the bunny she knew him as.
Finally reaching the sole door in the hall labeled 'study', Judy hastily pried it open; it didn't squeak thanks to all the maintenance in their warren. A gust of warm, welcoming air ruffled her fur. Being late fall, it was common to have the heat turned on, it was surprisingly cold underground otherwise.
"Jack," Judy whispered, her amethyst eyes peering around for any sign of the bunny amidst the sea of books. While it was a study for bunnies of all ages, it was more so of a small library without any need for late fees.
Shutting the door quietly behind her, Judy padded her way inside without a sound. The sufficient lighting allowed her to see no other bunny there, but she knew that Jack was here, he was always here when not taking part in some extracurricular activity, or at the range with Sunny. His schedule was largely predictable, so to Judy, his absence at the dinner table meant his presence in the study.
Now here, she didn't have to carefully tip-toe anymore. The plush carpeting installed helped wonders to ease the minds of ailing high schoolers and curious toddlers alike.
"Jack-Jack..." she called, using an oddly given name as he generally carried his appropriately named knife with him. She understood why he cherished it, but he was a bit obsessive about lending it to anyone; it never so much as strayed a few feet away from him at all times.
It wasn't until her ears perked up from the light tapping of keys that she could confirm exactly where he was. Judy sighed as she knew what he was currently doing. Padding her way towards the small section of the study that was reserved specifically for old articles.
Making her way past dozens of desks and aisles of books, Judy finally found the missing buck. Clad in more business-like attire than he needed and with his stripes covered - to this day, she never understood why - he sat amidst a small pile of papers and his laptop, completely oblivious to the world around him. A small briefcase sat neatly to one side while he rummaged through page after page of newspapers. He would often do this and Judy would come to find that he preferred to use the space on the floor as tables tended to run out of room rather quickly.
Folding her arms behind her and walking up to him, she cleared her throat to garner his attention. His immediate reaction was one she expected from him: a calm smile.
"Hey, Judy," he answered, never once lifting his head up as he knew only she would be here. He continued to sift through the papers as if he would find gold soon.
That little smile made her glad she came here. She may have wanted to drag him back so they could both eat, but all the paper caught her attention. Neat little scribbles adorned once blank sheets, his laptop was open to a writing document, and his paws held a newspaper that, from the upside down timestamp, was from just a few short years back.
Curious, she knelt to the floor, glancing over all the material. It wasn't cryptic, but still, she had to ask, "What's all... this?"
He scribbled something on a new sheet of paper. "Notes."
Jack wasn't always open for long conversations, he preferred to keep it short and simple; the way that he had seen many detectives do on his favourite tv shows.
Judy knew all of this, but there was something more. As of late, he had been somewhat... anxious. "Notes for..."
Halting, he placed the pen down and looked up at her. His keen amber eyes telling more than he ever would. "Since we'll be working for the Sherrif's department in spring, even part-time, he may allow us access to the archives." He folded the newspaper and drummed his digits on the briefcase. "I was just cataloging a few things to be ready just in case."
Humming at his response, Judy looked at the pile and reflected on her life. She was soon to be legally able to get part-time work at the sheriff's department, and that excited her to no end. Having to meet the minimum age requirement of 16, she still had to wait a few more months until that part of her dream became reality. And not only that, but Jack, as well as her sister Juniper and a few fellow classmates wanted to explore that option. Whether for course credit, experience, or just plain work, they all had something to look forward to; such was their dream.
But still, something bothered Judy. Wait, he wants to get into the archives? Weren't we just there to do back-end process work?
It was then that it hit her. Tilting her head towards him with avid curiosity, she needed to know. "Jack is this about-"
She dared not go any further, not from the somber look in his eyes. He reclined himself, looking at the close shelf of books, but staring into a distant nothingness.
"It's been almost five years, Judy," he lamented, his ears folding down and falling to his side. There was a tense quiet that they could feel. If not for the hum of the vents, it would have been nothing but their quieted breaths. "If I can find something out about why he left, then... maybe I can find him."
Judy understood. Since the day that James disappeared, Jack had changed. He was more astute, uptight, and no-nonsense. Most of his classmates had either stayed away from him or were cautious of him. Only those that knew him for years knew what he was like before he was grafted, his scoutmaster, and a few others actually spoke to him.
Within the lingering stillness of their conversation, Judy thought of what she could do. She wanted to help him; this was part of her dream, and their worlds were intertwined. A slow smile curled on her muzzle, her amethyst eyes stayed forward.
"Not alone, you're not," the second she said this, Jack raised a brow at her. Genuinely puzzled at where she was going with this, he pursed his mouth to speak, but quickly found the doe sitting right next to him. "We'll find him, together."
His once dumbfounded expression softened to one of untold gratitude. Even his ears perked up from the simple gesture of Judy being Judy.
She went on, grabbing the newspaper nearest her. "But first, let's sort this out. You've got all the dates jumbled together." With no more than a nod and a hum, Jack complied, looking for the date stamps in perfect order.
The two bunnies sat in the middle of an ocean of papers, their paws diving in for buried treasure and hidden secrets. Both happy to have each other and the bright future they could look forward too, dinner was all but forgotten.
Deep jittery huffs left the fox as he stared out of the frosted window of the van and onto the silent streets of Happytown. His wearied eyes flitted to the dim, flickering streetlight just a few feet away from the stoop of his apartment complex. While the road was surprisingly clear - city ordinance required that contractors made their way into the decrepit place to plow during the winter months - the walkways were now a hazard with dirty snow and ruined snow-mammals.
Blinking and wincing, Nick huffed and caught sight of the warm mist that crackled through the air. Woulda' been nice if this thing was a little warmer.
His thought was interrupted by the agonizing, continuous sound of scraping metal and muttered curses beside him. Tearing his sight away from the little twinkle of stars and snow, he looked over to the driver's seat, now clear of books, to see Fin still trying to light his most current cigarette.
The tiny fox's paws trembled as he sat there in the little blanket he kept around him for warmth; his trusted baseball bat resting from its tiresome work beside him. Despite him being content with the cold, he was shivering and failing to keep his cool. He attempted, again, to ignite his lighter and it only sparked. And with every further failure to light the stick, he felt more desperate.
