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In Our Dreams

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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-

"Mr. Wilde?"

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

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Till Next Time

Chapter Text

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.

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Till Next Time

Chapter Text

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.

But also-

"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 ;)

Tree term!

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.

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Till Next Time

Chapter Text

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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.
- Officer_Carrots

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_Sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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.

Deer! Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.
- Officer_Carrots

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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?

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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!

DerI Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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?

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
I tried to once. My friend's dad told me how to sign to someone that can't speak.

Dare; Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dare; Agent_Parsnips
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.

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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.

Dyr? Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
I'm so glad I found your name again! How is school this year? Did you make new friends?

Dear, Officer_Carrots
I'm glad too! School is fun, but I haven't made a lot of friends. I've learned a lot about Bunnyburrow!

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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.

Dar Agent_Parsnips
Summr was fun! I had a tututur and she's rel nice. She help me with my writiing and maks the best Food ever!

And wrote:

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.

Der Agent_Parsnips
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!

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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:

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.

Dear Agent_Parsnips
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?

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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.

Dear, Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
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.

Dear, Officer_Carrots
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.

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
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?

Der Agent_Parsnips
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:

Dear, Ranger_Blueberries
We have a bully in our class that just won't stop. Why do you think other mammals are bullies?

Dear, Officer_Carrots
I think that they are bullies because they don't know better. I'd rather have friends than be a bully.

Dear, Supermegamachinelazer_sugarraspberrydoughnuts
There's a bully in our class that takes things sometimes. Do you think it's right for anyone to be a bully?

Der Agent_Parsnips
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

Chapter Text

Kindled Spirits

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.

Draw weapon,

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.


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.

"He's gone..."

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


Chapter Text

Brighter Days

"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


Chapter Text

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."

-the fox-

He readjusted his bag. "Oh, I've read a bit about it, but..."

-the bunny-

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


Chapter Text

Our Favourite Things

" ...Dreams come to tell us something about our lives that we are missing."

― James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

The blurry cascade of vibrant trees whisked by as the squad car raced down the empty roads of Bunnyburrow. Its roaring engine was the only constant sound to the few passengers inside.

Though it was common for a vehicle from the sheriff's department to take on excessive speeds, it was generally only when chasing down those that were breaking the law. And this wasn't one of those times... Eliot knew that. But this, to him, was a definite emergency.

He smiled at the two mammals sitting awkwardly in the back seat while he barely kept the vehicle in one lane. Every now and again when he'd glance at them in the rearview mirror, he could swear that Nick gave Judy the look and when she had caught him, he stared out the window all while she kept her eyes on him in the same way. So while they were playing 'eye keep away', he grinned as he wondered what they were thinking.

How fast are we going? Nick wondered, feeling himself being pressed back into the seat from the forward motion. From the speed, it felt like the train he was on a few minutes ago was much slower. He even had a chance to look at the posted speed limit for a split second and raised a brow when it read '45MPH' when they were going at least twice that speed; thee times maybe?

That aside, Nick shrugged and slumped back in the seat. A lot was on his mind and he tried to occupy his forethought with anything other than the past few weeks with the increasing tension in the city. The trip was okay, and the view - albeit a bit fast - was nice, calming even. Then there was his mild excitement over moving into a new house, his family and friends... the bunny next to him.

His paw tensed, tapping the little gift basket that sat between them. He had glanced over to her several times now and this time he willed himself to stare out her window and only see the tips of her ears. There was a lot about her that was different than most prey that he had just met. From her being willing to sit next to, or even be around predators, to the way she interacted with him at a few minutes ago.

What was with that look she gave me at the train station? he asked himself as his eyes slowly drew downward. It wasn't like he hadn't been stared at before. No. But having experienced most prey (and some predators) expressions as 'Hey look, a fox... RUN!', he hadn't the slightest clue as to what her demeanor held. Thought it did feel like a clumsy welcome.

And with clumsy welcomes, Nick sought to break the ice by talking to her in some manner; usually teasing, it was a gift and a curse.

However, the second he saw the faintest glimmer of purple, he turned away altogether... but not before his mind played tricks on him to where he imagined her smiling at him.

Which was ironically what Judy was doing.

The bunny had been trying to catch glimpses of the fox out of the corner of her eyes, but wasn't exactly successful. While mostly out of excitement that there would be a new student and neighbour - a fox at that - she was eager to see more of that brightened smile she had known every mammal to wear when they first came to the burrows.

Yet, whenever she glanced his way, Judy had to look away as she caught the green of his eyes every single time. And sweet CHEESE did she ever feel awkward when that happened. She loved the colour. It was nearly everywhere she went, but it was rare to see any mammal with green eyes. In her constant effort to break the monotony of their trip by striking up a conversation, she fell just short of being able to say the first word.

Attempting to find something to say, she looked out the window and raised a brow.

Why's Mr. Eliot speeding? she mused, now focused on the front seat. She could see the wolf's ears flicker every now and again from behind the grated window. He knows that this isn't an emergency, right? But then again he is acting strange.

Judy had, for a brief moment before they entered the car, asked Eliot just why he couldn't have put Nick's luggage in the trunk. You know, that place meant to carry bags in the first place. He had, instead, haphazardly piled them in the passenger seat after setting Nick in the back and shut him in.

When she confronted him about it, his excuse was - and she didn't know how he even came to this conclusion - that Nick, being new to town and having grown up in the city, would feel more comfortable in the back with her as it would feel like a cab ride with Eliot as their chauffeur.

While Eliot may have thought it felt like that, this was still technically a squad car. And not only that, but the sheer logic didn't really make sense at all. Either way, from what she could tell, Nick was comfortable; she dropped her argument for the sake of peace.

Trying to isolate her thoughts into something say while taking in the blur of trees, Judy absentmindedly reached over to the gift basket between them. Her paws instinctively smoothed over one of the carrots she meticulously placed within. When she grabbed it and started munching on it, she heard a soft chuckle.

Turning to the source of the noise, she was again met with the sudden glint of green. Nick was staring right at her; she didn't know exactly what to say.

He spoke first. "Hungry are we, Carrots?"

Judy... blinked. Did he just call me 'Carrots'?!

Not even a full hour and he had given her a derogatory nickname. It wasn't like she hadn't been called that before - she, in fact, named herself that before in the letters she sent to a friend years ago - but to hear another mammal say it clearly, despite the species, made her brow furrow.

Her nose scrunched and she narrowed her eyes. Her free paw made its way to her hip while she pointed at him with the other. "Alright, Nick," she deadpanned, "You may not know this, but calling a bunny-"

"Oh I know, Carrots," Nick interrupted with what Judy could see was the smuggest grin any mammal ever had. "You can't call a bunny 'cute'," He accentuated the word with theatrical flair and winked. "Cute hat, by the way," Judy scowled while Nick leaned a little closer. "But I was just calling out what your favourite snack seems to be."

Her paw still pointing at him, Judy was taken aback. How did he know that I-

The second that she saw the blur of orange held within her paw, she knew what the fox had meant. Now horrified that she had taken a carrot from the gift basket that she gave him, she looked down to it and became suddenly embarrassed. Not only did she eat half of the carrot that she held, but she had eaten the other two she had packed away.

She gasped, "Oh no! No, no, no!" Judy's paw dropped the carrot onto the seat as she blushed from her faux pas. "I am so sorry about that." she apologized.

Never before had she made a mistake like this, it was an entirely different kind of embarrassment. Recalling her day earlier, she realized all too late why she had done this and she needed to confront her issue. "It's just that I forgot to get lunch and then I guess having carrots around made me hungry. And then I-"

Nick waved his paw dismissively. "Eh, it's alright, Carrots," he jeered, snickering all the while. "I'm not gonna hold it against you."

Judy, again, was taken aback. Not because he said it was alright - she hoped that was the case - but because within the hour she knew that this new nickname would stick like a stigma as long as he was around; they always seemed to, much like her own given to her by her father: Jude the Dude.

Sighing as she resigned herself to this, she smiled and shook her head. Perfect 'Officer Carrots'. Now I need to figure out a nickname for him as well.

With the two mammals finally talking to one another, they never saw the absolutely beaming expression of the one in the front... or the phone he had taken out to snap a few sneaky pictures. He made sure to turn off the shutter sound, but also didn't ensure to keep his eyes on the road. The second the vehicle hit the little divets used to startle dozing drivers, he dropped his phone and took control of the wheel again.

He didn't do so quick enough as he caught the bunny and the fox off-guard.

"Deputy Eliot what are you doing?!" Judy chattered, feeling the car get back on the right track.

Thinking quickly, he came up with just what he needed to say, and just in time too. "Just, uh... dropped my phone," the wolf replied. His ears perked up when he peered down the road a little to see a dirt path that lead down to where they were headed. He turned back to them with a cheesy smile. "Looks like we're here!"

Nick sat up in his seat as he tried to get a better view of the place, but all he could see were trees on either side. When they got a little closer - and thankfully the wolf went a little slower down the path - he finally caught a glimpse of where he'd be living in Bunnyburrow. Despite everything that Glen had said to him, he wasn't prepared for this.

In the small clearing ahead stood a small cottage; two floors, wooden all around and painted white. A cobblestone chimney jutted out of its left side and the whole thing was surrounded by various shrubbery.

It didn't look too bad for a house in the middle of the woods, but then again, Nick hadn't lived in a house before and didn't know what to expect.

When the vehicle came to a stop on the dirt path that lead up to it, Eliot wasted no time in letting the two out just after he picked up his phone again. The fox hopping out of the car was soon tailed by the bunny and her gift basket. Both stared at the residence, Nick with bewilderment, and Judy with joy.

Scratching the nape of his neck, Nick sighed. I guess it isn't gonna be too bad here? he questioned, fully hoping that it would be true. He was about to shrug it off and get his bags when he felt a heavy weight on his shoulder. Startled at this turn of events, he cast his gaze skyward to see Eliot bearing a bright grin at him and Judy somehow pushed closer. He couldn't have felt more uncomfortable.

"Alright, now that you're at your new house, I think we should get a picture of you and your new friend," he said, stepping away to leave the two teens to stare at him. He stood next to the car and knelt down with his phone camera focused on them.

Nick didn't really know what to think. Sure, he had just met Judy and she seemed nice. And then there was Eliot; friendly and somehow a bit terrifying. But when he turned back to the bunny, he was surprised to see that she was right beside him; prey never got that close to him willingly for more than a half second to pass him by. It made him a little more relaxed.

Judy thought it was a great idea. Though she just met Nick, it was always nice to have some memory or memento of a new friend; pictures were ideal for the occasion. Still, she needed something a little more, a way to give Nick a taste of Bunnyburrow justice: his own nickname. Turnabout is fair play, Nick. she mused. I just have to find out what he likes best.

Excited that his little plan was being pieced together, Eliot waved his paws at them. "A little closer," he informed, ushering the two to move an inch towards each other and close the gap. "A little more," There was no space between them, "Little more," They were practically joined at the hip now. "Now pose like you're best friends," It took a second for each of them, but Judy wrapped her arm around Nick's waist and he, in turn, put his arm around her shoulders; his tail had a mind of its own. And while it was unfamiliar for Nick to have any mammal cling to him except for Skye, Judy didn't seem to mind; Eliot was internally howling with joy.

"PERFECT!" he shouted, barely able to contain any part of his excitement. He focused the camera dead on them. "Aaannndddd... Smile!"

With the click of his phone to capture the picture, the wolf admired what he saw: two complete strangers - a bunny with a bright smile under her straw hat and a fox, with his tail just seemingly wrapped around her, making 'rabbit ears' with his paw just behind that hat - that looked like lifelong friends.

Satisfied with the result, he pocketed the device and grabbed the luggage out of the car. His tail excitably swished behind him the whole time, kicking up dirt and fallen leaves with every pass.

"So, Nick," he addressed, shouldering the bag and trotting up to the front door of the cottage. "You ready to see the house?!"

Knowing that nothing but a clear 'yes' was in order, Nick tapped his foot and scratched his ear. Straightforward answers were not his style. He grinned. "If it has a swimming pool and a butler, then I'm definitely interested."

Hearing the wolf chuckle and the bunny giggle, Nick followed them up to the porch. He was surprised to see a small swinging chair by the entrance, but was careful not to fall into the foliage; one of the bushes was prickly.

Taking out the key and opening the solid wooden door, Eliot tilted his head to the residence and waved the fox forward. "Welcome your new home in Bunnyburrow, Nicholas Wilde."

The tone in his voice was nothing short of jubilant, and the expression on Nick's muzzle when he peered inside was unforgettable; Judy would etch it in her mind for the rest of her days.

That dazzling, gleaming, kit like wonder that never failed to brighten her day as well as show the world that there is certainly beauty left.

While it looked okay on the outside, Nick expected it to be bare and dusty on the inside, but it was fully furnished. Hardwood floors in the foyer welcomed him with a mat for his feet and sturdy table set with scented candles and a candy bowl. There was a small sitting area was just to his left with several sturdy looking couches that surrounded the chimney. Light poured in from a single bay window.

To his right, he saw the beginnings of a kitchen and dining room. A small, ambient chandelier lit the space and she caught glimpses of a set table with a few welcome balloons tied down on it. And in front of him, he saw a small hallway with doors on either side and a staircase that lead to the upper floor.

Taking a second to breathe it all in, pine scent and all, Nick started pacing around to get his bearings; his tour guide followed.

"They did a good fixup job on this place," Eliot informed, dropping the bags off in the living room. "Repaired the windows, fixed the walls, replaced the roof." As he listed these things off, Judy set the gift basket on the kitchen counter. She had been there before to help with some of those repairs and was glad that she was at least able to do some of the painting in the bedrooms and hang curtains.

When he finally caught up to the two, Nick wore a slightly different expression on his muzzle. Judy tilted her head to read it further as the wolf continued to explain the inner workings of the house. She had often been told by her mother and even the sheriff that she was sharp and intuitive. She did her level best to try to know what any mammal was thinking, it was part of being a cop.

So, despite his calm demeanor, when she took a closer look, he seemed... lost? Overwhelmed? Alone?

To her, it wasn't hard to understand why. A mammal from the city coming to live in the country alone for a few weeks? There were few scenarios that she could think of where one would feel just that.

Mulling over what she could do to hopefully curb or break such a state, Judy's thoughts flashed to only one simple option. He'll be my classmate tomorrow! I can take him to the school's courtyard! Her foot tapped in unison to her plan, it was too exciting. I wonder what he'll want to choose to grow?

Before she knew it, their tour had led them to the kitchen, and Eliot was wrapping up his welcoming speech. "And just remember, the Bunnyburrow Sheriff's Department will hunt you down until you get married."

Nick took a step back and bumped against the kitchen table. How the wolf went from talking about the floorplan to how singles should find a significant other was beyond him. He gave a nervous grin. "I'll keep that in mind, Officer."

Attempting to find a way to occupy himself lest the wolf bombard him with talk of designer wedding rings down at their local jewelers, Nick saw the gift basket sitting next to him. Having not eaten since he left for the new house, he quickly rummaged for the little treat he had his eyes on while in the car: blueberries.

Eliot nodded. "Well, all that's left is upstairs and-" In his haste - and now watching Nick take a snack - he had completely forgot one of the most important details. "Oh, that's right! A few of us packed the fridge with food for you."

Taking another bite of the next few blueberries, Nick and nodded. He had wondered what he'd do for food and didn't exactly know if any pizza places were open; or if there were any to begin with. And even if there weren't, the little morsels he had in his paw were far more delicious than any storebought brand of berry he had.

He hadn't even noticed he hummed and actually savored the flavour of them. So when they were out of his paw and he reached into the basket again to find none, he sighed. Good things like that never last, huh?

In his dismay, he never saw Judy smirking. He ate the blueberries! she mused. I know just what to get him next time, and what to call him!

She was a second away from coming up with a quip and his new name, but was silenced when a phone buzzed; it was Eliot's.

When he looked at the message he received, his expression went blank. "Uh-oh! We gotta go, Judy," he said, casting an apologetic look Nick's way. "Sheriff's got in a little bender again. He needs a ride home."

Visibly cringing at what she knew had happened, Judy gave Nick a somber look as well. She wanted to stay a little longer and help him get used to the new environment, but, of course, Jack had to wreck a car again.

Dropping the key on the table, Eliot made his way to the front door. "I'll swing by to take you to school tomorrow. So don't stay up late." He waved his goodbye but waited for Judy to do the same.

