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“If you thought we could trust a fox without a muzzle, you're dumber than you look!” the young beaver taunted, soon followed by the laughter of his friends as they surrounded and ganged up on the poor, helpless fox who lay before them. Their smirks only mirrored the angry satisfaction in their eyes. Here they were, finally showing a dumb predator where he belonged.

 

They couldn't be trusted, though fanged creatures. They were always trying to find ways of getting close to the prey mammals just so they could stab them in the back when the time was right. Some predators were worse than others – foxes being one of them. Sly, fast on their feet as well as with their mind, and always lying. Not a single fox could be trusted in the eyes of those Junior Ranger Scouts as they bullied the one fox who had tried his best to genuinely be a part of their group.

 

Nick Wilde stared up at his oppressors in horror, the look in his eyes that of someone who had just had their heart ripped out and promptly stomped into the ground right before his own eyes. The muzzle dug into his fur – irritating at best but not enough to distract him from the fear he felt looking up at those he had thought to be his friends.

 

He had spent the past few weeks getting to know each of these kids, befriending them and seeing if he would even enjoy being a part of his group. They had been so nice then, so caring and accepting of his joining their ranks. They had invited him to play their games; they had let him join in their various Junior Ranger Scout activities. They made him feel accepted despite the fact that he didn't yet wear the sash and uniform.

 

He had worn his uniform so proudly as he walked up the front steps; he had felt so comfortable as he walked down into their meeting room. Nick felt like he was making the right decision as he walked up to the group with a wide smile on his face. He was finally going to be part of something that made a difference in the city, and not just be another sneaky fox out to con everyone.

 

But the uniform didn't matter. His goals didn't matter. The supposed friendships he had made with the other Scouts didn't matter. All they had seen in him was another untrustworthy predator. Another fang-filled creature who didn't care about anyone else. No matter how many times Nick has proved the opposite over the past few weeks, the Scouts just wouldn't look past their prejudice.

 

And why should they? One good fox does not make up for a whole species' sins. Why should Nick be treated so kindly when his kind was known for being conniving, sleazy creatures that live off of the civilized population? Toxic thoughts like these and more began to spill into Nick's mind as he gazed up at the bullies around him. The muzzle kept his muzzle from opening wide enough to get the air that his body demanded, leaving him panting and gasping in terror on the floor.

 

With tears welling up in his eyes, Nick rolled over and scrambled to his feet and made a dash for the stairs. None of the other kids stopped him, all of them too busy laughing at the muzzled fox as he made his fearful escape. Tears trailed behind the fox, which only added to the joy of the Junior Ranger Scouts who now began to tease Nick for crying like a baby.

 

The laughter, the insults, the harsh smirks and glares from his “friends” ingrained themselves in Nick's mind as he raced down the front steps, and he nearly tripped over his own feet. He dashed to his right and scurried up next to the side of the stairs, hiding in the shadow provided by the cold concrete. Tears streamed down his face as he clawed at the muzzle, trying in vain to push it off. Finally, he scrabbled at the straps behind his head and pushed upwards. The straps moved, though his ears were pushed together before his head was freed from the awful contraption. With a flash of rage, Nick threw the muzzle across the sidewalk before bursting into a fresh set of tears and curling up against the cold, concrete wall behind him.

 

He cried. Nick sat there, hugging his knees to his chest as he buried his face in his arms and cried. Tears streamed down his face, dampening his fur and leaving behind dark streaks over his muzzle. His shoulders shook and his nose began to run, causing the poor fox cub to sniffle.

 

Nick hated everything in that moment. He hated the uniform he was wearing. He hated the metal contraption that lay just a few feet away from him. He hated the concrete wall against his back and the building it was a part of. He hated the kids in that building, and the little group they were a part of. The more Nick Wilde sat there, sniffling and letting his tears fall down his face, the more he grew to hate. He hated prey mammals for being so bigoted. He hated predators for being so easy to stereotype. He hated foxes for being so sly and conniving. He hated Zootopia for bringing all these mammals together just to yell and hurt each other.

 

Even as Nick's tears began to dry, his body still shook and his nose was still congested. The small, sniffling fox glanced down the street before him in contempt. But as soon as that anger had come, it was just as quickly replaced with a deep, painful sadness that stung his heart and made him feel heavy. The little fox had no heart to return home to his mother and father. He hadn't the courage to look his mother in the eye and tell her that no matter how hard he could try, no one would trust him because of his species.