Nick watched in brooding frustration. What try is this? Twenty? he counted, seeing Fin flick the flint wheel again.
"Come on," huffed the fox, his eyes red and paws unable to control themselves any longer. His ears all but lost their will to stay up as he fought for his drive to go on and against the tears forming in his eyes.
When the spark died again, he growled and placed a paw on the bridge of his nose; the lighter still there and not working anymore.
Nick couldn't stand this anymore, he hated seeing his friend on the verge of a breakdown after all that they just went through. Reaching over, and tensing up from the pain in his arm, he grabbed the lighter; no protest came from defeated fennec fox.
The busted tool in his paw, he tried to do the same thing. Once, twice... thrice.
Now on the verge of tossing it out the window - if it could be rolled down - Nick knew how his friend felt: completely powerless. But unlike Finnick, Nick tried to fight back even more. He kept flicking the flint, watching the sparks fly and die. He was at about a hundred tries when he finally paused, the air was thick with anger.
Taking a deep breath and giving the silver square a light squeeze, Nick tried one last time. Flicking the flint again, a little flame appeared and he leaned over to the distraught fox as quickly as he could before the fire died. Igniting the cigarette without Finnick looking, Nick capped the lighter and leaned back in the chair.
The moment Finnick opened his eyes to see the dark orange and smell the burn of the cigarette, he took a deep puff, inhaling all that he could from the stick, and sighed. The smoke that he exhumed calmed him and his nerves despite all that he knew that the substance was capable of. With a few shallow breaths, and rubbing his temples, he finally relaxed back in his chair.
His once frayed nerves starting to ease themselves from the tension as he looked out into the endless sea of stars above, Finnick curled his blanket around himself. It may not have been the best way to keep warm or even to sleep, but it was all he could think to do to be even the slightest bit comfortable.
After a long moment, he held the ashen stick away from him. "Thanks," he mumbled, never taking his eyes off the heavens.
He didn't get any response, didn't need to with the way things were going. He was just glad that they both made it out before things got too out of paw.
Taking another puff to further calm his nerve, he asked, "You aight, Nick?"
The fox in question shifted uncomfortably in his seat; various little bruises being brushed while he tried to find a more suited position to answer. Finally, after curling his tail up towards him and folding his arms, he could feel a little bit of the stress relieved. "I'll be fine, Fin." he begrudgingly answered, feeling the sting to his cheeks flare up. "How you hodlin' up, bud?"
Nick didn't turn to face him but he could hear the crackle of ash burn on the cigarette. "We can't go back to that part of town, you know."
I wouldn't dream of that. Nick mused, thinking of their narrow escape from Shara Square just a short while ago. A hustle gone wrong with anti pred protesters on the loose? It was a disaster, they were lucky to make it out with minor bruises and damage to their vehicle. Others, however, weren't so fortunate.
Mulling over his new options and feeling his wrist writhe, Nick wiggled his toes to ensure he was good for the short walk up the stairs and back home. Satisfied, he leaned forward, he instantly regretted it. "We'll-ugh... think of something. Rent's due soon and you some repairs."
Taking some effort in popping open the door, Nick eased himself onto the small sheet of now on the street. It crunched under his paw pads as he reached into the pocket of his hoodie and drew out his sunglasses. Donning them, he started to close the door, only to stop when it was barely a crack. Concerned, he turned to Fin one last time. "You gonna be okay to-"
"Yeah," was his short reply.
Huffing and closing the door to the small fox's abode, Nick slowly trudged his way to his home. Passing the front of the van, he nearly snagged his elbow on the jagged remains of one of the headlights. Disgusted, he pressed on, barely able to see, but still resigning himself to the conversation he'd having in a few minutes.
Maybe she won't notice? he thought, now at the front door, his small walk of a few meters taking a few minutes. The icy chill helped alleviate some of the pain, but it came with a severe cost: potential frostbite. He fetched his keys and entered, already swallowing the lump of dread he'd have to endure.
Maybe she's asleep? he pondered, ambling his way up to the third floor of the Olive Branch apartment complex. He fumbled the keys when he reached his residence, aching when he picked up the wretched things again. With his paw firmly on the door handle, he sighed and twisted the key to enter.
The first thing he noticed when he entered the room was the small lit lamp set on the coffee table... and his mother sitting on the couch next to it.
Yep, I'm dead.
He feigned a smile. "Hey ma-"
He never got to finish the sentence. "Nicholas Piberius Wilde!"
Nick could have sworn that there was some spectral force behind him, the door closed by itself while he stood still.
His mother, Marian, stood up, brushing off her floral dress and pacing towards him at incredible speed. When she was finally a foot away, she placed her paws on her hips. "Where have you been? I've tried calling you for hours after the-"
Her words simply vanished when she saw the attire he had on. Blue hoodie and sunglasses? What are you hiding this time?
Taking a deep breath and knowing that something was amiss - she could practically smell mischief - she took a different route than simply scolding him. Her foot tapped itself. "Take that ridiculous hoodie off, this instant."
Grumbling, Nick peeled back the hood and shrugged. He hoped he had nothing left to show on his muzzle from the escape, but he certainly, under no circumstances would even think to-
"And the glasses."
-do just that. Great! Now she's gonna know. Unless...
He complied to what his mother requested, slowly taking off the glasses, but also pulling the hood back over his head. Glasses off, he replied, "Glasses are off, I'm heading to my room and-"
From the stare she gave him, he didn't even attempt to move.
He's definitely hiding something. Please don't let this be like what happened with Skye. Tightening her paw, she steeled herself to get to the bottom of this. "Take the hoodie off, Nicholas," she demanded again, watching him huff and start to put the glasses back on. She stopped him. "Don't. You. DARE!"
Knowing that this was a battle that he couldn't win, Nick grimaced. He let loose a defeated huff and stuffed the glasses in his pocket and removed the hoodie. Attempting to avert her gaze to his partially swollen eye, he turned to the side, hoping, praying that she wouldn't make a big deal of it.
When he heard her gasp, his hope all but vanished. Marian closed the gap, turning his head to face him and inspect his eye. He tried feebly to remove her paws but didn't really care at that moment. His mom was always like that, always looking out for her 'Little Nicky'.