And say goodbye she would. Now's your chance.

She gave a curt bow. "It was nice to meet you."

Likewise, Nick grinned and gave her a nod and short salute. "Take care, Carrots."

She grinned back, matching every bit of his smug expression.

"See ya at school," Judy singsonged and bounced off to the door. She paused there for just a second to look back, and call him by his new nickname. "Blueberries."

She closed the door and left the fox bewildered at the turn of events. He couldn't believe what he just heard.

"Blueberries?!" he repeated. "She called me Blueberries..."

Nick had to laugh. He hadn't been called that for quite some time, but he didn't mind. Soon enough, he felt a bit odd in the quiet house alone. He had to figure out something that he could do to occupy himself. Alright, Ranger Blueberries, let's get settled in.

And settle in he did. He unpacked his bags by taking them to one of the upstairs bedrooms - Nick was glad that there were four. Though he didn't know which one to choose from, he decided on taking the one with green wallpaper, much like his Pawaiian shirt. In setting up his new room and finding places for clothes, electronics, and keepsakes, he realized that he still hadn't called his mother to say he arrived safely.

When he pulled out his phone to do just that, he felt it ring just then. He shook his head. She always knows just when to call, doesn't she?

He answered. "Hey, Mom," Being so used to conversing and multitasking, he paced his way downstairs. There was the promise of food in the fridge and it was starting to get late. "Yeah, I got here okay. Sorry I didn't call earlier."

The second he opened the refrigerator, he wasn't disappointed. There were packages of food here and there, all wrapped neatly and portioned out. If he guessed, it'd be enough to last him a good few weeks. He took out the first thing he saw - some sort of veggie lasagna labeled 'welcome from Mrs. Hopps - and put it in the microwave.

His ears flickered as his mother bombarded him with questions of how the new place was and if he was happy there. "It's..." What could he say, really? He just got there, the folk were friendly and didn't really seem to hate predators. He chuckled from his time with Judy. "It's great, actually," he admitted. "Fresh air, open space," but, of course, there was the bad side of everything. "No tv or wifi..."

Sharing a laugh with her and hearing how her day was, Nick began to tear into his food. Again, he was impressed. The food tasted so much better than the stuff he had in the city. It was on par with what his mother made often.

When Marian said that he had another that wanted to speak to him, he thought it was either Glen or Serenity asking him how he was settling in... that wasn't the case.

He reeled when he heard the screech of 'NICKY' in his ear. The tod knew that the vixen always did that kind of thing. "Hey to you too, Skye."

On the verge of taking another bite, he felt the room become a little bit colder. Did the ac kick in? he wondered.

He had to stop himself for a moment when Skye went off with a plethora of questions on her own. "No, I haven't seen any ghosts. There's no such thing. Yes, there are rabbits here and- no, no they're not chasing me out with a torch... yet. Wait, what?! Ugh!For the last time, there are no ghosts here!"

The conversation drawing to a close, his claws tapped idly against the table. He had often spoken to Skye over the phone like this, but never so far away. when she had finally said all that she had time for, she became a bit quiet; unusual for her.

Nick took a deep breath, he didn't know what to say. So all he could do was say what came to his mind. "Hey, Skye," he began, she barely answered. "It's nice here. I'm sure you'll like your new room.

Her laugh was all he needed to hear before he bid her and his mother goodnight.

When he had finished his food and readied himself for bed, he looked all around his room. It was far calmer than he had imagined. The green wallpaper relaxed his nerves and the constant scent of pine and other natural perfumes eased his mind.

The last thing he saw before the blissful haze of sleep claimed him, was the little green hat he wore back when he wanted to become a scout. A tired smile cast its way towards the memento. He was reminded of the only other mammal in the world that had ever called him by the nickname that Judy gave him. Heh... blueberries and carrots.

Deep, labored breaths were exhumed from the bovine as he took careful, calculated sips from his mug. Its contents spilled a little every time he brought it to his muzzle; he couldn't stop his hooves from shaking.

Upon the fourth or fifth sip, he felt it become a little more stable as a grey pair of paws helped him steady it.

Sheriff Chambi looked at the doe helping him with a brightened smile.

"Thank ya', ma'am," he spoke in a ginger manner, taking caution in his sip before she helped him set it down.

Bonnie sighed. "You're welcome, sheriff," she said in a dull tone looking across the coffee table and tapping her foot in frustration at the nervously smiling buck. "It's the least I could do given the circumstances."

Feeling all eyes on him, Jack gulped and shivered from the verbal scolding he was going to get; there was no time to prepare. He stood up."Sir, I'm terribly sorry about what happened to the car." he apologized, scratching the back of his neck and attempting to avoid the death glare from the other two mammals in the main living room.

"I didn't know that the breaks would-"

"SHUT YER' YAP!" Chambi shouted, slamming his hoof on the bridge of his knee and flinching from the impact. He cringed and then grasped the bridge of his bandaged nose and sighed. "This is the fifth time... FIFTH... TIME in eight months you don' caused a wreck!"

Jack couldn't help but back away a little at the continued mishap... and miscount. He doesn't know about the old truck, does he?

Chambi fumed, mulling over how quickly the situation elevated.

He had just given Jack the keys to the cruiser and said a little prayer. No sooner had he got into the vehicle, buckled his seatbelt, and blinked, he could taste the airbag that deployed. Jack hadn't even been in the car for a full ten seconds when he veered off the road and straight into a tree at full speed; he couldn't break.

When they managed to get out and call for help, they were picked up by some of the Hopps family and escorted to the burrow. With all that happened in a short time, Chambi was happy for a few things. One, that the Hopps' were always willing to help. Two, that they were still alive. And three, that he had shed his antlers earlier that spring. He couldn't imagine what would happen if they had stuck around.

Now stuck here after speaking with Bonnie and Stu about the damages, the deer waited for his other deputy to return so he could go home for the day. He could write a report in the morning. To say that he was furious about the whole ordeal was an understatement.

"I don't know how you managed to get 'yer permit, but I think-"

"Hey there, sheriff."

Chambi and Jack both turned from each other and to the wolf idly swishing his tail at the mouth of the hallway. Much to Jack's relief, Eliot had finally arrived with Judy striding in not too far behind him.

For a moment, all was calm... only until the canine spoke up. "Sheriff," he addressed again with a grin and nod towards Jack. "You know you could have called Sunny to-"

"I ain't callin' his godmother!" Chambi shouted, standing up with a bit of effort. He pointed at Jack with indignation. "Last time I did, she tried to get me in shorts... SHORTS! I don't wear 'em!"

Gathering only quizzical looks and the awkward cough, the deer huffed and trotted off to the door.

"Let's go," he said to his deputy while turning back to face the few bunnies that remained. "I hope you folks have a nice night. Oh, and Jack," The bunny listened intently. "Next time, I'ma shred that license so 'ya can't cause another wreck!"

The door slammed to leave only bunnies behind, Judy cast Jack a sympathetic smile. "That bad?" she asked and he returned the statement with a nod.

She walked up to him and pat him on his shoulder. "You'll get it one day."

While not entirely assured from her comforting words, Jack did feel a little better. She, more than any bunny there, knew his constant struggle when it came to vehicular incidents. There was the squad car today, a tractor or two, several trucks and cars... a scooter. The only thing that he could really (legally) ride was his own bike.

Still, he shrugged. There were more important things to dwell on. "How is our newest neighbour?" he asked, starting to make his way down the hall as he was genuinely curious as to who they were. He had heard only heard the name from the sheriff as he would share nothing else.

Judy perked up. Her encounter with Nick was rather endearing. She made a new friend and they even bonded for a while. "You mean blu- Nick?" Catching herself before she gave away his nickname, she went on. "He's okay. A bit shy, as sassy as the Swinton sisters, aaannnddd, Eliot's new friend."

Jack paused in the middle of the hall. He tried to envision what this mammal would act like, but couldn't put the pieces together fully. Well, aside from being mentored by the wolf as he himself was. That lead him to question, "What is he, by the way?"

Judy's ears fell. "Oh, right," She scratched her arm as she recalled Jack's one true fear. She took a deep breath. "Well... he's a-"

"Aunt Judy! Aunt Judy!"

Stopping the moment she heard the shrill chirp, Judy peered down the hall. Barreling towards them as fast as their legs could carry them was a small, light brown bunny. She giddily galloped at full speed while a small paper was clutched in her paw.

Knowing full well what would happen, Judy stretched out her arms just as the bunny jumped at her. "Hey there, Cotton." Judy laughed, catching the kit and bringing her into a deep hug.

Snuggling against her, the little bunny giggled before holding up her prized possession. "Look what I made."

Taking the suggestion to heart, Judy looked at the sheet to see what the bunny had created this time. It was an amalgam mess of macaroni, glitter and crayon colours that puzzled her, but she wouldn't let Cotton know that. "Oh wow!" she gasped, trying to find some semblance of anything to the pictures madness. "This looks great!"

Never one to demean another, Judy watched the expression of the kit brighten. "It's us picking carrots." Cotton explained.

Tilting her head, Judy could see subtle orange and green with several pieces of macaroni for ears and varying colours. Though she didn't know what all the red was. She probably ran out of hazel brown, she figured.

Nevertheless, Judy chuckled. "This here," she waved the paper and pointed down the hall. "Is going on the fridge."

Cotton gasped and hugged her aunt.

While the two were enjoying the moment, Jack looked at his watch. He had meant to be back earlier to finish his studies, but the wreck had put him off schedule. "I've gotta go, Judy," he bid her, already taking off towards his room. "See you tomorrow."

Waving back at him, Judy hopped her way off to the main kitchen. Since she promised Cotton it would be hung up there, now was the best time to do so just before they all went to sleep.

While skipping her way there, she caught glimpses of the red, blue, and green in the picture. It reminded her of Nick. Carrots and Blueberries. she thought, mentally listing off as many fruit and vegetable puns as she knew about the two.

A smirk crept on her muzzle for reasons she couldn't quite grasp. Regardless, she shook her head. She had a kit that was eager to see her picture posted on the fridge this week, she wouldn't keep her waiting.


The joy of our dreams is greater with friends


Chapter Text

Cheers, Jeers, and Peers

"Don't be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart." 
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Nick wasn't one to sleep heavily at any given time, but it could never be said that he was a light sleeper either. He generally slept through his first alarm by quickly shutting it off in favor of curling himself under the sheets more. It then fell to whoever was around - usually his mother, or Skye the few times she stayed over on a weekend - to promptly get his tail out of bed before he was late for school. That method had been the usual and despite him attempting to catch a few more z's, he repeated the motions.

Again, as always, when he shut off the 'call of academia' he felt a gentle tapping on his shoulder; he attempted to feign a deep sleep.

He felt like it might work this time as with so much happening, his mother just might let him play hooky for the day. And, to further theatricalize his display, he groggily yawned and snuggled the pillow.

"Mmmm... five more minuhhhh..." he groaned, lolling his tongue out and mentally giving himself a thumbs up.

In the first few seconds where the shoulder shaking didn't come, Nick felt as though victory was assured. However, that feeling, like many things in life, was subject to sway at a moments notice.

"Come on, buddy. You'll be late for school."

Despite the gentle and excited tone that rang through his ears, Nick's eyes shot open in horror. He swiveled his head in the direction of the voice he knew wasn't his mothers and was met nose to nose with a smiling white canid. Fear struck his heart for unknown reasons and he shuffled away from the wolf, yelping and falling over the edge of his comfortable bed only to end up in an awkward mess of flailing limbs on the floor.

"W-what are you doing here?!" he shouted, mind reeling at every possible reason of why the deputy would show up. "Wait, how are you here in my ro-"

No sooner had he started asking, his eyes focused on the space around him. Gone was the little-remodeled half of a one bedroom apartment, and here and now was a full room to himself. Forgetting that he had moved from Zootopia, the fox's senses started to come together one by one.

When Nick had gotten to his feet and wrapped himself in his blanket, Eliot wagged his tail and jingled a little key in his paw. "I had to get you for your first day of school," he explained. "I almost couldn't find a way in or a ladder, but when I picked up this odd rock outside and took aim at the porch window, the spare key fell out of it."

Taking a few deep breaths and going over what was said to him, Nick's jaw dropped. "How were you gonna get in the house with a roc-"

"I'll meet you downstairs. You're gonna love your new school, I just know it!" the wolf said, waving towards Nick hurriedly. "And don't forget, I'm also your truent officer!"

Now alone in his room, the puzzled fox scratched his head and shook off the rest of his sleepy state. The deputy showing up had shaken him. What kind of world had he woken up in where a cop could just walk in unannounced? Not only that, but said cop was just eager to get him to school on time?

At least summer's a few weeks away, he figured. As it was on the verge of June anyway, all he imagined doing was finishing the course of his sophomore year and enjoying his summer vacation in the burrows. It wasn't the city, but, from what he gathered, they had plenty of festivals year round.

And from his research on the school itself, they had events that stretched on for a while. A smile plastered itself on his face as the prospect of meeting new mammals was on the rise. Not only that, but meeting predators like himself would have to be a plus from the school setting he had before.

Though it wasn't that he feared having prey around him, it was that, given his experiences, they weren't always the best to be around. However, his smile only grew once he reminded himself of a little bunny that had been genuinely friendly towards him and matched his sass incredibly.

Scanning the room, he meandered over to his bags. While still not fully unpacked - he figured he'd do that throughout the week - he did, at least, have everything organized. He quickly donned a fresh set of clothes and thought about what lay ahead for him at school.

I wonder if Carrots and I will be in any classes together?

"So, that's why you wanted me to pull information on ghost house."

Readjusting his tie for the third time that morning, Jack finally felt as though it was presentable. He smoothed over the fabric of his school uniform once more to get any stray wrinkles out. Being an astute mammal, he could never stand to have them in any establishment, save for working in the field.

Satisfied and ensuring that his stripes were covered from the camera on his cellphone, he pocketed the device and gave a gave a warm smile to his cherished friend.

Judy continued idly kicking her legs over the side of the trickling fountain at the front of the schoolyard. Her head cast skyward as she enjoyed the gentle spring breeze. "Mhm," she hummed with a smile. "I think it'd be great for him to know some of the history of his new residence."

She had been thinking of the fox all night, wondering how his first day would go as well him adjusting to life in the burrows. Plenty of mammals had come to their humble town from the splendour of city living, but not all had still been able to find comfort in the simple pleasures of the country.

One such mammal stood beside her, soaking in the sunlight of the early morning as well as her cousin.

"Is it really a ghost house?" asked Dawn, casting a glance to the ewe next to her while fixing her head wool and tidying her backpack. Adjusting her glasses for what had to be the eighth time since she stood there, the white wooled ewe scratched at a little patch of gauze on her cheek. Clutched almost deathly in her hooves was an oversized book on leadership. While she was almost as astute as Jack, the black sheep beside her was a bit laxer in her studies. Barring what she dared to dream for her future, she still kept reading her comic book casually.

"I don't think so," Sharla replied, flipping a page with a hoof but never looking up. "It was one of those things we heard as kids, but never really got to see if it was true."

Judy nodded. When she and Jack visited the old residence years ago, there were no signs of hauntings. Just some old run down house and a bunch of rumors. On the verge of expounding on what Sharla said, she stopped when a shadow blocked her view. Just passing by her was another student, currently enamored by the view to her left.

"I think it's rather exciting," said the pig with a smile, her voice a bit higher than normal. Her lime-green eyes focused on a grey wolf and sheep making their way toward them. She straightened her bowtie and re-shouldered her satchel. "The burrows are a great place to live, but it could use a little more livelihood."

Judy hummed in agreement. Burrow life was simple, easy going and almost monotonous for the most part. Rarely did anything - save for the festivals and school events - ever truly peak her interest, and when they did, they were mere shadows of what she hoped for. The most exciting thing in her life, in fact, had been that she was on board for the 'Junior Deputy in Training' at the sheriff's office. She longed for adventure, to help others and to stand out. That was best reserved for the city. However, for her to achieve her goals, this was the best possible option.

"Well, what happened to the house?" Judy inquired, hopping down and brushing off her skirt. She leaned down to pick up her school bag. She paused momentarily when her paw brushed against the carrot pen she had kept with her all those years. Mentally reminding herself that a fox gave it to her, her mind drifted to more thoughts about her soon to be new classmate.

He was nice on the surface, and hopefully a kind mammal deep down. A new face to the school and someone that seemed like he could fit into their oddball group. Yet... there was something that she was forgetting about him that she couldn't put her paw on.