 

Already Nick had been through school after school, be it private or public. Over and over he tried to make friends with others. Over and over he tried to show that he was so much more than his species. Sadly, fate had other plans for him. Repeatedly, other students would get him in trouble just by blaming him for rules that were broken by other students, and the teachers were no better. Just about all the teachers Nick had been through growing up all hated him with a passion and made sure to fail him at every opportunity, even if it was over something trivial that wouldn't have worked on a prey mammal.

 

Whenever Nick's mother or father would contact the principal about these situations, they were always treated just as badly. They were ignored, dismissed, even expelled just because of "false accusations of specist actions done by teachers and students." No matter where Nick went, his "reputation" followed him.

 

He was sick and tired of it. He was tired of people judging him for what he was and not who he was. No matter how hard he tried, everything he did was all for nothing if no one was going to give him the time of day just because he was a fox. The rage began to come back to the little fox, making him shake angrily and bare his teeth as he processed these new thoughts.

 

Why should he even try anymore? What point was there to being nice to others if no one was willing to look past the false prejudice? A low growl rose in Nick's throat as he finally let his pent up emotions loose. His eyes locked onto the muzzle that laid on the ground in front of him. Standing up, he paced over to the metal contraption and eyed it carefully. He traced a finger over the cage, feeling the cold metal against his paw pad.

 

Something snapped inside of him, and he cried out in anger as he chucked the muzzle against the concrete wall. The contraption hit the concrete with enough force that it dented slightly before clattering to the ground. Nick screamed again and gripped his hat, tearing into the fabric with his claws. More tears streamed down his face as he tore his hat in two and tossed the pieces off to the side. He tugged at his ears as he fell to his knees, his muzzle wide open as he growled and cried out in anguish. Anger flowed through his veins like blood, making his body shake almost violently. His voice tapered into a loud sob as he curled into himself again, hugging his body as the cold of the night took over again.

 

There was just no point. No point in going home and facing his parents, no point in trying to be anything other than a rotten, thieving fox.

 

The last tear Nick would cry fell from his cheek and onto the cold ground below the fox, leaving behind something similar to a husk of a former mammal. Nick stared blankly at the sidewalk under him, though his body was still curled around itself to fight off the cold. Even now, however, Nick could feel nothing. Everything was just numb: his mind, his body, his emotions. He could feel nothing.

 

Standing up, Nick turned on his heel and began an aimless trek. There was no goal in mind, no destination. He just had to get away from that nasty place and the memories it held. He had to get away from his family; they would be better off without him anyway. He had eavesdropped on the conversations between his mother and father after they thought he had gone to bed. He had heard of their many arguments about how they would pay the bills or buy enough groceries for them. Without Nick in the picture, they would have one less mouth to feed or worry about. In Nick's mind, he was doing them a favor.

 

Despite the part of town that Nick was walking through not being busy at night, no one even so much as looked at the shambling fox kit all by himself. No one had time to help the spawn of such a sinful species. No one had the desire to help another fox grow up to be a common thief. Nick didn't even care. He just walked aimlessly, now ignorant of the cruel world around him. Not that he wanted to pay attention anyways, now aware of just how twisted the world was.

 

His feet took him deep downtown, well into the hustle and bustle of the nightlife of the city. Neon lights glowed all around him, but none caught his attention. To him, all was dull and gray in comparison to the hate that filled many of these mammals. There was no joy to be had in this city, no happiness to partake in. That was meant for the prey mammals, those who were accepted and belonged. The predators had to strive to just be tolerated by the powerful and numerous prey or they would risk being kicked out or worse. Nick had learned that the hard way, and it was a lesson he swore to never forget.

 

Larger mammals that passed him barely missed crushing him with a single step, but Nick didn't move from their path. He just kept walking as he ignored the world and those around him. Sure, the bigger mammals would get ticked off and yell at him, but what were they gonna do about it? He was just a fox, he may try to pickpocket them if they stayed near him too long. In fact, he barely began to notice that most mammals gave him a wide berth. It was as if the sea of mammals was parting just for him with how many mammals avoided him like the plague. Nick didn't mind this as it gave him free reign of where he could walk or travel to if he wanted.