The softened expression in her glossy eyes said it all about her motherly compassion. "Who did this?"
He could barely speak, her paws grazing over the bruise gently.
He tensed. "It doesn't matter, mom. I'm fine."
She carefully took her paws away, seeing no more signs of bleeding and no serious cuts or any such thing. Despite this, it was more than she could handle, she didn't want anything to happen to her only child, especially when John was still ill.
How did this happen? she asked herself just before her face lit up in terror. "Was this from that riot earlier?" Her breath, ragged, she drew closer, Nick took a step back. "Were you with Finnick again?"
There was a lot that Nick could say here and now. He had lied often to swindle prey and predators alike, but he hadn't once lied to his mother; he wouldn't do so now.
"Yes," he admitted. "But it's not like we were-
Marian placed a paw up, silencing him. She shook her head and walked over to her phone. "That's it, I'm calling Glen."
Nick flinched at this. "Why?" He could already hear a dial tone from the old landline. She said a quick hello before turning to him. "They have an old house in Bunnyburrow that they want to fix up and move back into. It's in the same county as a good school. You're going there."
His jaw fell, a squeak left him. "Wha-" He became animated, shuffling over and gesticulating his retort as the vixen began to chat with the others. "I can't just go. What about Skye?"
She eyed him before whispering into the receiver, "Could you hold on for just a moment," With a paw covering the device, she answered him. "Once they overturn her case, they'll be on the way too." When she looked at him, completely concerned for his safety as he stared dumbfounded, she walked over to him and hugged him. "Nick, I know you want to stay, but the city's dangerous. It's not bad out in the country. Besides, Serenity has family out there; her mother she told me. She's been meaning to visit her."
Again, this was an argument he couldn't win. He slowly blinked, thinking of what to say or do. But then it hit him. "And where will you be?"
Marian paused, the little phone still crackling with sound. "Once they build the house back, I'll be here for a few weeks while I close the lease and terminate my position at the hospital. I need to look for another job, Nicky, but I promise I'll be there soon."
With that, the vixen drew her son into a tight, heartfelt hug. He tensed from the pain that coursed through him, but he returned the gesture all the same. Times were changing for the city, for worse, not better. But there were still few that clung to a dim hope of a future.
Judy hummed along to the imaginary tune of her light-hearted foot taps. Today was a good day. She had just gotten off work - minimum wage and only three hours - and was beyond elated. Being the week after her birthday, and her celebratory first week of work, she was thrilled to be able to hang out with her friends.
Reading her law book while she walked and chatted, she felt like she was finally getting a taste of what it would be like to be a beat cop at the end of a day. The warm spring breeze comforted her, and it felt incredible to bask in the aromas of flowers in bloom.
Rapt with the various differences of enforcement between the burrows and Zootopia, Judy read each line carefully; practically mending the words to her heart. So much was she engrossed with her studies, that she barely heard the conversation that was going on... until that one point.
"Did you hear that they're fixing up the old ghost house?"
Judy was torn from her law book instantly to see Sharla idly playing with her cell phone during their short walk to the town square. While not too keen on text-walking, Judy couldn't say anything due to how many times she ran into something or someone while going over the current laws in Zootopia.
Before she could answer, a curt laugh came from behind her. "Sharla, dear, everyone's heard about that," said the sow among them. "My sisters and I have known about that for weeks." Judy raised her brow at this. What does she mean? I only heard that this week from the sheriff himself. She decided to listen closer, but she had to dig a little deeper at the same time.
While the sheep sighed, Judy rolled her eyes. "Delilah, the burrows aren't a rumor mill, you know."
Though the pig was silent for a moment, Judy knew all too well about it. There were plenty of rumors and hearsay in the small town. It was always who was dating who, what was going on, which bunny had a thousand kits... and counting.
"Oh I know, Judith. But don't you think it odd that someone would want to move there? And so quickly?" The doe knew she liked saying her full name only as a courtesy, she was running for their class office after all. she even looked the part, always going into town with their school uniform donned. If she was going to show that she could make a difference, then she had to prove she was on their side.
True. Judy mused. I don't know the full details, but I'm sure Jack would be interested in checking in on it with me. We'll probably be greeting them with the sheriff after all.
"Well I think it's nice," Sharla chimed in, her book bag swaying heavily as she had just gotten back from the county library. "We've gotten so many new folks around here that this town has grown in reputation."
Judy smiled. She knew what Sharla was talking about: their new classmate - a shy white sheep and apparent cousin to Sharla - that they had welcomed in the winter months. Sad what she went through in the city, though. But I'm sure whoever's moving in the old house will love it here as much as Dawn does. Judy pondered, recalling the pitiable state that she came in when she had moved in. Scratches, bruises, and said to be caused by some uproar. Still, that was behind them; every new season brought forth a renewal to the old country town.
The pig hummed, drawing the attention of the other two as she was deep in thought. "I'm still curious, though. Why is it even called the 'ghost house'? It's been around for ages and nobody seems to know anything about it. It's a dreadful, drafty old place."
Judy couldn't disagree. Being on the outskirts of town and in a creepy wooded area, it was out of place, and out of its time. However, her smile increased as she came up with an idea. "Well, I'm not sure, Delilah, but there may be one bunny that might know something."
Through her beaming smile, she caught a glance of disbelief and soon remorse from the swine. "You simply can't mean Jackson. Can you?" the sow asked, hoping against her hope that she was wrong.
"Indeed I do," Judy smirked. "I just need to get him from his fencing practice and-"
"UGH! Again with this guy!" yelled the sheep, silencing the two others in their tracks. Her hooves tapping her phone and frustratingly shutting it off. Noticing the stares she was getting from not only her friends but the other mammals around her, she sheepishly smiled.
It was a moment before one of them actually guessed what it was.
Delilah chuckled. "Was it that 'Raspberry' player again?"
Sharla nodded. "Raspberry Legend 27. I don't know who they are, but they play everything I do and are better at it!"
Judy shrugged. Long had Sharla battled with this mysterious mammal. Always seeing them fight her online in any game she had. It was one of the sheep's goals to beat them in battle one day. And even though she said it was only for fun, Judy knew that even Sharla could be a little competitive.