Jack pulled out a few sheets of paper from his bag. All neatly organized and numbered, he leafed through them and singled out a page. "There are different rumors to it, but from what I could gather, the story starts with an odd rabbit owning the house until some other mammal bought the property." He stopped to stare in Sharla's direction, her eyes barely lifting from her comic book. "She's someone whom I believe you're familiar with, Sharla. A rather peculiar Angoran bunny."

When he spoke the species, every mammal in their group turned their attention to him, save for Delilah and Dawn. The sow had taken off to chat with the approaching wolf accompanied by a light grey ram, and the white wooled ewe gave the spectacle a weak, aggravated sigh.

Just as much as Delilah was focused with her chat, Sharla's eyes shot open. She lowered her comic from eye level long enough for her to put two and two together. "Wait... you mean the crazy old Angoran bunny that chased me with a stick when I went to visit my grandpa a few years ago? That rabbit?!"

Placing his notes back, Jack hummed. "If by 'that rabbit' you mean one of the founding gardeners, then yes." He padded over to the fountain, watching a stray cloud pass by in the reflection of the rippling water. "Some time while she still owned the house, there were four disappearances there that started investigations. Some reports say potential murder, others say it was some kidnapping, but nothing was ever found. It happened long before we were born, a little over 40 years ago or so. But nothing's progressed from the house since."

Odd, Judy thought. That's about Mom's age. I wonder if she knew anything about the house growing up? She made a mental note to ask her later on, around dinner or so.

"But that's when the story generally diverges," continued Jack. "A few say that she went crazy and ate them, one says that some government agency came and left, others say that it was some mysterious 'Bear Witch' that was in the area," Sharla started chuckling at the title, "It's really a mix of things that happened, but they all lead to a few things. Mostly that she stayed a little while longer before moving to the West Wood Communal Burrow. By that time Ms. Hoarf-"


A shrill voice silenced Jack in an instant. The bunnies and ewes, interest piqued, now watched along with much of the arriving students in the courtyard. Standing opposite of the fountain by one of the architectural pillars, was a wide-eyed, black-furred rabbit. His ears were pinned down as his jaw hung open; a tall off-white doe shrugged in front of him.

Judy rolled her eyes, she knew where this song and dance was going just by the parties involved. And when she saw the other mammal - a bunny whose fur was a shade of brown so light that it was nearly yellow - it meant that she was right from the beginning. I warned him that it would end like this. He should have never gone out with her instead.

They watched the scene unfold. "You heard me, Blake. We've been together for what... a week? And you still haven't gotten over Marsha!"

Her voice raised, and others watching on including a disinterested bunny couple that kept their distance. Blake cast them a pleading look while Marsha never made eye contact; her new boyfriend casually wrapping his arm around her to walk away from their school's newest morning gossip.

Seeing no way out, he answered. "I-i just broke up with her last week," he explained, fidgeting. "I-I'm still trying to-"

The doe silenced him with a paw held up. "You know what, we're through!"

And like that, another schoolmate of Judy's was now single. It'd be posted on Furbook later.

As the doe left the stunned buck and skipped her way towards Judy, the purple-eyed doe sighed. She didn't want to talk to her either now or... well, until maybe dinner time, but the point still stood that they were family; littermates at that.

So, with a huff, Judy greeted them.

"Jasmine," she deadpanned; the green-eyed, white-furred doe giving her a curt wave in return as the other trailed along.

"Jada," she said to the other; equal emerald eyes rolled at her sister as she passed by.

Her sisters, her two oldest littermates who had bonded over the years but somehow always managed to get under her fur about this and that, were quite well known throughout the school grounds.

While Jada (Jade to most) was the oldest of their liter and oftentimes competitive with Judy when it came to assisting their parents on the farm, Jasmine was always picking on her youngest littermate about not ever having found a boyfriend. And though both of the older doe's had dated several bucks in their short time at school, they never kept relationships long, especially Jasmine. She was often thought to have gone through a buck a minute at times; a week in this case.

Blake was no exception.

Still, Jasmine smiled. "Hey, Jackie." she cooed, almost ignoring her sister entirely. "I can't believe you're still hanging out with Jude the dude. Why can't you just hang out with a real doe?Batting her eyes at the buck - with as much eyeshadow as her school allowed her to have before she'd be called in for questioning about potential abuse - she waited for him to answer.

Judy frowned at this. Jasmine had often tried to get Jack to go out with her since she started dating. And though he was grafted into the family - not an uncommon thing when they had no familial relation and he wasn't exactly adopted; he was only a Hopps in title - he had never had a close relation to the green-eyed doe. Not only that, Jack was somehow clueless when she made her passes.

He didn't seem to understand what 'hitting on a girl' meant exactly, and even when it was explained, his response was that he had never hit a girl in his life.

However, that never deterred him from his straightforward answer. "I prefer to be near Judy, Jasmine. She and I are partners on the 'Junior Deputy in Training' initiative that the sheriff started," At that, Judy smiled. She was glad to be a part of a team, even though some of her teammates could use a bit less of a straightforward approach. I swear Swinton's going to be a part of the mob one day. "Besides, out of all the littermates in your generation, she and I have similar interests." He paused for a moment, remembering one last detail. "And though Juniper is an exception, she's currently on hall monitor duty along with Maria."

His boring statement given, Jada shook her head. "Come on, Jas. We can't be late for homeroom again." she urged, starting her way to the stairs leading up to the school entrance.

The bunny shrugged. "Anyways, where's the new kid? Think he has a girlfriend yet?"

If there was one thing that Judy would absolutely not want, it was for Jasmine to lay a paw on Nick; Jada too. Sure, she may not really know him, but leaving him to the fate of those sisters? That was cruelty.

Jada scoffed from afar. "It's not like you'd ever find one, Judith. You're too much of a prude to ever have a boyfriend."

"I don't think he's either of your types." Judy deadpanned, waving her sisters on and out of the way.

When the menacing Hopps siblings were out of sight, Judy had to mull over a few things. Why would Nick date a bunny? I mean sure, some mammals will date or marry outside of their species like the Fanghanel's. Or even adopt like the Wolfson's.But... that's different. A fox and a bunny together?

Interspecies couples were fairly common in Bunnyburrow, but they were generally either predator couples or prey couples. It was rare for a predator and prey mammal to date, but not unheard of. And while she held no ill thoughts about foxes, she easily recalled the day that changed for her and her best friend.

It was then that Judy's blood ran cold. She finally remembered what she needed to tell Jack.

With a nervous smile, she turned to the buck "Hey, Jack. Listen, I have to tell you something about Nick."

The buck smiled. "And I have a lot to tell him. I think he should know that the last mammals to have owned the house was a family of foxes. Can you believe it? Foxes of all mammals. The accounts never mentioned the name, though." Judy shrunk a little and the sheep cousins gave him cautionary looks.

"Jack I-"

"Judith! You may want to hurry, the bell's about to ring!" came the voice of Delilah, happily talking to the wolf beside her as they headed up to school. "And bring that Nick fellow along with you, he shouldn't be late for his first day of class."

She nearly choked as she nodded. Now standing to tell him, she braced herself. Okay, Judy. It's now or never. Just tell him and he'll calm down.

"Jack," she reiterated as he gathered his bags as well. With him focusing, she huffed. "I think you should know that Nick... well, you see the thing is that he's a-"



Both the loud, resounding echo of a honking horn and the shrill shriek of a fellow student halted Judy immediately. She and her group all turned their heads to see a mortified otter dash past them while a police cruiser from the sheriff's office had made its way onto the grass, its bumper mere centimeters away from hitting a pillar.

Judy facepawed. Not again!

As she tried to rush her explanation, the driver's side door flung open and the smiling white wolf ran out. He paid no heed to the other students as he rounded the car and waved to Judy.

"JUDY! JACK!" he beckoned excitedly. "Your new classmate is finally here!"

And with that, Judy resigned herself to allowing Jack to find out for himself. She mentally kicked herself for losing the opportunity, but Jack simply straightened his tie and walked forward.

"It'll be nice to see a new face around the campus," he replied. "I can only hope he finds his new home and school a welcoming experience and a mirthful opportunity."

Eliot nodded and pried the passenger door open, though he found a little resistance with the mammal still desperately holding on for dear life. But when he did finally did open the door apart and Jack extended his paw in greeting, the whole world nearly stopped; or at least that's what it felt like.

Jack's ears fell, Judy gave a nervous smile, and Sharla and Dawn dropped their collective books. For just beyond them - teeth clenched, tail tucked, and claws dug firmly into the seat from the sheer horror that was the wolf's driving - sat a fox. He breathed heavily and stared out into eternity.

The two ewes gathered their books and started briskly walking away, leaving a terrified bunny and his friend behind.

"Alright, buddy. School's almost started so we have to get you to meet the best faculty member in the world!" said Eliot, beaming with pride. He quickly grabbed the almost statue-like form of Nick - even though his claws protested, ripping out bits and pieces of the seat - and carried him off without a word.

This left the other statue like figure for Judy to deal with, and she gladly obliged; she owed it to him. With his paw still extended, and a horrified expression somehow stuck to his face, the doe pushed the numbed buck up the stairs just as the first bell rang.

It took a few minutes for Nick's life to stop flashing before his eyes. He was finally up to the part where the Deputy hit a curb and nearly ran over a screaming blur before stopping just in front of a pillar. Much of that, he had hoped, was just a dream, but the cascading rows of lockers and bristle of fur brought him up to speed. It was all real.

He looked up, finding himself being carried down a brightly lit, and almost empty hallway. With natural sunlight pouring in from his right, it felt more like a college university than a high school. The fox stared in wonder at how vastly different it was from his old, cramped and monotoned former high school on the edge of Happytown.

Several murals were somehow integrated into the locker spaces with bright colours depicting some kind of floral design or smiling mammal's face. There were a few tubes overhead that he could see some small rodents passing through in one direction or another. And when he came to certain corners, the halls were either larger or smaller and had flashing stop or yield signs, but he couldn't figure out why.

Having had enough of being hauled around, he cleared his throat to ask his tour guide, "Can you put me down now?"

The wolf, who had been running almost non stop, finally took heed to his passenger. "Oh good, you're back! And just in time to mee my Pumpkin, too." He let the tod down, setting him on his feet while they stood outside of frosted glass door.

Nick couldn't see inside, but he understood from the word 'counselor' written on it, that this going to be an interesting experience. This cop could use some counseling, alright. But what did he mean by his 'Pumpkin'? he thought. Wait, is he a farmer as well?

Eliot knocked on the door and giddily swished his tail. Not long after, the door swung open and they were greeted by a slender, tan-furred mammal, the likes Nick had never seen before.

From the apparel and simple greeting of a curt hello, he could tell that the mammal was female. Her blue dress was as bright as her sky-blue eyes, and the gold necklace she wore shimmered like the badge pinned over her heart. And though Nick could tell that she was faculty, what she was was entirely new.

If he had to guess, she was some kind of... canine, tiger hybrid from the shape of her snout and the little stripes that ran down her tail, but he hadn't heard of any hybrids existing, and certainly not between those two species.

He never got a chance to ask when Eliot threw himself at her.

"Pumpkin!" He shouted, sweeping the surprised mammal off her feet and into his arms at an alarming speed. He nuzzled her neck and ears as she snickered, falsely pushing him a bit away all while saying, "Not in front of the students."

A second or two later, he pointed at Nick. "See! I told you he's a fox."

"Yes he is, dear." Eliot's 'Pumpkin' answered, finally finding her bearings through her fit of giggles. "You'll have to excuse him. He doesn't see too many foxes around these days."

When she brushed off her dress and put on a wide smile, she leaned over and offered a paw shake. "My name is Chloe, Chloe Fanghanel. And I'll be your new counselor."

Nick gladly shook her paw but raised his brow at the two of them. Wait, Pumpkin? That's his Pumpkin? And his last name's Fanghanel, so does that mean... he mused, only now seeing the gold rings on their fingers. They're MARRIED?!

He hadn't seen any interspecies couples while he was in the city, so this came as a surprise to him. Although, he didn't know whether to feel happy for the wolf or a bit saddened for his spouse from his antics. I wonder if Skye and Eliot would get along.

For a long moment, Nick just idly stared at the two, no words passed between them and the only sound to break the silence was Eliot's rapidly flailing tail. Only when Chloe chuckled did Nick realize he had zoned out.

"I know that look," she stated, already reading Nick's forethought when he grinned back. She placed a paw over her heart. "If I'm right, you're curious as to what I am like so many others. I am a thylacine," Chloe explained. "We're native to Pawstralia."

Huh... never heard of them. Nick nodded but never stopped his grin. "That was going to be my second guess."

The thylacine had to stifle her giggle as her husband continued to nuzzle her ear and wrap his tail around her defensively.

"I hope you're enjoying your stay with us in the Burrows so far, Mr. Wilde," Nick felt himself deflate a little at the name but didn't let it show. Or too much, from what he thought. The way the Chloe tilted her head at him meant that she knew that something was up, she did claim to be a counselor, after all.

"I've managed to read your reports and old school files," She paused to see anything from an expression change to a sigh from Nick, but could only see his ear flicker. Mentally noting that for later, she clasped her paws together. "I'm terribly sorry for all of that. Rest assured, however, Paragon Grove doesn't take lightly to such behavior from other students. I believe you'll find them very helpful and friendly."

Nick simply nodded. He had hoped that she was right, and Judy seemed to fit that. There was, however that bunny that he barely saw freezing up out of the corner of his eye.


Rather loud and a bit closer than he thought, a bell perked up all their ears.

"Oh! That's the last attendance bell," Chloe exclaimed, stepping away from Eliot for a moment to go back to her desk. She came back with a clipboard and a pen. "Let's get you to your homeroom class. It looks like you're with Ms. Wolfson. She'll help you set out your schedule and we'll get you your new school uniform by lunchtime."

On her way out, Nick caught the faintest whisper from Eliot to his beloved wife. His ear twitched when he asked if "he heard right and that they were in the same class," to which the thylacine hummed and nodded. The wolf howled.

As the three made their brisk walk to the new class. Nick wondered what he meant, but equally questioned, Wait... school uniform?!

"Why didn't you tell me he was a fox?" Jack asked, now tapping his paw across the auditorium desk while Judy patted his shoulder.

He had, since entering the school, not stopped pacing or finding some way to have a mini-freakout. From the foot tapping and looking over his shoulder, to the constant twitch of his nose and nearly jumping whenever any flash of red came close, Jack was a nervous wreck.

"I was going to?" was her reply, though more of a question than anything.

He cast a distraught glare at her.

She sighed. "Jack, I know you're upset, and I should have told you. But Nick's not a bad guy."

The buck's ears rose. "Judy, he's a fox, he's a dangerous predator," Jack whispered,"Don't you remember what happened to Gideon and how he got expelled?"

The doe couldn't believe what he heard. "Jack, how can you say that when you haven't even gotten to know him?" she shot back, anger apparent in her hushed tone when she knew some of her classmates could likely hear her. "You're friends with Luproc, his cousin is Mrs. Wolfson's son, you all have Mr. Fanghanel as your Scoutmaster, and your godmother's a coyote."

Adding to her stance, she pointed to where the wolf sat a few rows higher. He and Delilah had continued their conversation right beside the bored looking grey ram next to them. After that, Judy pointed to the teacher - a brightly dressed Manned Wolf - sitting quietly just before the morning announcements were given. She casually flipped through one of the various books on her desk and gave the occasional glance around to ensure everything was going smoothly.

Nearly huffing and showing all the evidence around her, Judy thought that she had at least gotten her immediate friends on her side. However, one look at them told her that she was far from the truth.

"Judy, that's great and all but they're not foxes," said Sharla, Dawn nodding beside her. "I mean... most predators around here are okay, but for him to be a fox? And from the city? You can't trust them."

"She's right, Judy," Dawn chimed in, tilting her head just enough to where Judy could see the leftover gauze patch. "Remember when I told you a fox did this? They seemed fine at first, but that's just them trying to trick you."

That left only Jack, who gave Judy a sigh. Anything that he would have said was drowned out by the door to the classroom almost being kicked in; half of the students jumped, but Mrs. Wolfson only set down her book and smiled.

"It's about time you got here." She stood, towering over her desk at how lanky her limbs were before she raised a paw to silence the room's commotion.

"Alright, alright, class. Settle down," she instructed, side-eyeing a bouncing ball of white fluff just beyond the threshold. "We have a new student joining us today."