 

As Nick walked along, his mind refused to think back to whether or not his parents were worried about him. He refused to think about their reaction when asking the Junior Ranger Scouts about where he was. He refused to think about seeing his parents ever again. They deserved a better son than him – one that wasn't hated by everyone because of his species, and one that didn't always try to make the world and his species better. No one wanted to fix the fox public image, no matter how hard otherswanted to try. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Nick swallowed it all the same.

 

Finally, the little fox came to the entrance of a dark alley: the perfect home for fox scum like him. Gagging slightly at the smell, Nick shuffled into the pitch black alleyway and let his night vision take over. He could see a few dumpsters filled with all sorts of godawful trash – most likely the source of the heinous odor that assaulted his sensitive nose. Graffiti decorated the walls and trash littered about the floor. Thankfully, there were a few boxes tucked away against the wall that Nick could use as a bed. And use as a bed he did as he made his way to the boxes and set one right side up. He climbed into the box, curled around himself for warmth, and closed his eyes.

 

BANG!

 

The sudden sound of what seemed to be a bat hitting the dumpster shattered Nick's already-troubled sleep, and with a yelp, the fox cub shot up out of the box and toppled onto the ground. A figure coated in shadow gasped as well and turned towards Nick, a bat in their paws.

 

“Who're you!?” a surprisingly deep voice bellowed, sounding similar to a growl.

 

Nick only moaned in response as he rubbed his head, the sudden scare having given him a migraine. With shaky limbs, the little fox stood up and looked at the other mammal who stood atop the dumpster, though his vision was still foggy.

 

“Just a kid, huh?” the voice said with a hint of sadness. “Where are your parents?”

 

Nick just stared dumbly at the mammal, still emotionally numb from his previous ordeal. The mammal tilted their head in confusion as they regarded Nick. Many more questions swirled about in his head, though he only chose a few of the more pressing ones.

 

"You running away? Lost?" the voice tried again, trying to get anything out from the little cub. Again, Nick was completely silent, much to the rising annoyance of the bat-wielding mammal. With a groan, he hopped down from the dumpster and walked up to Nick. Surprisingly, the mammal only came up to Nick's chest, though his huge ears more than made up for his height. "Fine. You got a name, kid?"

 

Finally, Nick spoke up, though his voice was groggy from all the crying and screaming he had done. “Nick...Nick Wilde.”

 

The small mammal felt a sense of accomplishment at finally getting a response out of the kid. He decided to try to continue with that line of questioning, hoping to get the kid to open up. “Alright Nick, where are you from?”

 

“H-Happytown Slums...” Nick replied with a slight stutter and began to sniffle. As he looked down at the smaller mammal, he started to feel emotions again, and the sadness was coming on strong.

 

“Ah, I've heard about that place. Pretty rough for predators, ain't it?” the mammal asked, though he didn't get the answer he expected. Instead, he was met with a sudden hug from the young cub before he heard him cry. The mammal was shocked and was tempted to shove the kid away, but there was something in the way the kid cried. There were no tears from this fox. All that escaped was sorrow and anguish, but his tears were all dried up. The mammal was familiar with this kind of pain, and with a sigh, he wrapped his arms around Nick.

 

"Hey, it's okay, kid. You're gonna be okay," the small mammal said, though if he was honest with himself, he wasn't sure if that would even work on the kid or not. It was not every day that he would meet a lone kid in an alley and suddenly have them cry on his shoulder.

 

As awkward as it was, the mammal let Nick cry for a while, waiting for the sudden bout of emotions to be expelled from the poor kid's system. When the fox was reduced to some sniffles and a few gasps, the mammal gently pushed the kid back so they could see eye to eye again. “You're gonna be okay, kid. Trust me.”

 

Nick sniffled and rubbed his eyes. “Promise?” he croaked, his voice still shot from crying.

 

The smaller mammal couldn't help but crack a small grin at the kid's innocence. There was something endearing about this young kid, and the mammal found himself drawn to him. With a nod, he answered, "Promise. I won't let anything happen to you."

 

This made the young kit smile as he sniffled some more. "U-uhm, what's your name mister?" he asked, his red, teary eyes gazing at the mammal.

 

The small fennec fox looked at the kid before him. In Nick, he saw a lot of himself as a kit: lost, confused, afraid. A small spark of protectiveness grew in the fennec's heart, leading him to care for this cub and make sure he didn't live through the same childhood that he himself had to go through. “My name is Finnick. Just stick with me, kid, and you'll be just fine.”