With them attempting to figure out what to do with the little money they could send, a shrill gasp filled the mouth of the pig; the others turning to see what danger or adventure she had witnessed. Tracing her gaze across the street to the new 'ZoFro' shop, the rabbit and sheep clearly saw what gears were turning in the sow's head.
Behind the minty blue glass of the store, a grey wolf stood in line, idly talking to the others waiting with him. Much like the pig, he too wore his school-issued uniform and constantly smiled.
Luproc? Judy noted, gauging Delila's actions. It was common knowledge that the pig and wolf were friends for a very long time. And it was even more common knowledge that the two were... oblivious of each other's feelings? Something that their resident matchmaker had clearly been trying to resolve.
In an instant, the pig started walking towards him. "Would you ladies like to get some ice cream?"
The honk of a car halted her motion while the other two mammals raced to hold her back. A nervous smile and apology she gave were clearly underwhelming, even to her. And without even a validation from her friends, she took off, after ensuring the coast was clear.
The two followed her at their own pace, each with their own thoughts about her perceived relationship. But it was Judy that smiled brighter. It'll be fun to see who moves into the ghost house. It's always nice to meet a new friend.
When we see ourselves in our dreams, we see what is, what is not, and what we hope for the most
[Trivia and Notes]
And you've reached this part of the fic again! There's a few Easter Eggs, let's see who can find the most of them. Also, coming up for the next few chapters, there will be opportunities to vote and see the changes of the stories outcome. Nothing too major, but who will be class president, what activities will be available, and other such awesome things.
deviantart: [snippet exclusive]
Till Next Time
Love At First Sight
" I think we dream so we don't have to be apart for so long.
If we're in each other's dreams, we can be together all the time."
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
The heavy tap of hooves sounded to their owner's tempo of old-fashioned country music. The kind that has an upbeat sway while full of euphemisms and deep, hidden wisdom. And though the sound was pleasant and calming, the one making it couldn't help but feel a little uneasy.
It wasn't by what the stresses provided by their everyday job, he liked that - protecting others was something that ran in the family - but it was, instead, some of the auxiliary things he vowed to help with. It was mowing lawns, attending community gatherings, harvests, barn raisings and the like. Not that those things were bad, he enjoyed them. But glancing down at the bunny beside him he clenched his hoof on the shouldered, long-barreled gun he carried with him. This kid is gonna be the death of me.
He was glad that he opted to bring Jack with him instead of the others, only a little. The other two bunnies from the Hopps warren were a little less calm for the situation, and the one sow from the Swinton passel that worked for him was... probably the worst possible option. She would definitely be corrections material if she didn't end up behind bars first.
Sighing at the thought, and adjusting his sunglasses and hat from the glare, the sheriff walked up and knocked on the small door in front of him. "O'Riley, it's the sheriff. Open up!"
Despite his need to be here, he just wanted to go home and crack open a case of beer and relax. If there was any list of things that the law officer loved aside from his God, his king - mayor in his case - and his country, it was his beer, his coffee, and his smokes. But he didn't have time for that now, had two last assignments to take care of. He knew the resident here wasn't going to like the news, and he himself wasn't going to like chaperoning and advising later.
He turned to the bunny standing behind him, flashing a faint smile while shaking his head. Jack stood patiently, looking on and taking mental notes. This was one of the few times that he had been allowed to join the sheriff on his rounds, and he diligently watched. He then turned to his attending deputy: a less than enthusiastic white goat. It would have probably been better to bring the other deputy along, but the sheriff somehow knew that this whole thing was his fault.
Shaking his head, the sheriff gave the young bunny the shakedown, he generally knew how to keep kids out of trouble. "Now I know you've seen this before plenty a' times," he said, flashing his weapon as he heard the faint patter of steps behind the door. "But today, y'all get to see first hoof why you do things the right way 'round here."
Adjusting his tie and checking his watch, Jack nodded. He knew exactly what he meant. It wasn't the first time that he had seen the sheriff come knocking on a door bearing a shotgun, and it surely wouldn't be the last. It was the law of the burrows.
Just before the group of mammals, the door to the little burrow creaked open. A bunny, a buck, slowly groaned and shielded his eyes from the sight before him. While a little taller than Jack, his brown fur and overall unkempt look with stains on his shirt and ripped jeans made him seem a bit out of place in the presence of the other well-dressed mammals.
Upon blinking and staring up, he huffed. "Sheriff Chambi," he addressed the deer while scratching at a sewn patch on his shoulder. "Whatddya want now?"
Almost gnashing on his own teeth, but taking a careful 'professional' air about him, the good sheriff tapped his hoof in annoyance. "I ain't here for what I want!" he shouted, making the ungroomed bunny hop. "I'm here for what you need."
Raising a brow and flicking his ear, the tired bunny's face contorted. The sheriff knew two things about moments like this. One: it was always somehow a surprise. And two: they always ran. Hence, why he had the goat deputy with him, though the wolf was certainly faster.
Tapping the stock of his gun, a bright smirk on his muzzle flashed as he continued. "Looks like 'yer a father now," he informed, watching the bunny freeze. "So what ya' need to do is get in the car and go meet yer bride to be and the little ones."
It took a moment for it to seemingly set in. All three from the sheriff's department watched as the bunny went wide-eyed at the news. From the way his eyes seemed to bulge, it was like an epiphany truck hit him.
"P-pardon?" he stuttered, ears twitching as he was unable to believe what was said.
"Well, I ain't pardnin' ya," the deer shot back. "But, I said 'You got a woman, a ring, and kits waitin' for ya' at an altar.'"
The rabbit took a step back, he finally got what the deer was telling him. If it wasn't just for the few keywords, the weapon held by the sheriff was enough to seal the deal.
Sheriff Chamby leaned in closer. "Yer' gettin' a Shotgun Weddin' today!"