Judy gasped along with Jack and the ewes on their row, though three of them had equal looks of 'please no' written clearly on their muzzles.

Mrs. Wolfson waved the student forward, ushering him in. "Let's all give a Paragon worthy welcome to Bunnyburrow's newest resident: Nicholas Wide."

Many of the students began clapping their hooves or paws together before Nick strolled in. He tried his best to look nonchalant, but he couldn't control his tail twitches or slightly raised hackles. And as he got closer and closer to the teachers desk, he heard the applause die down slowly before he felt the stares start pouring in on him.

Now consciously aware of it, he scanned the room but kept his smirk on. Never let them see that they get to you. he mentally chanted.

Most of the eyes landing on him were from surprised mammals, and they gave him either looks of sheer disgust or disinterest. Others looked curious, but only one face amidst the sea of muzzles and ears, gave him even the slightest comfort: Judy.

"Please take any seat available while we get started." he heard behind him as the bunny waved him up to her row. Oddly enough, there were only a few other open seats, but he either didn't care to see who they were next to, or some mammal had sneakily shifted over a little to occupy it.

Judy, however, was enjoying this moment. Not only did she get the experience of bringing Nick to his new home yesterday, but to know that they shared the same homeroom? This is perfect! It's just what he needs!

Gears in her mind were turning as to how she could make a difference in his life and even Jacks to show him that Nick wasn't a bad guy. And if there was anything that Judy loved more than anything, it was proving to the world that she could make a difference.

So with a little sly bunny smile, she pat the empty seat next to her, ignoring the pleas of the bunny and sheep beside her. She had never been more happy about her seating choice and having an empty spot there for so long.

The fox hiked up the steps, ignoring the others and sat by Judy. His bag set beside him, he smiled at his only friend.

"Hey Carrots," he welcomed.

"Hey Blueberries," she answered.

"eh..e-" Jack choked, his pupils had shrunk enough to look like miniature suns.

From the moment he took his seat, a loud clicking - like the shutter of a camera - resounded across the room. Eyes turned to see a wolf with his phone aimed at the fox as he was escorted out by a worried looking thylacine. She got him out... only for him to dash back in, tripping as he took more pictures and howled.

The last the students saw of the deputy was him being dragged out by his foot-paws by an embarrassed counselor while he snapped photos like he was at a high-speed photo-op. He may have even achieved a world record.

Not waiting for him to make his way back in, Mrs. Wolfson huffed and closed the door with a laugh. She looked at the wall mounted clock and nodded. "All rise for our morning pledge."

The students complied, shuffling bags and chairs as they stood in unison. All except Nick.

Figuring he didn't know what was going on, Judy grabbed his paw and pulled him up out of his seat. And as surprised as he looked, Judy's ears picked up on a few gasps as well.

Disregarding the ones closest to her, the doe heard them come from across the aisle to where her siblings sat. Jade and Jasmine were astonished but for the life of her, Judy couldn't understand why. It wasn't until she looked down at where they focused, that it finally clicked and she let Nick's paw go.

But the bewildered, contorted faces of her siblings burned in her mind as well as the fox's numbed and dumbfounded ogle. And if that weren't enough, Jasmine's muzzle twisted into something of a foreboding, competitive grin. Judy didn't really know what to make of it concerning Nick, but she hoped that it didn't mean what it usually did.

Turning her attention to the front of the class, the speakers began to play their school anthem. It was one of her favourite things in the morning, even though some students either didn't sing on key or butchered the words.

Still, she knew, and that was all that mattered.

~A Paragon, herald of peace~

Her head held high, she sang with the voices resonating with hers.

~In this grove, we seek to dream~

And that's what she wanted: to dream of a better world, a brighter future.

~Through time's unrest, our friends behest~

She chanced and stole glances over to the fox, he only tried keeping up with the words. He ended up only mimicking them.

~The crown of petals woven for thee~

Darting her eyes to Jack, he had his head bowed. She understood why.

~'Neath starry sky, 'bove ground raised high~

Judy looked up. The ceiling of their classroom was a series of glass panes. The natural light beamed down on them.

~Though tears may shed, though hearts may cry~

Knowing that's what it may take to make the world a better place, she risked one last glance at the fox.

~We will stand, here 'round our tree~

Her eyes trailed up the green, gaudy Pawaiian shirt and to his chin.

~That's where we'll be~

Stifling a giggle, her eyes trailed up and she held the last note, being lost in emerald eyes that pierced her very soul.


No longer did she try to sneak peaks at the fox. Much like a letter she wrote about a dream she had years ago, just before her was a field of green that sparkled like the stars. She never wanted to leave

~In our dreams~

As the verse ended and the students took their seats again, the final bell rang. School was in session.

Don't let the fears of your past break apart your dream


Chapter Text

The Garden

"The greatest thing about dreams is they don't expire.
They can lay dormant for years and when you pull them out and dust them off, they shine like new."

― Casi McLean

It was just before lunchtime and Nick was eager to see how more this school operated. Being dismissed from his homeroom class early - he saw that there was a little over an hours time between now and his next class - and escorted down the hall to retrieve his new uniform, he finally had a moment to mull over how the day was going.

It was so incredibly different from what he was used to, yet some familiarity was still there. For one, he hadn't ever seen that many bunnies in his life. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get bunnies out his sight for a second.

And that was what caused one familiarity to show up: the stares.

While not all bunnies stared at him - Judy certainly didn't, but some probably scowled at him - he could tell that most prey mammals gave him surprised looks.

It happened in the three classes he had already, and he was sure that the other two after lunch would be the same; likely with the alternate classes he had on Tuesday/Thursday as well.

Though some may have been quiet about it like the two sheep next to Judy or that odd bunny next to her that hadn't said a peep but kept staring out into space like he had seen a specter, others made it a point to focus solely on him.

There was that green-eyed bunny in their homeroom class that kept smiling at him when he caught glances at her, the small, grey wooled ram and two imposing white wooled rams that watched his every movement in his art class, a few boars... and about a hundred bunnies after that.

Most simply kept to themselves and continued walking, but others? Some he could hear them and their 'supposed' whispers; none of it was good.

Still, he hummed to himself and grinned from ear to ear as he paraded down the empty hallway closely behind Chloe. While thankful for the quiet and the guide - being new and in unfamiliar territory, school-issued map or not, was a bit imposing - he couldn't help but feel overbearingly giddy from the little piece of paper clutched firmly in his paws.

His emerald eyes peered carefully over the stationery, skimming it from line to line as he read off all the classes he had just to make sure it was all real. Although he knew summer was only a few weeks away, it wasn't the classes themselves he was excited about. No. Rather, he was absolutely thrilled that he and Judy had a few classes in common.

He had hoped for at least one, but here, just before his eyes, he had seen no less than three. And, as he could recall, the look on her face when she saw the list of names on his syllabi, she perked up as well. She even helped him by making little check marks next to the names of the teachers they had in common.

The todd was surprised at how many classes they had together. With as much excitement as a newborn kit, he saw the three chambers of academia they shared: Algebra2, Communications, and History. Thought it was just cultural history (Burrow stuff) he still liked how it all turned out.

He kept going over it to see that they had a fourth one as well but it was only a gym class on alternating days.

Given that it was a staple for nearly every mammal, it didn't make it as exciting, but he was happy none the less. And that happiness wasn't solely because Judy was there. It was mostly out of the fear that, when Skye finally enrolled, she'd likely try - and succeed in as she always did - to chase him around for something ridiculous.

Whether it was for food, or for fun, she'd do that. He chuckled a little at how she had once photobombed him by lunging at him when he didn't know she was around. So staying fit was a good way to keep an edge over her near-boundless energy.

He was so engrossed in the moment that he had completely forgotten that he was walking until he came to an abrupt stop, bumping snout first into his counselor's side.

Reeling and scratching at the dull pain ebbing at his nose, he looked up to see her smiling warmly at him; a gesture he had rarely seen from his old school. "I take it you're having a welcome first day?"

Nick dropped his paws a little, casting his gaze toward the ceiling. It was a lot to take in and he was stunned to see so much. "I guess I can say that. It's not like my old place and... well, it's not what I expected from a school out in the country."

He didn't really know what to say about it. Coming from an old, greasy, run down place he used to call 'school' whose only 'vibrant' colours were fifty shades of greyscale, it now looked like a double rainbow had vomited everywhere and made art. Then, when he was transitioning from class to class, some of the intersections had students dressed up a bit more and help direct mammals on where to go or stop them from going down one hall or another - which he was thankful for after a close run-in with a rhino.

And not only that, but many of the teachers weren't the best or paid attention in his prior school. In these new classes, however large, the teachers(s) seemed to be more direct. They didn't single him out or exclude him in any manner. He even managed to speak a few lines in his acting class.

All in all, he wasn't used to this.

The thylacine giggled, her badge shimmering in the ambient light all around them. "I'm glad you're enjoying it, Mr. Wilde." Again, she noticed a little flicker of his tail. "I know how difficult it is to adjust coming from Zootopia myself. But this school and the community surrounding it works wonders in helping everyone achieve their dream."

Hearing this, Nick felt himself relax a little more. It wasn't just that he was talking to someone who he knew was genuinely paying attention, but he had heard that word for the umpteenth time that day: dream.

What is it with mammals and dreams here?

He, of course, had read about such things long ago, but even then he had no clue as to why dreams were so important. To him, they were relatively... well, irrelevant. Just something to think about until you move on, he abandoned much of that long ago.

But here, it was in the school's theme, the students and teachers kept talking about them and growing them for whatever reason.

Feeling that he was missing something about this, Nick hastily replied. "Yeah I, uh- I think that's great." Nervously scratching at the nape of his neck, he thought of something to take the focus off of his day. He didn't like the spotlight on him much.

He grinned as he remembered. "I just hope the ride back home isn't as bad," his words caught Chloe's ears, he could almost feel her embarrassment. "Does Mr. Fanghanel always drive 90 over the speed limit?"

Chloe sighed in defeat. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry about that. He's just really enthusiastic about his job." Nick nodded along, both thankful that the wolf had to go back to work, and dreading being picked up by him for his promised return home.

"Whether he's on an assignment from the office, or filling in here, Eliot's always tried to be where he's needed in a hurry."

As she took a deep breath and readied herself for a slew of questions, Nick reeled from the new information he was given. "He works here too?"

Chloe giggled, though she could hear the panic in his tone and deep, sharp inhales. "From time to time," she informed. "He's one of our substitute gym teachers and he's one of the on-call officers when we need him."

Eyes wide, Nick imagined the wolf as an over-energetic gym coach; ordering his class to do laps at top speed or about a hundred thousand pushups in one day. Maybe I'll just let Skye tackle me... it'd be less painful.

While he stared into nothingness, Chloe caught on. She turned back to her office. "Wait here for just a moment."

He barely heard her but tried to shake off the thoughts with a mumble of acknowledgment. Left alone, his mind wandered until he remembered that he'd be spending a few classes with Judy. So far, she was the only mammal that was remotely friendly to him. New, sure, but that didn't seem to bother her at all.

When he heard the door open again, Chloe stepped out with a small white box and a clipboard.

"We didn't have many in stock for mammals of your size," she said apologetically and passed him the box. He carefully opened it to see that it was one of the same outfits all the other guys wore. "It should fit you just fine this quarter, though. Several of this school's canines and a few hares are close to your height and build."

Chloe watched him carefully. He seemed really interested in the new apparel, but she had work to do. I need to re-read some of this report over lunch and- "Oh! It's almost lunch. Let's find you the closest changing room."

Looking at a nearby clock, the thylacine confirmed that it was only a few minutes to noon just then. She wanted to get Nick his uniform and to the cafeteria on time, but she did have a bit of a problem.

"Hmm... the gentlemammals locker room is halfway across the school. And we don't have your badge from security just yet, so you won't have your locker space in your pavilion until tomorrow, either."

Pondering over the situation, she came to one conclusion. "The closest place to change would be the restroom just around the corner. They have a mirror and everything in there."

Humming in confirmation, Nick strolled around the corner to the easily labeled restroom of his size - another thing he was silently grateful for instead of having to use a stall built for a bear.

Footpads walking on the grout and tile, he did a quick search to see that he was alone. Good.

He stepped into the closest stall and set his bag on a nearby coat hook before opening the box all the way. Taking a better look, he was genuinely floored by his new set of clothing.

It was a unique design: grey khakis with a belt, a pristine white shirt that came with a contrasting clip-on tie, and a solid black v-neck vest with silver-grey accents. The whole uniform felt as soft as silk but as durable as wool. He couldn't exactly place what kind of fabric it was; flannel maybe? And they had an odd fragrance to them as if they had been out in the field.

Though he grimaced at the idea of putting on the garments - Nick didn't exactly take to the idea of not wearing his Pawaiian shirt for the rest of his life - the thought that he'd be fitting in somewhere where predators weren't shunned made his heart flutter a little. It was like being part of a pack in its own right.

And he was glad for that little familiarity as well: being near other predators. The few times in school where he had felt that he belonged was when he was near his peers. Though they didn't always get along, here, he didn't see the other predators even really take notice of him. It was like being either a culture shock to prey who weren't Judy or invisible to tolerable to every other pred.

Quickly donning his new attire and stuffing his old clothes in his backpack - thankfully unprepared as he only brought the bare minimum needed to get through the day plus his lunch - he stepped out to see what the new 'Paragon Wilde' looked like.

In one of the almost body-sized mirrors that ran across the wall, Nick saw a new fox. Save for the badge that he'd be getting the next day, he could barely recognize the red furred predator that stood before him. His tie hung out of his vest, and his shirt peeked out from under his vest. And to make up for his missed Pawaiian shirt, he had rolled up his sleeves a little.

He stood there for a moment, gawking. Whoever this fox was, it wasn't Nick Wilde.

Feeling a chill run down his spine, the fox walked out a bit dumbfounded. He would have stayed longer to make poses in the mirror, but he didn't know who he was looking at.

"It fits you well, Mr. Wilde."

He stopped, turning on his heels to listen to the voice of the nodding thylacine. She smiled as she complimented him. "Once you receive your badge, it will look even better. How does it feel, though?"

Nick had to admit that it was comfortable. It wasn't the scratchy, over the top thing that he had thought it originally was. Rather, it breathed well, even in the warm spring air.

He shrugged, nonchalant. "I prefer the Pawaiian style, but it's not too bad."


The sound was a bit less startling than before, and he had come to expect it.

Chloe tapped her clipboard. "And that was the lunch bell." She looked around to see the various students being let out and hummed. "I assume you'll be heading to the cafeteria?"

On an average day, he'd say yes. But this day was... different. Just before leaving homeroom, Judy had quietly spoken to him. After telling her that he brought his own lunch - that veggie lasagna was too good to pass up for anything that some cafeteria had, he assumed - she had told him where to meet her because she had a 'surprise' of some sort that he needed to see, and it was a great place to eat. She had even circled the spot on his map which was dead center of the school in a rather large, circular enclosure.

"Actually, there's somewhere that Ca-" He caught himself from saying her nickname. Sure it was okay (he hoped) just between them, but with other bunnies? He cleared his throat and went on. "Judy wanted me to meet her."

Chloe tilted her head. "Oh?"

"She said something about... the east side garden?"

From the nervous, almost disbelieving way that Nick stared at her, the thylacine couldn't believe her ears.

"The garden?" Chloe repeated, stunned into silence from Nick's nod.

Only the footfalls of other students broke their amicable silence until her muzzle curled into a beaming smile. Maybe he's right about these two.

Taking a deep breath and trying not to wag her tail too much from excitement, she motioned for Nick to follow her. As they meandered down the long halls and strolled by other students, Nick couldn't help but see the change in their demeanor. He didn't see many of the awkward stares that were held against him - though some still persisted, that grey wooled ram side eyed him after he passed by the white wooled ones - but, instead, he saw a lot of friendly waves and smiles for what seemed to be miles.

Were they all just hangry? he mused.

When their pace began to slow down a long stretch of a hall that lead up to a split path, Nick saw students pouring into a large set of double doors just beyond a pair of pillars. They all hurried in and only a few stragglers remained, and among those, he saw her.

Unknowingly, he smiled.

Unaware of him, Judy had been talking to another bunny. A buck from what Nick could tell with the dress code, and slightly taller than Judy. He wasn't that same grey one from his class earlier as his fur was a brownish-orange and he had a look about him that was calm and relaxed.

She was animated in her talk, her bookbag resting at her feet while she waved her paws flippantly at the buck. He nodded and tapped his foot in apparent contemplation before shaking his head and crossing his arms. Judy gave him a pleading look and lunged forward to hug him, her ears pinned down as she shook him. He put up his paws in defeat and returned the gesture.

Nick raised a brow at this as they got closer. He didn't know who the buck was, but Judy seemed to be rather friendly with him. When she let go, she turned to see him and hopped, waving her paw frantically.

"Oh! Hey Nick, you made it!" she greeted, the buck turning to meet his eyes as well.

Judy picked up her bag and ran to him, giddily hopping around as she couldn't stand still. When she stood in front of him, she looked at his outfit and placed a paw on her hip. "You look really nice in that."

The fox smirked. "Carrots, I can make anything look nice."

Chloe placed a paw over her muzzle to stifle her gasp. Carrots? D-did he nickname her that? Does she find that offensive or-

The bunny smiled. "Well, Blueberries, I think you may want to fix your tie first."

Judy reached her paw up, standing on her tiptoes to fix the misaligned thing as he leaned down. With a quick tug and re-clipping, she smoothed out the fabric before tucking it back into his vest.

Again, Chloe choked back a gasp; she was running out of paws. Okay... he's probably right about these two. I've got to make sure he doesn't go too far in trying to get them together like the last two.

Unbeknownst to them, the buck chuckled and started walking by. He stopped just next to them, eyeing Nick up and down before turning to Judy. "See ya, Judes. Don't burn anything down," he said with a wave before trudging off.

While Nick wondered what that was about and Judy nervously giggled, Chloe hummed to herself. She tapped her clipboard, having regained the use of both paws again as she looked down the hall; she had work to do.

"Well, I hope you two enjoy your lunch hour," she said, giving the two a quick bow before heading off as well.

Now just the two of them, Nick felt more at ease. He had a lot to say, but one question burned in his mind more. "Hour?" he repeated, mouth hanging agape. "We get an hour for lunch here?"

Judy looked at him as though he had twenty heads. "Yeah." she deadpanned. "With forty-two thousand students on campus, plus faculty, we kind of need an hour. An hour and ten minutes, actually, to make sure everyone's had time to enjoy it."

Nick thought back to the sign posted just outside the train when he came to the burrows. It made sense now how that number was achieved if not just for the fluffles of bunnies bouncing around, but also the busy overhead tubes that smaller rodents ran through.

Curious, Judy asked, "How long were your lunch breaks?"

With the bunny giving him an innocent face, his heart fluttered. "Twenty minutes."

Judy's face soured, but he shrugged. To him, it felt like eight. If he didn't bring lunch, then by the time he got through the lines, he had about a solid five minutes or so to scarf down food and head back to class.

In the awkward silence that befell them, Nick caught himself staring more and more into Judy's shimmering purple eyes. An odd feeling encroaching on him, he sought to remedy his wandering gaze.

"So... we have three classes together."

"Three?" Judy, no longer lost in his emerald eyes, was taken aback by the statement. "That can't be right. I saw four."

Nick folded his arms. "And here I was thinking that bunnies were good at math."

She mimicked his stance, tapping her foot furiously. "Are you calling me a dumb bunny?"


He never got the chance to make his witty comeback as her paw swiped away his syllabus. By the time he blinked, it was already being read in front of him like when Skye had taken his letter years ago. And suffice to say, Judy was definitely faster.

She skimmed over the page with blinding speed, reading over each line no less than four times in each passing. Her check marks still there, she narrowed it down and found what she was looking for.

Without a word, she passed him back the paper, giving him a sly, knowing grin. Rocking on her heels she waited until he looked ready to ask her what was up.

Silencing him with a paw, she pointed between herself and him. "We" Leaning a bit closer and clapping her paws together, she gave him the cheesiest grin she could muster. "have Chemistry together."

Not bothering to look at the list, Nick felt his muzzle curl warmly at her.

Before long, Judy turned and waved for him to follow. He hastily trailed her to the double doors leading to a room that reminded him of a greenhouse. Thought the floor was mostly concrete slabs, there were plants growing in nearly every direction. It smelled almost like what his clothes and he began to wonder if they were left somewhere nearby.

Walking carefully behind Judy, they came to a desk near a solid, opaque glass wall. Behind it was a cheerful goat kid, bobbing his head to music and humming to a tune that Nick hadn't heard before. He waved at them so enthusiastically that one of his earbuds fell out.

"Hey, Judy! Back to check in?"

She waved as he hopped out of his seat and dashed around the desk. "You bet, Azzy."

"That's great! Dad's making his rounds." The goat stretched out his hoof towards Nick. "So, you're the new guy, huh?"

Breathing deeply and shaking, Nick hummed his answer. He hadn't expected anyone to be so upfront and friendly to a fox.

Letting go, Azzy pointed to a small scanner on the desk and a clipboard next to it. "Kiosk's down, you'll have to manually sign in."

Taking note of that, Judy shrugged and un-clipped her carrot pen from her book bag, signing her name in.

Done, she offered Nick the pen as well.

When he took it in his paw - also remembering that he had forgotten his pen at home - he examined it and tapped a claw on the buttons.

"Carrot pen, huh? I used to have one of these when I was in elementary school." He mused, checking the sheet to see that it was both a sign in and guideline. It always amused him that there had to be a 'do not eat the grass' rule, but one that read 'do not harm dream flowers' caught his attention. "Huh, it has a recorder and everything, too."

Judy felt her tail wag a little. Him sharing a little about his life was exciting to hear. It allowed her to make her dream come true just as much as it would help his. She already had blueberries in mind to give him when she got a bushel, and now they had a common interest in carrot pens.

He marveled at the writing instrument as Azzy waved them off and through the automatic door.


Nick had to shield his eyes from the blinding light that beamed down on him for a moment until all became clear. And when his eyes finally adjusted, he stopped. A completely different world was in his view.

He was standing, surrounded by a vibrant array of colours, rolling hills, and scents that came from every direction and all manner of flora.

Flowers danced in the gentle, warm spring breeze that ruffled his fur and brought a sweet aroma to him that he hadn't ever experienced while hundreds if not thousands of students casually interacted with one another. Not in his life had he seen predator and prey actively roaming around casually as he did here.

He didn't see packs or herds avoiding one another, instead, they were a mix and mash of mammals of every species.

The world slowly passed by him as he felt himself move forward like he was on a conveyor belt. A trio of wolves howled in harmony from a garden theater while a hare strummed a guitar. Their audience was a hazy mix of cheering predators and prey singing along.

A rush of water from an inclined hill caught his ear and he pivoted to watch an otter share an animated conversation with a sheep and hippo, all engrossed in some prattle that he only heard as '-only first edition counts'.

That water trickled down a pathway lined with pristine bushes and mammals lining up to reach their paws in the cooling water.

"Put the Koi down!" one, an ocelot shouted, aiming her gaze at a dumbfounded deer. He quickly complied, shrugging and whispering under his breath as the fish was relinquished back into the pond.

A few mini structures and ran down the way, he could see the smaller mammals walking to and fro in them; a gerbil sitting atop one of them casually ate their lunch next to a laughing hyena.

Caught up in the moment, Nick darted his eyes around to see where Judy went... only to find her tugging at his paw and leading him on.

"What is this place?" He asked, feeling her slow down and snicker back at him. She didn't stop until they were under a shaded spot overlooking a good portion of the field. Finally resting there, she waved her paws outward.

"This is the Garden of Dreams," she exclaimed, cheerful and hoping that he'd catch on. "It's where all the students come to plant a dream flower and watch it grow."

Instantly, it clicked with Nick. In his research of the burrow and that penpal that he had years ago, he had heard of this place, but never once really believed it existed. But here and now, he only wagged his tail as he was thrilled to be standing in it.

He tilted his head up to the tree that shaded them; its shimmering, slender leaves waved gently. I wonder if they're going to this school? He'd have to find out. This was too good to be true.

Parting his lips and gazing skyward, he questioned, "Weeping Willow?"

Judy chuckled. "Nope, that's over there," Pointing over to a tree surrounded by a patch of red flowers, he nodded in wonder. She went on. "They're the most common ones and are generally hybrids. This one here," She pointed up. "is our heralding tree, the Shining Willow. It's a hybrid, too. Most aren't that tall."

As she continued to talk, the shining tree silently its blissful haze upon the fox. Every breath here was... pure, or only how he could describe it. The atmosphere wasn't polluted with the bigotry that he had experienced before, and he hoped, genuinely hoped that all this wasn't some dream that he'd have to wake up from.

He idly swayed with the enrapturing sway of the leaves.

"New here, huh?"

Ambience fading, Nick was greeted with a deep bellowing voice. He turned to face a large mammal, a white-furred goat much like the one that had greeted him earlier. Wearing blue over-pocketed overalls and carrying a post digger in his hooves, he chuckled at the two mammals before him.

"Sorry for the startle," he apologized, pivoting towards one of the many flower beds that encircled the tree. "Been busy today. Thankfully didn't have to plant another poppy."

Judy nodded, knowing full well that he'd be treated with respect. She picked up her book bag and started off towards one of the many gazeboes in sight. "Hey, Nick. I'll be over there once you've figured out what you want to start growing."

And like that, the bunny bounded off, leaving him with the imposing goat and a nervous grin. The buck laughed and placed his hoof on Nick's shoulder.

"I see that the good Ms. Hopps has made a new friend." He pat the fox's shoulder sternly and reassuringly. "She's always tryin' to live her dream out so quick."

Placing his hoof behind Nick's back to steer him, the goat ushered Nick along a pathway. "So, would you like to plant something today?"

They passed by to one side of the garden and up to several rows of mixed, potted plants. Though, Nick couldn't help but stare at the few students who somberly stood around weeping tree, merely gazing at the flowers on the silent hill.

"What are those red ones around the tree?"

They stopped to look. And while Nick didn't understand what was so important about it, he felt an invisible weight slowly encompass him.

"Poppies," sighed the goat, morosely looking at the well-kept field. "We plant those for students and faculty that..." He didn't speak for a solid minute, lost in contemplation before his shoulders slumped. "Won't be able to see their dreams grow anymore. So we grow them with ours. The weeping tree gathers them together under its long leaves."

There were no words that Nick find to ease the moment. The gravity of the situation so fresh in his mind. It was a reality that was so close that he could touch it, but so far from what he was used to that it seemed impossible. Yet, that tree stood as a silent reminder.

Deep in thought and eyeing the flowers, a fresh breath came to him that carried the sweet, familiar scent of a rainstorm.

He perked up. "There was one flower that I had in mind."


"Yeah," He tapped his claws against the pen as he recalled the plant. "It was this little purple leafed thing. I could never remember what it was, but back home... well, in the city, there was this one flower that I'd always see near a bridge that my friends and I used to hang out at."

The goat hummed, pacing down the row and finding a spot and one of the unused plant pots. He then reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a bag. "Probably a tulip," Nodding, he eyed the direction that Judy left in and smirked. "Good choice. It's rare that folks choose ones, especially of this colour."

"Why's that?"

Handing Nick the bag and the plant pot, he then pulled out a small slip of paper. "Everything around here is a symbol for something, Mitch."

"It's Ni-"

He was cut off with the goat's hoof on his shoulder once more. "Point is, that every flower, tree, heck even most names mean somethin' 'round here."

Leaning towards the row of plants, the buck pointed at the empty spot next to a dazzling red rose. It rested comfortably next to a small set of blue flowers. "You see that rose that Judy planted?"

A bit surprised that she was a rose type, Nick hummed. "Yeah,"

"The red rose means beauty, devotion," chuckling, the buck whispered. "And most of all, true love."

Wide-eyed, Nick didn't know how to respond. Still, he wondered, "And... the purple tulips represent-"

"Charity. Nobility." Stepping up to the spot with the post digger, the goat quickly cleared a space just for Nick and smiled. "And perfect love."

Had Nick been any shade of red lighter, his blush would have surely shown. He adjusted his tie. "So, uh. H-how does this work?"

"Write on this," He was handed the slip of paper. "Put it in that," He tapped the side of the clay pot. "Plant that in there," He moved his hoof to the bag before he gestured all around them. "and work hard to make it happen for you, and everyone else."

It surprised Nick far more than it did the buck at how quickly he followed the instructions.

And with his plant set next to the bunny's the fox walked away with a renewed spring in his step. Lunch was to be had with his new friend, and he looked forward to seeing old ones one day.

Maybe dreams... aren't so ridiculous after all.

Remember that dream you had, long ago? No? Well... it's waiting for you to remember it.


Chapter Text

I'll Be Thinking Of You

 "Don't worry if people think you're crazy. You are crazy.
You have that kind of intoxicating insanity that lets other people dream outside of the lines
and become who they're destined to be."

— Jennifer Elisabeth (Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl)

Stu sighed contentedly as he quietly padded his way through the burrow. He had been trying to de-stress as per his usual routine after a hard day of working in the field. Making it a point to be the first one out in the morning and the last one in, he was deservedly exhausted. And with it being so late in the afternoon, his body didn't need any further exercise, but his mind kept running on.

'Nother tractor broke. Still can't get the other bus running. And the auger died. He hummed to himself, wringing his sore paws and trying desperately not to be too worried despite his common stance on everyday life.

He had to send off the tractor for repairs and they were getting more expensive and more shoddy as time went by. Though he wasn't an expert at the craft himself - he did have a car he had been working on for years - he was sure that a coat hanger wasn't supposed to hold an exhaust pipe together.

The bus? It hadn't been running for a few weeks now, and it was getting troublesome to have to split some of the kids into several buses for school. It made the drivers a bit late, and it put more strain on everyone than needed.

However... the auger... well, that just flat out didn't work. He'd have to take a better look at it; family traditional tool and all.

Still, he shrugged it off and kept moving. He had enough of a hard time for the day and needed to wind down. I wonder if that boxing match'll be on after dinner.

Nodding and remembering the date, he smiled. After dinner plans always pepped him up as they gave him something to look forward to after a delicious meal with his family and adoring wife. He was about to question her dinner choice, but the aroma of sweet, hot apple-cinnamon and the earthy scent of carrots told him long before he made it to the door.

Breathing deep, he felt more at ease. She always knew how to make things better, even by the simplest of actions. And if there was one thing that Stuart Frederick Hopps knew, it was to pay attention to his wife.

Wonder what she'd want to do for our anniversary?

Mulling over this, his ears picked up the thundering sounds of footfalls behind him. He had done this routine so long that he didn't need to think before he stepped to the side, a few giggling bunnies ran past him.

Shaking his head at his grandkits, nieces, and nephews, Stu couldn't help but think of his own children. Just as much as Bonnie was in his forethought, his own children were right there every moment, whether waking or sleeping, youngest or eldest.

Each one of them was unique in their own way - even far beyond his nicknames for them - and he couldn't have been prouder. All helped with some chore or farming, and they were doing well in school. Most of them, anyway.

And while he could count his blessings of having to not worry about many of them being too hyped up on sugar, a Hopps family prank, or have to threaten some neighbour buck about being too 'friendly' with one of his daughters - he and Bonnie were well aware of their kids' habits - there was still so much that his mind lingered on.

From the wellbeing of the farm and how they still needed more help in each season, to the fact that his warren was growing and the expanse required more money and resources.

Yet, even beyond that, he was constantly trying to shake off the unease and worry that came from one litter of his children. They called themselves the 'J-neration', and they were all a bit too quirky. Some rabble-rousers, some quiet and odd, but still loved nonetheless.

Can't believe Jamie's at it again. And Jemeny? Well, he's just... Jemeny.

He flicked his ear, focusing on his most troubling and prominent daughter: Judy.

Stu stopped just in the foyer to the dining hall, finding that he reflected on her more so than most.

He didn't worry about her because she did anything wrong most of the time. Well, aside from all those fires. Shuddering, he knew his worry came from her doing everything right everytime.

From her aiding the farm and taking care of the little ones, to her grades in school and temperament, she was 'daddy's perfect little doe'. Even with that, the one thing that scared him was the thing she wanted to do the most in her life: live out her dream.

He sighed, rubbing his temple and jostling his hat, Why'd she have to go and dream up something crazy like that...

He wanted her to live a simple life like him. Farming, raising a huge family, the whole nine. But, when he knew that wasn't going to happen, he - and of course Bonnie because she told him so from the beginning that she'd live up to her name and be strong-willed - allowed her to join the sheriff's office. Thinking that maybe she'd grow out of it eventually, or hopefully, it was just a phase. It soon grew into her stance and willfulness to go to the city.