It was common practice in Bunnyburrow, more so of a tradition or law, actually. In order to keep the population responsible for their own, it was enacted almost from the start. When either caught in the act or when kits were involved, you were guaranteed to have a legal mate just a short time later if you were old enough. Some disagreed with the practice after the fact, but their protests were always silenced when they had an entire family show up at their doorstep - with accompanying law enforcement - and dragged out to meet their betrothed. And in doing so, the tradition was split from the general wedding with two lines - one for compliments about the bride and groom and one for complaints - to a line of weapon-wielding mammals watching to ensure that the groom didn't attempt to run away.
Which is what the bunny looked like he was doing.
He quivered. "Sheriff, a-ain't no way they could be mine!"
Despite him standing tall and shifting his eyes, the deer gave him a chance. "And why's that?" asked Chambi. He had oftentimes heard some of the most ridiculous excuses of why 'that kid (or kids) ain't mine'. It ranged from logical things like fur colour and them never being there, to silly things like the weather, a bad harvest, their knee wasn't actin' funny, or (his favourite) just because they said so.
The bunny looked to the open field next to them. "I-i had my pants on the whole time!"
There was a moment of silence... followed by a low groan and the slap of a hoof on sunglasses. It came as no surprise to Chambi, he had heard it before, twice even. "That don't work if yer' tool's hangin' out!" he informed to the rather stumped buck. "Now c'mon. I got a beer waitin' at home for me and yer' gonna get eight mouths to feed."
The bunny coughed, completely stunned. "Eight?!"
The sheriff nodded, carefully watching him look around. "Don't you run!"
And, of course, he did just that. Herbert O'Riley dashed out of the doorway, bumping into the deer and scampering away as best as he could. "THEY AIN'T MINE!" he shouted at the top of his lungs the moment he felt something latch onto his ear. Now flailing in a fit of panic, the bunny screamed, yelled, and kicked in every direction he could.
It was a shame that he wasn't a different bunny, or else could have possibly escaped the deer's clutches.
Chambi heaved a heavy sigh. He wanted things to go smoothly, and he got lucky as the bunny was a little less than coordinated. He was glad that he caught him or else he may have gotten a bit farther away, just in firing range of the tranq darts he always had holstered on his belt. And if that failed, he would have had to call in the other deputy who he knew was at the root of this domestic call in the first place. He was good - there were few mammals in the Triburrows that could outrun the wolf - but he was also a constant matchmaker which was why he was on a different - impossible to cause trouble - assignment.
Tutting at both the captured bunny, and relief that his day was over, Chambi chuckled. "See this here, Jack?" The young buck nodded and watched carefully, he knew he wasn't above the law. "This is what happens ta' folks that don't do what's proper and say their vows first!"
Hearing his junior deputy's well-spoken 'yes sir' in response, the sheriff turned to the last mammal he really wanted to see: the lazy goat who he hoped would do this simple task right.
"Deputy Mel. If you would be so kind as to retrieve the groom for his weddin' day, I got me a nice brew waitin'."
The goat grunted, they all knew he didn't want to do this or be here. It was the perfect excuse to be brought out for such a task.
Being handed off from one mammal to the next and then read off sloppily handled rights, the O'Riley struggled and shouted back. "That wolf o' yours set me up! This is all his fault!"
At the mention of the wolf, Jack's ears twitched. He was uncharacteristically astute and observant for a bunny, much like his own father. And much like his father, he wasn't really afraid of predators, not anymore. As he was always around Sunny when at the range, led by his scoutmaster and deputy mentor over the past few years, and was was on his school's debate team with a prominent wolf that aspired to be mayor, his fear of most predators had all but vanished; most of it anyways, he still didn't trust foxes. Could Mr. Oriley really be talking about deputy El-
"I BLAME THAT WOLF!" shouted the buck, being stuffed into the back of the police cruiser by a careless goat. When the door slammed and he continued to shout muffled musings, Jack confirmed his suspicions to be true.
He looked up at the sheriff to ask his thoughts about it all, but when the deer started walking away whistling, he knew it would be a moot point.
"Time ta' head home," Chambi said in a chipper tone, he could practically taste the brew on the tip of his tongue. Already at his vehicle and whistling, he stopped when he heard a light cough beside him... his blood ran cold at what he had forgotten.
"Sir," Jack addressed, sternly fixing his gaze on the driver's seat. "You do remember that you had agreed to help me with my driving practice, correct?"
Oh how he had forgotten, and more so, wished that Jack had forgotten. It wasn't that he minded, but this bunny clearly didn't know what the word 'brake' meant, or 'stop', or even the phrase 'You can't drive worth a lick!'.
It still never deterred him.
So now wishing he had never made his promise, Chambi did the one thing he could do: say a silent prayer and hope that it would be heard. He swore he heard a voice chime back to him. Or was it the ringing of a bell? The opening of gates, maybe? He definitely heard his name being called.
He handed Jack the keys and saw the little buck's face light up in delight. The sheriff now knew he had it worse than the deputy.
"Get in the car..." he said. Why didn't I just get that wolf to do this instead?
'Now arriving at: Bunnyburrow'
While the announcement was subtle - the automated voice was almost as quiet as a low whisper - it was enough to cause the fox to finally stir out of his deep sleep.
Blearily blinking and uncurling his tail from around him to finally sit up in his seat, he yawned and stretched himself a little. It was one of those yawns that was both relaxed and contagious, one that bared all of his teeth and forced him to coil his tongue.
Feeling the cool faux leather tingle his ears and bristle his scruffy neck fur, Nick shook himself awake the rest of the way. Having been asleep for most of his trip, he soon took in his surroundings.
Mostly orange save for the greenery of the trees and the occasional pair of ears poking out from behind one of the chairs, he could easily still tell where he was: the aptly named 'Carrot Train'.
A warm smile crept on his muzzle as things were pretty much the way he left them. His luggage (and makeshift pillow) was all there, and aside from the ambiance of clacking metal, it was quiet and peaceful. The few mammals that had boarded with him had either left and were replaced by another or had vanished completely.
Not that he minded, he was grateful that nobody had bothered him on his trip. He had gotten enough awkward stares when he had first boarded and he could hear the hushed tones of varying prey telling each other to be wary when he had left the city.
They had every reason to stare. He told himself and justified it with the gathering of foxes that watched him depart. Glen and Serenity had managed to make it to the boarding platform along with Skye. Traveling from Tundratown to Savana Central wasn't too difficult for them, but still, it was out of the way.