As a father, that terrified him more than anything else.

His children working with dangerous equipment? Scary, but necessary. Them running around with large predators? Nerve wrecking, though there were exceptions. Judy going off on her own to the big city surrounded by droves of crazed predators with knives for teeth and meat cleavers for paws? Absolutely, undeniably, utterly terrifying.

Though she would reassure him that everything was fine and she was taking gymnastics, track, and other physical activities to show she was ready - not to mention passing as a Junior Deputy in Training - it never really shifted his stance in the matter.

Stu wasn't convinced that anything good would come out of her going to the city, it's not where any bunny belonged. And with only about two years before she graduated, that window of convincing her that she should drop it altogether was narrowing day by day.

He felt like a migraine was coming on from how many times he subtly tried to get her to change her mind. He was running out of options, but every time he'd get to that breaking point, he'd remind himself of one thing.

There was one constant, one hope, one solution that had the potential to turn the proverbial tide: Jack.

The elder buck's worry began to ebb just from thinking of the two together. They had been friends since shortly after they were born, shared most of the waking day together, and, most of all, Bonnie had once hummed that wonderful tune that heralded the two to one day be married. And though he did have a tendency to break every vehicle that he rode - it often left Stu and Bonnie wondering if that's why the tractors were never the same - he was the best candidate for any suitor possible.

If any bunny in the whole world could talk her out of it and into some sense, it would be Jack.

Idly plucking at the loose fibers in his overalls as he attempted to figure out the best approach, the door to the dining hall pushed open; a single bunny made his way out with a sigh. And for a brief moment, Stu's every thought collapsed as the opportunity quite literally walked right into him.

Speak of the devil. "Jack!" Stu greeted, waving exuberantly. The teenage buck's drooping ears perked up instantly.

"Oh," Shutting the door behind him and doing a quick scan of the hall, he greeted as well. "Hello, Mr. Hopps."

Stu chuckled, "Son, I told you, 'call me dad anytime'."

And he meant it. Since the day he had been grafted, Stu had welcomed Jack to call him as his own father. Rarely, though, if ever, had Jack stated that. It didn't bother the elder buck, though, but if he was going to make things work between Jack and Judy, that familiarity should be established.

Nodding, Jack scratched at the nape of his neck and cast a worried glance towards the dining hall door behind him.

Picking up on some of his tells over the years, Stu knew that this was unusual. Though he was one short of words, him looking this sheepish only meant one of two things. Either he was in trouble - rarely, but it did happen - or something was troubling him.

He took a chance.

"Is something wrong?" Stu inquired, causing the teen buck to flinch. When he saw the timid look in his eyes, it wasn't one of trouble for himself, but it didn't bode well. And with so many things that could go wrong, he thought of the most common; coming from the dining hall itself. "Did Barbara cook that carrot loaf again?"

Stu himself had flinched at even the idea of Bonnie's sister making such a terrible concoction. And with the two that had to be sent to the infirmary afterward, the elder buck prayed that it wasn't the case.

"No, sir," Jack waved his arms in desperate protest. He too remembered the fiasco and was glad that he preferred parsnips. "It's just that-"

He stopped as the door slowly propped open, a pair of grey ears greeted him as Bonnie quietly stepped out into the hall.

"Alright, what is it you wanted to tell-"

The doe stopped for a moment, giggling as she saw her husband smiling at her.

"Stu! Finally finished with the weeding the last patch, I see." Walking over to him, she wrapped her arms around him, embracing him as she always did. Nuzzling his cheek, he hugged her tighter.

Stu loved every moment he spent with her, he was glad he married the right one and always tried to make her happy. Which brought him back to the dilemma at paw of Jack's sudden demeanor. "Did your sister make somethin' terrible again?"

Bonnie had to stifle her laugh. "You know I don't let Babs do that anymore." True to her word, she had refused to let her sister make any of those awful menu items after the last one put one bunny in a coma.

Her paw firmly grasped Stu's. "Jack here had something he wanted to talk to us about. I told him to come out here until I found you."

Now curious, the elder buck tapped his foot impatiently. If there was something that he could help with or give advice on, he'd surely do his best.

"Well, son, what'd you need?"

Now on spot and figuring out how he should break the news, he took a deep breath. They weren't going to like this, but there was no better bunny to tell them.

"It's... about Judy."

Stu's eyes lit up. He glanced over to Bonnie who wore an equally stunned expression. "Yeah?"

Meekly nodding and clasping his paws together behind his back, Jack prepared himself for the outburst. "I would like to inform you that-"

Stu raised his paws, silencing him in an instant "Say no more. I know where this is going."

"You do?" Jack asked, relieved a bit that they must've heard in some fashion.

"I can tell by that look on your face what this is all about." He walked over to the younger buck, wrapping his arm around his shoulder and waving his free paw at his mate. "Why it's the same look Bon and I had at your age."

Jack didn't follow. What does Mrs. Bonnie have to do with a fox? Maybe he doesn't understand? "I-"

"Jack you're sixteen now," Stu continued. "That means that you're an adult and you can date any bunny you'd like,"

The young buck already knew that and about their culture at large. What he didn't know, however, was why Stu and Bonnie were going on and on about courtship when there was a far more pressing issue at paw.

"And, if you decide to take Judy out on a date or a few, you certainly have our blessing," Stu pat his paw on Jack's back. "Besides, I was a graftee when I married the love of my life." He added a mischevious smirk and a wink at his mate, she shook her head. He leaned over to whisper, "Though I had to stop Bon from an-uh...informal wedding."

"Stuart!" She said in a hushed shout, but all he did was laugh back.

Informal? Did they not invite guests? And courtship... with Judy? None of this was in Jack's plans to inform them. And while Judy was his best friend, he couldn't really say he was attracted to her even if they were always together; it just wasn't something he had thought about, ever.

Dad did say that I proposed once. But I don't think that was with Judy. He shook his head. "Sir, it's nothing like that."


Jack stepped away, wriggling out of Stu's grasp. If he was going to tell them, then he had to do so where both could see and feel the desperation apparent in his tone. "We have a new student-"

It was Bonnie's turn to nod. "Oh, I heard."

Again, Jack was surprised. "You did?"

"Judy's been talking about this new 'Nick' guy before he got here," she informed, motioning towards the door. "And she even told me all about him when she got back."

"She did?!"

"He's the new one in town that moved to the old house. Has family that's on their way in a few weeks. Has a few classes with her," As Bonnie listed this all off, Jack stood there, stunned that Judy would tell her everything about Nick and was so calm about it from all the years of stories and personal experiences about foxes. "Oh! And he absolutely loves blueberries. We'll have to send him a basket this week."

Mulling over any other useful facts that she picked up and finding none viable, Bonnie shrugged. There was nothing that she could find wrong with the new student that was out of the ordinary.

However, with her coming up with nothing, Jack's posture slouched.

He recalled how Judy failed - rather exempted to the best of her ability - to tell him that Nick was, in fact, a fox. And furthermore, as neither parent seemed to acknowledge this with her telling them 'everything', Jack came to one conclusion: Judy exempted a fact on purpose.

He'd resolve this issue. "Sir. Ma'am. I don't believe that she may have been entirely truthful in what she's said about Nick."

Taken aback, Bonnie hummed at the sudden, sharp answer.

"The thing is that he-"

Again, the accursed door opened, this time bumping Jack as he had been standing too close to it. Caught by his shoulder and immediately moving away, he sought to finish delivering the deadly information only to stop as Judy herself appeared.

"Hey Jack," she started, seeing her parents down the hall and giving them a curt wave. "Oh! Hey mom, dad."

Oddly, only Stu waved back. Bonnie tapped her foot impatiently.

Judy knew something was off. Not only from the way her parents looked at her, but also from how Jack seemed to be at a complete loss for words for the whole day.

With her paws on her hips, Judy questioned, "What's going on?"

Her mother mocked the pose. "Jack says that there's something you didn't tell us about your new friend, Nick."

The sudden tense in the air got Judy to side eye Jack in an obviously guilty manner. It didn't take a detective or investigator to see the easily readable lines of "I did something and didn't tell anyone" clear on the amethyst eyed doe's face at that moment. Bonnie was becoming more anxious and her foot tapping became louder, more noticeable.

Jack gave her a sorrowful glance. "I think we should tell them, Judy."

Stu opened his maw to speak, but Bonnie beat him to it. "Tell us what?"

Jack tried to tell them, "That Nick-mmfff," but instead found his maw quickly silenced by Judy's paw; her other arm wrapped around him tightly.

"Uhh... Found a spot right next to mine in the garden!" Judy smiled cheesily, waiting for either of her parents to answer while she kept her grip on Jack. She wouldn't let them know that he was a fox... for now. They'd flip! Literally!

It took a second or two between Jack's struggle and a sigh of relief from Bonnie for Judy to relax.

"That's... great news, bun bun." said the mother to her daughter, side-eyeing her shrugging husband. "You keep making the world a better place."

Fervently humming and grinning, Judy walked forward, ushering her friend towards the elevators.

"Now if you'll excuse us," she called back, finally releasing the buck and causing him to stare at her in disbelief. "We have... homework to go over."

The two disappeared around the corner, but not before Judy's ears caught words from her parents of "Things going to plan," and, "Maybe she'd stay," and also, "My soaps are on," followed by a, "Sure thing, hon."

Judy didn't know what they meant but shook off the odd feeling she got in favor of moving forward. And though Jack's protest had subsided to mere huffs of frustration, she knew he'd want to chew her ear off as they got to the ground floor.

She only let go of Jack when she pressed the button to call the elevator.

"What was that about?" the frustration in his tone was only drowned out by the sound of the elevator opening. She quickly grabbed his paw and dragged him in before hitting the button for a few floors up.

When the door shut, she glared at him. "I thought we agreed not to tell our parents about this when we were at school."

Though she sentimentally included him as one of their own as she always had, the idea was lost on the angered buck for now. "Not tell them? What, that he's a-"

Judy flinched, reactively waving her paws in an attempt to silence him. She knew full well that the elevators had cameras and working intercoms in case of emergencies, so keeping this as hushed as possible was key.

"Jack," She paused, waiting for the elevator to land and let them out before she shuffled out; her furious friend in tow. "he's not a bad guy. He-"

"Not bad?" His paw clutched, his mouth hung in disbelief. "Gideon got expelled for being 'not bad'," Jack began to gesture towards several decorative plants lining the hallway of the foyer leading outside. "He started several fights and ended up being expelled because he ripped up other student's flowers. How could you could you not remember that?"

As the doe stared into his narrowing yellow eyes, she recalled those events as though they were yesterday.

Gideon - a freshman last year as they were - had broken nearly all of the rules in record time. The constant sends to the counselors and principals offices, the bickering and lies... the sour smell of alcohol in his uniform. It was a nightmare to be around him.

His last strike was a bit of a saving grace as he had broken the most important rule of their school as a whole: do not destroy the dream flowers.

He had been caught in the garden, ripping up flowers just before lunch. When confronted he tried desperately to say that he didn't do anything when he clearly had flower petals in his paws.

It was then that the principal decided to expel him as there was one thing above all that you never do in Paragon's Grove: destroy someone's dreams.

Now taking short breaths, the buck shook his head and clasped a paw on his temple. "You and I both have scars from when Gideon attacked us years ago." He slowly lifted his eyes to meet hers. "And if you give Nick time, he'll do the same."

Instinctively, a paw shot to her cheek where the remnants of that confrontation lay hidden underneath her fur. While Jack had it far worse with macabre scars running in mismatched rivulets here and there, it still bothered her every now and again.

Though, she still remembered what James said. What she needed to remind him. "Gideon is a troubled mammal," Not once did the buck's stance become relaxed. "I remember your dad saying that about him. That he comes from a broken home."

In the silent moment that the bunnies simply stared at one another, Judy knew she wouldn't win Jack over easily. He had a long, vicious history with Gideon and one day wouldn't resolve it. She only wanted to ease things for everyone.

Resting her paw on the door handle, she thought of one final way to make things better. "Can you just not tell them yet? Please?"

As he searched her eyes for any hint of what she may have been trying to do, he finally slumped his shoulders. She was his best friend and he didn't want to see her get hurt. He knew Nick would be trouble and Bonnie and Stu should know, but Judy would - much like earlier - refuse to tell them everything.

He'd have to take matters into his own paws. No matter what, he'd protect her. It's what his father would do.

I'll show you that he's just like that. he thought, eyeing the time on his silver watch and nodding before stepping back into the burrow.

Left alone, Judy took a deep breath. Jack wouldn't say anything, for now. He was nothing if not honest and punctual.

I'll show you that he's not like that. she thought, pushing the door open and being welcomed by the silvery ambiance of moonlight and rolling green hills.

The fresh scent of honeysuckle and mint greeted her in the spring air as she made her way around to the side of their burrowing hill. Climbing it with ease and getting seated just atop the grassy attic, Judy gazed toward the north in awe.

This was one of her favourite times of day, just when the night peaked and she could see the little glow of the stars shining down on the place where her dreams would be fulfilled: Zootopia. From atop the hill, she'd stare at it and just sigh as it was far away but drawing near each and every day.

"Just a few more years..." She kicked her feet on the grass, listening to the chirp of crickets while fireflies danced all around her. It was the simple peace of mind that brought her out here time and time again.

And though Sharla was the only other mammal she knew that would be out moon watching like she did - Jack was more of the kind to rise and watch the sun when he was up - Judy found it no less beautiful to see the endless emerald fields; just like she did when she gazed into Nick's eyes.

What was that? she questioned, shivering in the cool of the air and thinking back to their first meet in homeroom.

His eyes twinkled and sparkled magnificently. It wasn't like anything she had experienced before, save for what she wrote in a letter long ago. The same letter that she kept with the plethora of others to her long gone friend; all carefully locked away in her room.

Smiling as she thought back to that, she set her bag down and rummaged through it for the journal she kept as she had something new to write about.

The little book - hardbacked and as purple as her own eyes - was clutched tightly as she reached for the carrot pen she cherished. When she didn't find it in its usual spot, she searched more and more until it finally hit her. She face-pawed.

"I forgot to get the pen back from Nick," she said with a lighthearted chuckle, setting the book down and resigning herself to look out to the north again where his new residence was.

She had thought about it on and off for much of the day, just... curious as to what he'd really be like. With him being alone and the reports from the station stating that he had family that would be living there in a few weeks, her smile only grew wider.

I wonder what his family's like.

The door shakily opened as Nick chattered his teeth and took baby steps into his new home. His fur was a few shades lighter due to the slew of scares he endured on the way back.

While he was thankful that the deputy was only doing 45 over the speed limit this time, the way he kept howling at the wheel and nearly swerving into other cars gave Nick lingering jitters; he had to forcibly lower one paw with the other as it refused to let go of the solid, stable door that he felt safe behind. The squad car door betrayed his trust several times, and his claw tips were now slightly dull.

Having entered the house with the wolf trailing behind him on a phone call, the fox released a ragged, heavy breath and placed his book bag down on the couch before collapsing atop it.

How anyone could cause so many panic attacks so quickly was beyond him.

The first deep breaths he took in were full of the scent of pine resin that he was starting to grow fond of. It wasn't like the stagnant air in parts of the city, rather, it was calming, pleasant even. He smirked a bit at as his thoughts trailed. It's like the house is its own air freshener.

He started drifting off when what he could only say was an explosion tore through the house. Shocked, he fell off the couch and turned his attention to where the sound came from only to see the smiling white wolf dash towards him.

Wondering what was going on and fearful that this was some kind of 'Get out of Bunnyburrow', Nick scrambled away but was quickly picked up by the deputy. His shimmering eyes stared down the terrified fox.

"Did you enjoy your day?!" he asked, almost barking while Nick tried to figure out what the sound was. He looked past the wolf and saw the door hanging on a single hinge. His jaw dropped. Eliot gasped, "See I told you! I can tell by the look on your face that you had a great time with Judy!"

The fox was dumbfounded. The front door was open (broken, really) and the deputy (who broke the door and held him aloft) was asking him about Judy (the one friend he had here).

"Yeah-" was his only way of responding.

When he felt a breeze ruffle his fur, he stopped staring at the door and saw a wall of white appear behind the wolf. His tail was wagging at about a mile a second, whacking itself against the coffee table with every swish. Nick felt as though if it were any faster, they'd achieve flight.

He tried to get down, but despite his wiggling, the starry-eyed canine didn't let go.

"Did you have a bunch of classes together?" Eliot effused.

Not wanting to delay, he listed off the classes mentally first. "Well, we have Chemistry-" was as far as his list had grown before the wolf completely stopped; gasping and eyes becoming suddenly so wide, Nick could see his terrified reflection in them.

"Uh... deputy are you oka-"

"I have to go tell Pumpkin!" The wolf howled, tossing his arms up - and unfortunately Nick - in a wild cheer before he made his way to the broken door. He didn't hear the fox come crashing down awkwardly and hilariously missing the couch by mere inches. Though thankfully Nick's fur and bones broke his fall.

Eliot was back out, shutting the door - and failing due to the hinges being broken - before Nick could even start to rest on his elbows. With a paw on the couch to steady himself and get back up, a jostle at the door alerted him again; he shuffled back, clutching his aching nose.

The wolf poked his head through the door. "Oh, by the way. If either of you anything inappropriate with one another, then I'll have to drag you both to a promise ceremony," he said, grinning.

Nick coughed. His lungs still trying to catch up from a winded state. "P-promise what?!"

The deputy gave him a cheesy snicker. "See you tomorrow! I'll fix your door in the morning!"

And like that, the door was slammed, again, before it loosely toppled over. Nick watched as it moved a little, just enough to set it in place all while the sound of howling continued. It wasn't until he got up and heard the cruiser tear down the road, that he finally felt like he was alone.

He sighed, I guess I'll be sleeping without a door tonight.

After taking a quick glance around and finally feeling his day catch up to him, Nick yawned. With it being so late - their school let out around three, much to his surprise - and Eliot had picked him up shortly after.

With it being nearly five now, he decided it best to start winding down as he had no actual homework - a perk to him.

After a quick shower and change into his night clothes, he headed downstairs to heat up some of those absolutely delicious leftovers he'd been binging on for the past day. Whoever this "From Bonnie" was, they knew exactly how to make a filling meal. He even managed to find a few dishes left by the Fanghanel's; Chloe he guessed as Eliot seemed to be in the market of terrifying him rather than making a delicious meal calmly... though there was one box that he noticed had the wolf's face on it and said 'open and share with a friend'.

I'll wait until Skye's here so she can open that one. he mused, taking a fork and biting into an amazing quiche.

No sooner had he taken two bites of his dinner, his cell phone rang. As he always carried it with him, he answered quickly, already guessing who it was.

"Hey mom," he greeted, guiltily speaking in between chews. "Sorry I didn't call earlier. I was... uh-" Clutching a passenger seat out of fear for my life? Almost choked to death by a crazed wolf? Thinking about my classma- "In the shower."

Not a lie, he mentally nodded to himself and wondered why the last one was more important. Still, he kept eating and talking.

"Yeah! Yeah, school was great! They have this amazing garden and everything!"

He smiled warmly at the memory, eager to return the next day.

"What's it like out here? I-its'-" Breathtaking? Smells like pine resin? We have no tv? Skye isn't here yet so the place is still standing? "I don't know, but it's nothing like the city out here."

And it wasn't. To him, at least. The city was crowded, loud and dangerous. Here? It was nothing but bliss.

"Love you too, mom. Huh? Yeah... let me speak to her."

He braced himself for the loud shriek of 'NICKY!' but after a few seconds of silence, he relaxed.


Dropping his fork and clutching his ears, he mentally scolded himself for letting his guard down. He reached over to pick up the fork as he was bombarded with more questions.

"No, Skye. Still no ghosts." he chuckled, "Wait... what about a glass jar? I told you there's no gho-"

A loud creak caught his attention, flickering his ear in the direction of the unknown sound.

"Hang on," he said but to no avail as Skye prattled on about something like 'Parabiking' or something.

He rounded the corner and the noise got louder, almost sounding like it came from the foyer, but the front door was still standing.

"Mr. El-" He stopped when he saw that the door just down the hall leading to the basement was slightly ajar.

Looking around for anything, he shrugged. I must've clipped it on my way down.

Quietly closing the door and returning to the conversation, the vixen's voice was muffled. She sounded as if she was drowning.

"Slow down, I can't understand what you're- Shrimp gumbo, huh?"

The muffling continued until he heard her chewing through what must've been a shovel's worth of food.

Their conversation lasted a few more minutes, going on about this or that before she had to leave. And with a click, Nick was alone again.

It took him some time of just laying around on the couch and trying to find something to do before he had gotten bored; there were only so many videos he could watch on a small screen, and he figured that, with summer around the corner, having a school-issued laptop wouldn't be a great idea.

In time, he had gotten a pen and some paper to write out a to-do list and draw some random characters. He also took out the class schedule, checking it over and over again on the coffee table.

And when he thought of the school, he sighed and sat up; his tail swishing to and fro in excitement. There was so much that he had taken in, so much that was new that he was itching to go back.

So now, unable to just lay around, he thought of something, anything he could do at that moment. Only then did he see slivers of silver light cascading through the blinds, beckoning him to the outside.

Eyes falling on the door, he shook his head. He had no clue as to how the deputy did that but shrugged it off in favor of enjoying the view. He got up and pried the destroyed barrier open, careful not to unhinge the last part and cause the thing to collapse altogether.

When out, he repeated the process, attempting to rest it so that it leaned against the frame and wouldn't just fall on him.

He turned to face the forest that surrounded his house, he stopped. The verdant woodlands were bathed in beams of moonlight and the air was so crisp, so earthy that it felt like a different planet altogether.

So captivated, he just paced a few steps to sit on the stairs of the porch; looking up to the heavens and admiring the glowing sphere that kept the night.

While he can't say that he had done that so often, was one of his favourite activities that he had picked up over the years when he had time: moon watching. He remembered those few times he'd be on the rooftop of their apartment, staring out into the endless arrays of stars. It was more beautiful when he looked to the south as he could see their reflection in the water as smooth as a mirror.

It was like a sea that extended forever. No. Much like an ocean that he could see everything in, just like Judy's amethyst eyes.

What was that? He wondered, thinking back to their interaction in homeroom.

It reminded him of a letter he had written to his penpal long ago, and was one of the few keepsakes he had kept with him on that long trip.

A cheesy grin tugged on his muzzle as he reminisced about the day; mostly about Judy.

During lunch, they just chatted and he asked her a thousand, thousand questions. And to his surprise, she answered them all.

What the school represented, some of the after-school activities, the symbolic meanings of other plants, old folk tales, and other such things.

She even told him that the willow tree represented dreams, and a popular rumor for the students was that if they slept under the tree, it showed them what would become of their dreams in the future.

He didn't really believe it himself, but he did think that it'd be a decent place to take a nap on a warm, sunny day.

Mostly, he thought of how nice she was compared to the other students. He twisted the little orange recorder in his paw as he hummed and tapped his paw against the step.

I wonder what her family's like?

When he looked down into his paw, wondering why it felt heavier, he paused, focusing intently on the familiar device bristling his fur.

His eyes shot open. "No..."

It was then, staring at the brilliance of the silver moon, that Nick realized his mistake. His paws roughly tugged at his ears in embarrassment.

"UGH! I forgot to give her back her pen!"

Dangerous dreams? Yeah... what about them?


Chapter Text

Where You Belong

"We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream."
— Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn (The Last Unicorn, #1))

Nick stood at the intersection, swishing his tail and twirling his loosely fitting clip-on tie in an attempt to ease his jitters. Well, not jitters, really. Rather, frustration that he had missed something or was given some false direction.

It was lunchtime again, and he was informed by Mrs. Wolfson - after he found out that she was, in fact, not a wolf, rather a manned wolf; he still couldn't fathom what it was, but she looked like a tall fox - that he needed to go to the security office to receive his badge, it should have been a complete breeze to have done so.

However... that breeze passed by as he opted to go on his own. He had been hoping that Judy would be there to accompany him, but she was nowhere in sight. In fact, he hadn't seen her all day and was beginning to wonder if she was at school at all. After last night, he just wanted to give her back her pen and enjoy their classes together, but that couldn't happen if she wasn't on school grounds.

He shuffled his bag, ensuring that he hadn't forgotten it along with his lunch. You know... maybe I should have tried to get her phone number and call her. He raised a brow at his own thought, Okay, that sounded a bit creepy.

Since she wasn't there, he figured he'd explore for himself and get further acclimated to his surroundings. And while the map helped at first, that sense of exploration quickly wore out as the sheer number of students that filled the hallway left him spun around numerous times. From the walls and brushes of mammals passing him by to the flocks, fluffles, packs, and all manner of groups, he was lost now.

Oh, and he had, in the mess of things, managed to lose the map somewhere between here and there - where either was, he had no clue.

Adding insult to injury, when he did finally drum up the sense to ask one of the students dressed as hall monitors - he inwardly laughed as they looked like meter maids in Zootopia - the directions he received were so unusual and so heavily accented he didn't know whether to ask for a cipher or a translator to go with it.

He had stepped up to a black-furred, purple-eyed rabbit doe that greeted him as 'June' or something, he couldn't remember. But what he did remember was two things.

First of which was that she spoke in the way he had imagined all stereotypical southern bunnies. He wanted to say something about deep fried 'taters, sweet tea, and apple pie, but he restrained himself.

"Take the fork on your left, 'round the way, straight, 'bout the next hall, left, and then you're there."

He sighed, knitting his brows together from the ordeal. Those weren't directions. Though he had followed the path to a 'T', he ended up at a dead end and now he was questioning whether or not she was really trying to assist him or send him off.

The other thing he remembered was that glimmer in her eyes - somehow like Judy's - when she saw him was of genuine curiosity. She unclipped a radio, chatting with him while speaking something to her crew. He did notice she kept staring dead center at him, around his neck or so. Twice, he wondered if he had something on his clip-on tie, but after a quick scratch or two to pass it off as a stray string, he found nothing.

She told him where to go with a smile, yet, when he was just out of earshot, he heard her laugh something about 'learning a lesson', or whatever.

He sighed, shifting his bookbag to his left. That bunny hustled me. he thought.

Almost smirking at the idea, but feeling like he was just tossed around like any other fox, he resigned himself to think of his next move.

So, now, here he was, staring at a mural... collage, maybe? It was an amalgam array of numbers and letters skewed across a wall. They were unrecognizable from what he could see, no matter how far down the widened hall he paced. The only distinguishable thing amidst the chaos of the art was a sign reading '0 fires in the last 3 days'.

Despite his situation, he chuckled at that, deeming this place a science hall in the process. He looked around again and it made sense. The numbers and letters were a jumble of elements from the periodic table.

Nodding, Nick remembered that the science hall on this side would eventually wrap into his theater class. If he could figure out where that was, then he'd be okay in getting anywhere else. He stepped away from the sign and blinked before turning his focus back on a little addendum that was scrawled before it reading, 'Judy Hopps has caused'.

Mouth slowly widening, the fox couldn't help but laugh hysterically.

"Really, Carrots?" he sputtered between breaths. He had no clue as to why anyone would write that there, but he was grateful for the ease of mind.

As he shook his head and padded on, low sound resonated to his ears. Recognizing them as the clop of hooves, he was relieved. Finally, someone else in these empty halls. Maybe they can give me directions.

He looked over his shoulder and perished the idea flat out. There was a heavyset black-wooled ram with curled horns slowly walking towards him. His eyes never left Nick and, even as he padded onward, the sound of his hooves were as quiet as possible.

Judging the situation, the fox felt uncomfortable in this familiar situation. Not announcing himself, walking quietly, staring, the ram had all the telltale signs of trouble; something Nick wanted adamantly to avoid.

When he rounded a corner, he took off in a dash, knowing full well that the suspicious activity wouldn't end well. As he got about halfway down, his suspicions were confirmed as the ram had abandoned the silent walk altogether and started charging.

Though he was ahead, Nick couldn't keep up this pace forever. Not because he was out of shape, rather, he never could outrun a speeding ram, not going in a straight line.

Feeling the air rush against him as his hind claws clicked on the linoleum, he sought to resolve his dilemma by taking the next corner and evade his pursuer. In his previous experiences like this, he noted that they were terrible at making sharp turns on this kind of flooring; even less so if they were heavy.

Smirking, he easily skid to a stop just as he reached the mouth of the hall. Ready to run again, he pushed his hindlegs forward only to see a blur of white flash across his vision. An inch away, he saw that it was another ram - more so his shoulder - and it finally clicked what was going on: the other ram was a distraction, he was herded right into a trap.

Having the wind knocked out of him and the cascade of painted walls fly backward with him, he slid across the ground, legs still in the air as he rolled back; his bookbag departing from him on impact.

When Nick finally came to a stop, the world was still spinning and there was a dull ache in his shoulder and hind paw. He managed to recline back, propping himself on his elbows while his vision started to correct itself; though he wished it hadn't.

Just a few lockers down, the two rams stood tall, tapping their hooves together in a display of triumph that rivaled the shimmer of their school badges. His bag lay a few feet away from him, but he couldn't move to grab it and run due to the dull ache in his shoulder and foot, and he didn't dare leave without it, he promised to return her pen.

He growled at his luck. Yeah, real great school. Thanks for sending me here, mom. Really liking these locals in particular... At least it took two days this time.

Done with their ritual, they sauntered towards Nick, dragging their hooves in what he could imagine was the sheer joy that they had captured their query. They paid no heed to his bag, trampling it and causing him to wince when he heard an audible crunch from it.

Reaching out with his good paw, his jaw dropped and his heart sank. All he got was stares and snorts from them, they didn't care at all.

"You don't belong here, fox." the black wooled ram of the two accused, his deep voice as spiteful as some of those protesters back in the city.

And here I thought you were from the welcome committee.

"No cams down these halls," chimed the lighter wooled ram. "We got about a good minute before anyone notices."

... Yeah, I'll be in the obituaries if I stay here... Sorry, Carrots.

As they neared, Nick willed himself for one last push, placing more weight on his unbruised shoulder in an attempt to get up. Why are the hallways this empty during the lunch rush?! he wondered. Certainly, someone, somewhere among the ridiculous amount of forty-two thousand students, would happen upon him - hopefully for good this time.

The moment the two rams' shadows had reached the fallen fox, they simply stood still, staring far past him. And for a second, Nick thought thatmaybe they were just going to talk him down and leave, but a little, even, familiar sound tore that thought away.

When he craned his neck to identify the noise, his last shred of hope faded. The low clop of steady hooves preceded a third sheep approaching them.

This one, grey-wool shorn down to near stubble and smaller than the other two, with his badge shining far brighter, walked towards them just at the mouth of the next hall, blocking any possible escape. Unlike the others, he had small horns jutting out of his pompadour and his teal eyes lacked horizontal pupils. Further separating him from them was his regal, astute posture.

Nick remembered seeing glances of him in his homeroom class, sitting a few rows back. The way he stared at him was indecipherable, as if he simply looked past him, even then.

His hooves were clasped behind him and an unamused grin eased its way onto his muzzle, he casually strode towards the downed fox; the other two sheep standing dead in their tracks.

"I see you've run into some trouble." said the unfamiliar ram, his voice even and stoically calm. "Nicholas Wilde, is it? I was beginning to wonder whether or not I'd get an opportunity like this for a while."

He stopped when he was about the same distance as the other two, tilting his head down and smiling at the fox. "Thank you, for bringing him my way."

There was an unnerving light click of hooves and grinding teeth from the side of two rams. Yet, the solitary ram simply hummed and continued his grin. Nick, however, was slowly trying to inch his way back.

He stopped when the grey ram started moving again, though he did want to attempt to slip by and find anyone that could help. It was only when he stopped an inch away from Nick that he leaned down with a casual, easygoing smile that made Nick's skin crawl.

"They're right, you know. You don't belong here. Though, I've often wondered how a scenario like this would end. Let's find out, shall we?" he said with a light snort.

Oh, great! A psycho! Nick growled, but the ram was unphased.

He rose up, taking his eyes off of Nick and staring down the other two with a smile so cold and distant that Nick felt like being stuffed into a locker was the least of his worries.

His hooves moved and Nick flinched, ready to haplessly defend himself, but a blow never came. Instead, the ram stepped around him, never grazing him at all.

Adamantly believing that he was just building tension and daring him to try and run before sic'ing his cronies on him, Nick moved further back. Getting even a foot away was more comforting.