They had come to wish him well and give him a final rundown of the place he'd be staying in. The do's and don'ts of burrow life and why that he shouldn't feel ostracized for being a predator as Bunnyburrow was vastly different, they didn't adhere to too many stereotypes.
Nick chuckled at the thought. He believed that until he saw a sign reading off the population of 7 million.
Still, the train rocked as he remembered more of their fateful parting. More so of a tearful letting go and gentle push than anything.
Minutes before the train came to take him off to 'Rural Bunnyland', he had begged, pleaded, and outright told his mom that he didn't want to (or wasn't going to) get on the train to some... how did he put it again? Backwards Carrot Farming Podunk?
He could see her smile more than anything in that moment. Despite how pained he knew she was with her mate in a mental ward, and her son being sent off, she never failed to smile. She chuckled, telling him that, geographically, Podunk was a bit further away and he wasn't going there.
Nick didn't really want to go anywhere, really.
He sighed, sinking further in the seat as he recalled the last... heart-wrenching details of his departure. Finnick showed up, surprisingly. The little fox had barely gotten to the train station on time, fuming about this and that with his arms crossed and never looking up.
Not only that, while his mother and the two older arctic foxes chatted with them, he noticed how... close Skye was to him at all times; almost clinging on to him and not wanting to let him go.
Having heard that her court date was in another few weeks, made him both happy for her and a little nervous. She didn't outwardly show it often, but Nick knew that it bothered her. She had been his best friend since... well, birth, actually. He could pick up on the subtle hints like her curling her tail around her feet when it would always be like a propeller carrying her off to her next adventure or things like how she always looked to and fro for interesting things and instead stared at him most of the time.
If that wasn't a clear indicator, then her avoidance of the train station's snack bar was a dead giveaway; she was always hungry.
And, when he did finally leave after receiving parting hugs, she literally threw herself at him, refusing to let go. She couldn't have gone with him then, but he assured her that he'd see her again after embracing her in one last hug. It wasn't often that he had ever seen her cry, and it only happened three times, actually: their short time after leaving the scouts, when she had her bike stolen, and when she dropped her ice cream on a sand dune.
He chuckled, I can't believe I had to stop her from licking it up.
After, Nick tried to get on the train, but she literally grabbed his tail and pleaded for him to stay; the others had to intervene. It wasn't until he had a small patch of missing tail fur - after apologizing to Fin and placing him in the upset vixen's paws as a replacement with a bone-crushing hug - that he saw the somber expression on Skye's face. In that moment, he realized this would be the first time in their lives that they would be hundreds of miles apart.
He grimaced, looking down at the few things he had with him: a single bag of luggage, a box of keepsakes, his backpack for school, and two hundred dollars to his name. That was all he was told that he needed to last him a few weeks. He wanted to protest more, to argue more, to simply run off the train and tell them that, as a 16-year-old fox, he wouldn't survive.
But he was already informed that the local law enforcement and townsfolk always looked after their own. Glen had even expressly told him twice that he would be considered technically an adult due to their laws, so he could manage.
So now here he was, brooding a little over the events of the day and longing to be back in Zootopia already. He felt the train slow and saw a boarding platform ahead of them a little. Sighing and slumping his shoulders, he thought of everything he learned about his new residence. He knew enough about the burrows from his readings years ago and from that anonymous friend he wrote to. Though it prepared him a little along with Glen and Serenity's rundown, he didn't know what to fully expect except rolling hills and trees.
The idea calmed him a little as Zootopia had become almost a concrete cage from how many recent news stories made predators seem like they were vicious things from birth.
Sucking it up and feeling that his mother may have been right that he needed to get away, Nick stood just as the train came to its screeching halt. He shouldered his backpack, hefted his box, and drug his luggage bag with him. Attempting for a third time to awkwardly adjust his loosely hanging tie from his wrinkled Pawaiian shirt, he paused for one last stretch as the doors of the cabin slowly opened.
A few mammals sauntered ahead of him as he adjusted to the blinding light of a new world. Taking a deep breath and staring outside into the unknown, he paused to mentally ready himself to face the inevitable with his own personal motto, Don't let them see that anything gets to you.
It wasn't until the cabin was clear and some of the attendees had departed that he took that one small step onto the platform and his jaw nearly dropped.
There was nothing that Judy loved more than helping other mammals, especially in their times of need. It was her lot in life and it meant a lot to her as she would often see the changes in their life that she helped create. Not only that, but it was heartwarming to make new lifelong friends. To her, it was more than something that she was taught at a young age, it was more than what a law officer would do, she decided that to change the world, it took everyone's help.
It was primarily why she agreed so quickly - jumped even when nobody else raised their paw - to assist the deputy in bringing the new arrival to their home in Bunnyburrow. She had done so several times before, but she didn't know why this one excursion made her more excited than usual. Maybe it's because I almost have enough saved for that laptop?
She really didn't know, but could justify it anyways. With her having to relinquish her school-issued one every year, it made sense to have a permanent replacement.
And while it was usually the deputy that was giddy about retrieving newcomers, Judy felt a little different about who was coming to town. She looked over to the white wolf that she ventured with and giggled at him furiously scratching at his right ear.
"I think someone's talking about you again, Mr. Eliot," she informed, taking into account the age-old saying.
The wolf smiled and continued scratching. "I wonder if it's the sheriff?" his ears perked up. "OH! Or maybe Mr. O'Riley finally got married! The kits were adorable!"
He practically swooned at the thought, Judy shook her head. She was told by the sheriff before they left that he'd be getting married that very afternoon after the results of a blood test from a neighbouring bunny came in positive. It was common happenstance and something she adamantly swore to avoid for herself. Not forever, but, as a bunny, she hoped to find that someone meaningful to share her life with one day instead of falling to the stereotype her species was known for: irrepressible reproduction.
That thought brought her back to the deputy and more so his possible paw in Bunnyburrow's string of newlyweds. She had known Eliot for several years; since the day he came to the burrows, actually. He was excitable, cheerful, helpful, and took his job in protecting those under his care seriously with an air of crazed extravagance with it.
He and his wife were some of the kindest mammals she had ever known: attending events, mentoring youth, building the community. However, he had oftentimes been blamed for bringing two mammals together - he had a thing for opposites and fusion - even to the point where many shotgun weddings were said to have happened (some she witnessed). Though there was no evidence to conclude that he was at the heart of this as there were too many rumors in the rolling rural hills, there was always that air of caution.
Though, even if it were his fault, the number of feuds had died down a little; if that was some consolation for the peace of the people.
So, here she was with the deputy on the last assignment before she would head home for the day. The train station of Bunnyburrow was oddly quiet, but she chalked it up to it being a late Sunday afternoon with most families being in their homes. And with such large families, it was no surprise that many would have opted for an early ride.
The few other mammals around her aside from Eliot were a mix of no more than five or so predators and prey meandering and waiting for the shuttle to get there. The wait could often be more exhausting than getting there, monotony was something that nobody wanted in the country.
As such, Judy found herself straightening out whatever stray wrinkles that dared to show themselves in her clothes; pink flannel and jeans were easy to fix. She wasn't as neat as Jack was in that manner - there was never such a thing in his crisp creased suits - but she never let herself be unkempt to any degree. Since she was going to be a cop, showing everyone that you do your best in everything was key.
Besides, she was to greet a newcomer to town, and what kind of bunny would she be if she showed him that burrow bunnies were lazy? She couldn't fathom the interaction.
She had never been alone to give out one of the Hopps family's 'Hoppspitality Baskets' in her life. It was always her mother, some relative or accompanying adult to watch her. So this would be her first experience hopping solo. Well... the deputy was there, but still, this was her moment to shine.
Tasked with being on the welcome committee to those new to the burrow, Judy couldn't help but smile brightly. She had been requested to go several times to see new families to their residences and overall see to their comfort and show her soon to be peers around. While not all went to the same school that she did, it was an honour none the less to see their smiles widen every time they got the first view of the countryside.
She smiled at every first glimpse that the newcomers would have, it was a very distinctive look; one of awe and splendour, one of that had kit-like fascination as they walked out of the train and into a whole new world. It was one she had always dreamed of when she would set foot in Zootopia again. She didn't remember what it was like at such a young age - she did remember getting lost and having a friend show her around - but she had yearned to return to the magnificent city. Even with all the troubles and news lately of riots and predators and prey clashing, it did nothing more than excite her that she could one day be on the front line of law enforcement to live out the motto that she had made up for herself: make the world a better place.
With that look of the mystery mammal etched in her mind, she checked the gift basket resting on the bench for the hundredth time. Being one of the many that she had made over the years, she had practically perfected the craft. All neatly bundled in a simple wicker basket and wrapped with an orange bow, she listed off all that she knew was inside. Paw-written welcome card, toiletries, roadmap, flashlight, juice boxes, and assorted fruits.
While it was never possible to blindly assume what the new neighbour's liked, Judy had always found that offering the new mammal food was more than a courtesy, it was a way to get to know their favourites. She had quite often guessed what they liked or didn't like if the basket was missing a thing or two by the time they made it to the new house. And while she was originally expecting a whole family, she was told that there was a complication in that there would be only one mammal - a teenager at that - showing up that afternoon.
The sheriff never mentioned what kind of mammal they were, he never did. It was all part of this... unbiased surprise he made up to show that not only did he not care what kind of mammal they were, but never really checked over the paperwork long enough to figure it out despite his secretary clearly highlighting it in the designated box
When she looked up, tilting her straw hat and squinting at the welcoming spring sun, she felt herself twitch with excitement. The train to the burrows was never late, for whatever reason, and the arrival time on the board was to be at 4PM; it was 3:58. Her ears perked up as she could hear the whistle of the train in the distance.
"That's us!" Eliot shouted, already standing and reaching for a poster board beside him. "I'll take one side of the platform, and you take the other."
Nodding and leaping off of the bench and taking the folded welcoming sign with her, Judy smiled. She was already giddy about holding it up and seeing the new mammal gawk at the countryside... only, when she took a look at the sign - one that she was hastily given by the other deputy - she grunted in frustration.
The sign read 'Nack Wulde', instead of the name Judy had been given several times over the last week.
Shaking her head and now hastily reaching for her carrot pen, she walked to the wall and scribbled out the name. She needed a flat surface to right the wrong done, Judy refused to let things like this slip-up. Mel, why can't you just put effort into your work?
Taking no more than a few seconds to write in the proper name of 'Nick Wilde', Judy was satisfied with the results - albeit a bit messy as there was no room left so she had to simply cross out the bad letters and crudely write two i's where they were needed. Still, by the time she was done, the shimmer of the orange shuttle came into full view. She felt her heart race with excitement as the train slowed to a stop.
Alright, Judy. Time to welcome one Nick Wilde to his new life.
When Judy saw the train slow as it neared the platform, her heart raced. It had been a long day of paperwork, of homework, and self-improvement. So seeing the look of sheer surprise from this 'Nick Wilde' fellow would be all the better.
In the moments that followed with the final whistle, docking, and announcement that they had arrived, Judy hoisted the sign like a sailing ship, bouncing joyfully to garner the attention of the mammal she'd hope to befriend.
When the doors opened and the few passengers poured out, it somewhat surprised her; the sheer lack of patrons that were actually there.
She saw two wolves disembark and chat their way past her while an aardvark shuffled away. A mix of bunnies strode around - one she recognized and waved to her and she waved back - and barely two other mammals left from the train.
The few that looked her way simply ignored her or meandered past to the parking lot or ticket booth. Not a single hint of any newcomer or look of astonishment crossed her path, and from the way Eliot held the sign and swished his tail while searching around, she could guess that he hadn't seen Nick either.
Is he not there? Did he miss his train? Did something happen to him?! she wondered, still holding the sign aloft in case she missed something.
For about a minute longer, Judy waved her banner and looked at every open door. She eyed each exit - and even some windows - scrutinizingly until she saw some of the staff leave for a moment. Worried as to why her escort hadn't shown himself yet, Judy started walking around, the sign still held high.
When she was at the car closest to the midsection, she darted her eyes about to catch a glimpse, a spec, even the slightest inkling of this elusive mammal. It wasn't until she glanced past a small patch of red clashing against the unmistakable orange of the burrows premier train that Judy did a double take.
Just before her, alone, was a sight she didn't expect. Standing there was a red fox wearing a crumpled Pawaiian shirt and toting luggage with him. He didn't seem to notice Judy at first, but by the look on his face - the selfsame look of kit-like fascination that she had longed to see on so many mammals before - he was astonished none the less.
And... for a moment... Judy froze. She didn't know it herself, but her jaw hung on hinges at the sight of the fox.
It wasn't because of her fear of their species - she had long since gotten over her fear of foxes from her encounter with Gideon and knowing all the calls that were received about their household - but there was something familiar and somehow different about his look.
Then his eyes fell towards her.
They were green, her favourite colour.
Her paws fell clasped to her mouth in an instant. Unfortunately, she dropped the sign with them.
Correcting her fumble, Judy quickly scrambled to pick it up. She didn't see or hear the fox near her until he was about a foot or so away as she composed herself. So, this time, when she held the sign and looked at him, he smiled back.
She couldn't help but return the smile as well. "Nicholas... Wilde?" Judy asked, hoping that this was the mammal they were looking for.
And to her surprise, he chuckled.
"Am I Nick Wilde?" he asked, causing her to blink in response. "Yes, yes I am."
Throughout her years, Judy had gotten to know a few things. One of which was how mammals tend to show subtle hints of who they truly are when you first meet them. So from the way he spoke and acted, she could tell that he was a bit nervous and a lot sassy. Much like some of her friends.
Perking up at that and the fact that she had found Bunnyburrow's newest fox in town, Judy laughed herself and stretched out a paw. "Nice to meet you, I'm Judy. Judy Hopps."
Judy did that quite often when she first met someone, if only out of courtesy. But the somewhat shocked look on Nick's face gave away deeper secrets for a fraction of a second than he had thought. Because in his momentary pause, the fox told bunny that he was just a tad shy. She moved a little closer when he stretched out his paw slightly. And when she did feel his paw pads against her fur, it tickled and she felt the dull tips of his claws like most predators had... but it felt strangely familiar.
Lost in this thought, neither heard a voice echo over to them.
"Hey, Judy," Eliot called, having thoroughly searched his side of the platform and found no trace of this 'Nick Wilde'- he ended up having to fix what Mel made. He decided to assist Judy with her side just in case they missed something. "I don't know where he is. Maybe he-"
The wolf stopped when he saw the doe a few meters away shaking paws with a mammal, a fox todd at that. Watching them carefully from that distance, he saw how... different they were and they both had that look towards one another. Eliot's eyes practically danced between the two interacting with one another.
He looked at the fox-
"Nice to meet you, Judy."
-then to the bunny-
"Well, we're all happy to have you here with us, Nick."
-and back to the fox-
He let go of her paw and gazed at the scenery. "So... this is the famous Bunnyburrow?"
-and back to the bunny-
She nodded. "I'm not sure how much you've heard about us, but I'm sure you'll like it."
He readjusted his bag. "Oh, I've read a bit about it, but..."
She tilted her head, curious. "But... what?"
He smirked. "I thought the population was huge. The sign told me that I'd be surrounded when I got here."
She laughed. "Oh! That! Most of the folks are at home. And, what you saw was the sign for the-"
"Triburrows and not just Bunnyburrow?" he answered.
She was shocked. "Yep. But your new home is here in Bunnyburrow."
-There was work to be done...
Quicker than the wind, Eliot closed the distance between the three of them. He knelt down and brought both of the unsuspecting teens into a hug.
"Welcome to Bunnyburrow!" he howled, catching Nick off guard and half suffocating him. Judy faired only a little better as she knew his antics and was able to use her feet to give her a little more room from a bone-crushing embrace.
When he finally did let go and stood tall wagging his tail, he reached down and picked up the fallen fox who was still out of breath.
Stunned at what could be described as a force of nature, Nick tried to get away. He didn't know what happened until he saw a uniformed wolf with a badge walk wave at him. Who is this guy?!
His backpack was taken and his luggage was grabbed. All Nick was left to carry was his box of keepsakes.
The wolf saluted with the goofiest smile Nick had ever seen. "I'm deputy Eliot Fanghanel, and we're gonna be the best of friends!"
Nick felt less comfortable already. He's like a wolf version of Skye!
He wasn't able to protest when he felt his free paw being grabbed. "Wait! Am I under arre-"
He never got to finish the sentence as he saw the train platform disappear and the wind whip at his face. "Let's take you to your new home."
Judy sighed and grabbed the gift basket before racing off towards the speeding wolf hauling the fox behind him. There was a new mammal in town, and Judy would be sure to help him adjust... crazed deputy, odd siblings and all.
Don't forget those little things you've dreamt of in your journey
Special thanks to Koraru-san for allowing me to use Eliot. And also Cimar for reminding me of a simpler title.
[Trivia and Notes]
Okay, trivia time! I'll do this every little while to tell you some of the more interesting things about the development of this story. And here's just a few things that may shock you.
One: Sky was originally not part of the story! I know it seems odd, but in the first draft, Skye wasn't there and it was supposed to be a story about Nick and Judy in high school and Jack and Judy were good friends. I knew about Skye but didn't know what to do with her. That was true until I remembered how I wrote Jack in 'Zootopia AU: Predation'. So him there kind of inspired her here.
Two: They weren't supposed to have the same birthday. Originally, Nick was supposed to be the oldest and Judy the youngest by a few weeks at most. Nick, like every kit, was born blind, and he was supposed to meet Judy after 3 weeks due to some surgery after his parents worried too much. In the end, I thought that going with the more endearing approach with them seeing one another was a better idea.
Three: Eliot! I spoke to Koraru-san (the artist behind this awesome cover art) and debated on what to do with the awesome stalker wolf. She gave me a lot of leeway and I thought to make him a deputy for Bunnyburrow. The reason? You'll see very soon! And Chloe as well. XD
Four: Bunny Shotgun Weddings! Y'know... do I even really need to explain this one? Cause this is a definite headcanon. XP
deviantart: [snippet exclusive]
Till Next Time