However, in his attempts to scurry away, Nick caught a glimpse of the ram's hooves behind him. Oddly, he was clutching a phone; screen on, facing towards him, and playing a video. And in that video was-

-Wait... is that us?


s clear as day, he could see his red-orange tail flicker behind the sheep. A red circle was pressed at the bottom, indicating that the event was being recorded. Nick was beside himself at what was going on: someone, somewhere just behind the wall of wool, was watching. He just couldn't figure out why.

The black wooled ram growled, pointing a digit sharply Nick. "What? Come to save your little friend, chomper?"

Nick raised a brow. Friend? Chomper? Wait, which one is... Friend?!

He had heard 'chomper' plenty of times in the city. was a derogatory term used for predators, and as that ram said it, his mind tried to wrap around what was going on.

The small ram chuckled, "Well, be that as it may, and name calling aside, I do believe that what you're doing is against school policy; on or off campus. Certainly not ideal for what we represent as Paragons, right?" At that, he glanced down towards Nick, tapping his phone screen with a smile before side-eyeing the other two. "And, correct me if I'm wrong, Woolter, but wouldn't an infraction like this be the... hmm... second strike for both you and Jesse this quarter?"

Huffing, the other opposing ram shot back, "And who's gonna know?"

"Let's see," A smile twisted on the sheep as he brought his camera towards him. "our class president, the junior deputies, Deputy Fanghanel, your student employer," He tapped the screen, watching as the other two started to become pale. "my mother, for your insult, of course. Oh, and the board of administration, for starters."

With that, he tapped his hind hoof, staring past them and waiting, daring for them to respond. Nick was awash with confusion, but in looking past them, his eyes glimmered. No way...

And sure enough, one did respond. 'Woolter' scraped his hoof, leaning down and gearing for a charge; Jesse mimicked his motions. "Too bad your mutt's not here to help y-"

Large paws grasped their horns, halting their advances and forcing them to turn to the mammal they belonged to. They both visibly panicked as a smiling grey wolf poked his muzzle between them. Tall, slender and imposing, the wolf swished his tail merrily and tutted.

"Such a pity, picking on the little folks and new mammals," he said with a reserved chuckle, moving back as they both tried to catch him with their horns. He pointed just to his right. "I'd say to pick on someone your size, but I think theyare a better match for the two of you."

Standing there with their arms crossed, and staring daggers at the two rams were a pig, a black rabbit, and a raccoon. Nick recognized the bunny more so as she was the one that gave him directions, but the other two wore the same orange vest as she did. And despite their smaller statures, the two rams seemed to shrink under their gaze.

The sow strode up to them with a smirk, her orange vest shimmered as she cracked her knuckles, the sheep took a step back. "You better not run," she commanded, voice forboding as she reveled at the sight of the two fleeing in an instant.

The ram nearest Nick sidestepped as the other two ran for their lives from the three mammals in hot pursuit. Even at their top speed, Nick saw the rams struggling to outrun their fate. And when they were just out of sight, there was a terrified set of bleats followed by a loud crash and constant yelling.

Now with no mammal attempting to attack him, Nick breathed a heavy sigh he didn't know he was holding back. He looked toward his crushed bookbag longingly as the wolf picked it up and cheerfully inspected it.

He was going to ask for it back and thank him when an outstretched hoof came into his view.

"Terribly sorry about that. We may be a prestigious school, but that doesn't mean that we aren't without trouble." said the grey ram, smiling and patiently waiting for Nick to respond. He did so cautiously, wincing a little at the dull ache, but grateful none the less.

Nodding as the wolf approached, them, the sheep continued. "I do stand by what I said: you don't belong here," Nick bit back a snarky reply. "Not on the floor and certainly not chased down by bullies in the shady halls of the school. I swear, with our budget, we could get cams everywhere, but we had to opt for new jerseys for our teams."

"Oh..." Nick scratched his ear. Never once did he believe that a sheep would come to his aid, he was an outsider, and their species didn't let him too close.

In his silence, the wolf padded his way up to him, holding out his bag. Nick took it in his paw, not hesitating to check on the pen. To his relief, it was still there and his phone only had a small crack near the top. However, his lunch was squished into paste; he was looking forward to it, but it could have been worse.

Sheepishly, he cleared his throat. "Thanks for all that back there, uh-"

He was silenced by the wolf wrapping his arms around him, lurching him forward.

"No problem, buddy! Those guys got what's comin' to them and you're back on your feet."

At the mention of the would-be attackers, a few shrill cries came from down the hall. Nick was somehow glad, for once in his life, that he was a fox and not a prey mammal.

The wolf among them cringed. "Okay, that's not a good sound when Maria's involved. And I think it'll take a lot more than June and Bart to stop her when she goes off like that," Nodding to the ram, he chuckled at Nick. "Hey, new kid. Wanna join us?"

While he wanted to say that he had a previous arrangement or something, his best bet was to stay with them. Afterall, they did kinda save your tail fluff.

Plastering on his signature smirk while hiding every hint of emotion - gratitude, reservation, or otherwise - the tod shrugged and simply followed.

Almost followed, really. For Nick, the ideal place for him was behind them so he could observe their motions, how they interacted, and fully judge why a sheep was helping him alongside the wolf. However, as fate would have it, he was practically ushered forward, either mammal at his side as they rounded the corner.

Their journey to the next hallway ended with them seeing the two that attacked Nick getting a taste of justice. The black bunny and raccoon had Jesse sat down in front of a mural with his hooves in a pair of cuffs while the pig had Woolter pinned to the ground under a row of lockers that had an impressive dent in them.

Through his squirms and bleats in a headlock, the sow questioned him. "What happened? You fell, right?!"

Woolter tried to kick, but she mercilessly wrenched his arm back. "No, you-urh! I fell! I FELL!"

The pig snarled, forcibly dragging him up as she rose. "That better be your story when we get to the office or you're gonna fall a lot harder when I come visit you where you live!"

Bruised and battered with a headache, the sobbing mammal was pushed down the hallway; the pig never once stopped shouting at him.

Jesse, however, stayed put until the raccoon waved for him to stand. As he was ushered away, he gave Nick a cold stare and muttered something inaudible. The bunny snapped her fingers and pointed. "I'll be addin' that little word to your record when we get back." He physically cowed under her words, slowly trotting away in silence.

Nick couldn't believe the turn of events. The two were practically arrested by students; by a predator and prey that were smaller than them. What's with this school?

He wanted to further inquire, but felt a tap on his shoulder. The wolf tilted his head to where the others left. "By the way, that pig is Maria, one of the Swinton triplets. Don't cross her," he informed, gesticulating by waving his arms in warning. "Great Junior Deputy Hall Monitor, but a bit rough around the edges... and she also runs a shady business on this side of the school out of a janitors closet."

Nodding reverently at the pig and the dent in the wall, Nick was impressed. He could see why the hall monitors were such a great idea.

"Oh! Speaking of, I forgot to introduce myself," spoke the ram, tapping on his badge and giving a curt bow. "My name is Shorin Wolfson. Rin for short."

As he turned to the wolf, Nick raised a brow. Wait, isn't that the name of my homeroom teacher?

"This is my cousin Ludvig Luproc," Staring at the wolf giving a salute, Nick's jaw nearly fell. Did he say cousin?! "You've already met Maria Swinton and Bartholomew Cyvil. And this here is-"

The bunny waved her paw. "Juniper Hopps, we met already," She strode up to Nick, tapping her foot impatiently and jabbing a finger at him. "What are you doin' here? I told you exactly how to get to the offices. My sis' been waitin' for you for ten minutes. That's 'bout a year for bunnies!"

"I followed your instructions!" Nick shot back.

The bunny shook her head. "Then you missed a left!"

Steppin between the arguing pair, Shorin whistled. "Juniper, can you do us a favour and call your sister? Tell her we can meet her near the silo for his badge."

It was then that Nick noticed the others staring at him, specifically where a badge should be.

Luproc, however, just laughed. "You're just itching to get those salmon taco's aren't you?"

"Today is Taco Tuesday, Lu. It's practically the sabbath day as far as I'm concerned."

During their rant, Juniper unclipped a little radio from her belt and clicked it on. She spoke hurriedly, almost too quick for her small stature. "Yo Jude. We got your fox here and he- no, he's fine. Got Jesse and Woolter, though, tried to jump 'im... Yeah, Swinton took Jes down again. Damages? Uh-we'll talk. Anywho, they're headed up to get some grub. Meet 'em near the silo," She took one look at said fox before walking off and saying one last thing into her radio, "Still ain't learned."

No longer tailed by others, Luproc lead them and they strode in a comfortable silence. Though a lot was on Nick's mind, he had one question to ask, if only to sate his curiosity.

"So, Shorin, is it? You have the last name of-"

"Our homeroom teacher, yes. I was adopted, and Lulu here is my cousin."

The wolf shot him an annoyed look. "I told you not to call me that."

He smiled back. "Isn't that what your girlfriend calls you?"

Muzzle beet red, he turned and grumbled. "She's not my girlfriend."

Nick could have sworn that Rin whispered 'yet', but decided against it, he was new among them.

He hadn't heard of predators adopting prey mammals or vice versa, it just wasn't something that was done out of fear. And for the second time today, this sheep was full of surprises. Still, he wondered, "Okay, but your mom's a wolf, right?"

"Manned wolf," he corrected. "So technically not a wolf. My father is, though."

Taking a chance and hopefully in good spirits, Nick chided, "Still, doesn't that mean you were-"

Snickering, the sheep knew where here this was going with this. "I've heard everyjoke about it since forever. And yes, I was raised by wolves."

Sharing a good laugh with him, he felt a bit better. He was having a great time with a sheep, a sheep that was adopted by wolves! The irony was all there, but he couldn't help but think about what that family must look like from the outside.

Attempting to envision it, a cheerful voice called out. "Hey Lulu!"

To his right, a sow came galloping towards them. Her bookbag carelessly swinging and her tuft of hair combed in order, she waved at the group, moreso the wolf than any other; Luproc didn't hesitate to enthusiastically wave back. "Hey there, Delilah!"

When she did reach them, Nick thought she was the Swinton from earlier, finished at the office and here on lunch with them. However, the name was different.

She nearly waltzed up to the wolf, wrapping her arm around him in a tight hug. He sounded like he was suffocating.

"Nick," he coughed. "I'd like for you to meet our class vice president, Delilah Swinton."

Now noticing the fox among them, she straightened out her skirt, fixed her ribbon, and gave a curt bow. "Pleasure to meet you, Nicholas. I hope our esteemed president and his cousin are treating you well," she added, poking the abashed wolf in his side.

"What? Of course we are. Right, Rin?"

"Lu, you're just buttering up to him because you want his vote in the fall elections."

"Rin, I got your vote by an act of kindness."

"Is that what you call bribes, nowadays?"

Somewhere between the cousins bickering and the pig attempting to get the two to focus, there was a far more familiar voice that rang past them. "Nick! There you are."

The fox turned around, unable to hear the distractions of the others and saw the familiar, overenthusiastic face of his bunny: Judy.

Her orange vest made him smile all the wider as she looked like a marching carrot. Though, the small box that she held in her paws made him wonder what it was.

The bunny bounded up to them, lingering in the air with a quick wave of her paw to ensure that she got their attention before she came to a stop just in front of her fox.

"Hey guys," she said, "Thanks for finding him for me,"

The cousins smirked, "It was no trouble."

She cast him an apologetic smile. "June told me that you got caught up in a fight with Jesse and Woolter and I started panicking and was about to run there an kick those two again. You don't know how much trouble they cause for everyone and blah bla bla-"

Nick couldn't say when it happened, but he just let her ramble on while he stared into the boundless sea of those deep, purple eyes of hers and sighed.

"Anyways, I finally got your badge ready." She paused, opening the box in front of the fox and showing him a shiny, shimmering shield that had the same 'G' embossed on it like all the others. He was about to reach over and take it, thanking her, but she had a different plan in mind.

Before his paw even reached out, her own nimble grey paws quickly went to work. She set the box down, brushing by his pawpad and standing on the tips of her toes to reach the blank side of his vest. In less than a second, she had pinned it to him, stepping back to admire her work and catch a glimpse of the fox's confounded muzzle.

He looked down in disbelief that she had moved so fast, but slowly grinning that he finally had his own shield, his own coat of arms that showed the school he went to.

Though, one thing bothered Judy: his clip-on tie wasn't tucked into his vest. She'd fix that.

She reached out a paw to help him, but Delila stopped her. "Judith, don't."

The bunny grumbled. "Come on..."

"Ah-ah," she tutted, "Everyone should learn such dangers."

Clueless and tapping his newly adorned emblem, he thought now was the best time to ask something that had been on his mind since the day prior. Only since Judy was there.

"Why the getup," Smoothing out part of his shirt, he locked eyes with her again. "I mean... I really don't get the whole school uniform and all if we have badges and are required to show up."

Judy pursed her lips to speak, but Shorin stepped forward. "Allow us,"

Hearing the bunny hum her approval, the sheep spoke first. "We wear these to show where we belong, Nick. It's to make memories and cherish the times you've had at the school."

"We're supposed to grow into them," Luproc chimed in, wrapping his arms around both his cousin and the sow. "To learn, and make friends."

Giggling, Delilah added, "While you're here, to wear this means that we share our dreams together and help one another achieve them."

Lastly, they all stared at Judy. She reverently sighed, placing a paw on her own badge. And though her school uniform was back in the office and she was in a different set of clothes reserved for her position in the school, it all meant the same in the end. With a ghost of a smile, she finally told him, "Nick... when we graduate, we grow out of our uniforms, never to wear them again. We do keep our badges as a reminder of the memories we made, the dreams we shared, and the friends we had with us for the rest of our lives."

Feeling his heart slow, Nick glanced around at them, fully understanding what they meant. It wasn't going to last forever, they had to grow up and move on, but they could make the best of their time together.

This symbol meant that they'd be together through it all. It was to show where they belonged.

In the silence, there was a light cough. Luproc pointed his snout to the right. "Anyways, I say we get some lunch. Lines are probably gonna take some time to get through. Hopefully Sharla reserved our usual spot."

All in agreement, they walked together, none noticing the brightened smile on the fox's face as his claws traced the letter on his badge. He was in desperate hope that - despite the school's theme and the flower he had planted the day before - this wasn't a dream.

You and I are different. We can share different dreams.


Chapter Text

Be Our Guest

"Dreams won't always take you on a straight path to destiny, but they're usually related to what your soul wants for you."

― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Bright sunlight cascaded down onto the skipping bunny. She kept her pace even and giddy while trying her best to stay beside Nick. After the news of him being attacked by those two troublemakers came to her, she quietly chided herself for not immediately finding him after class.

And though she did have her duties to keep the hallways at peace and the students in line, she also had an obligation to help Nick as well. Whether he was a new student, a new friend, or a fox, it didn't matter to her. She just wanted to help.

The doe was relieved when she had heard of her friends finding him. Otherwise, in that hallway without cameras, it'd be difficult if not impossible to get the full story.

Shorin had, to his word, sent the video off to her supervisors and several other mammals for records, and Judy's radio confirmed that the offending sheep had been taken down to the office for a little chat about their future at the school.

She cracked a smile at how well things were handled and the fact that, if the principal should be involved in the disciplinary actions, then the school would see a few more community service mammals in action. She could see it now, And a few more mammals that I'll see picking up garbage and working volunteer hours.

As she mulled over the possibilities, she was blissfully unaware of the glancing green eyes that were cast her way.

Nick had, from the time that lunch was mentioned - and his was subsequently ruined, thanks, future linebackers - been grateful for the intervention on his behalf. His previous school had no cameras and the only ones that would have your back were your friends and maybe that teacher or two that cared and wasn't just there for a paycheck under a teachers union.

It boggled his mind to no end as to what these mammals were doing: welcoming him. If not for Judy on day one, then he was sure that making friends would have to wait until Skye finally joined him. Day two was more of the same, but he felt relaxed from the view of the garden. And now here he was, day three and surrounded by a group of mammals that didn't care that he was a fox. They embraced it, even.

He couldn't stop staring at Judy. She was the one, after all, that helped him make this transition smooth. So focused on these thoughts, Nick never realized that his tail was wagging until he felt it brush against her. The second she turned to face him with a twitching nose and unrivaled smile, he panicked and turned away altogether. C'mon Wilde, get a hold of yourself.

Neither of them saw the wolf casually glancing back at them, his smirk laced with untold mischief as he pocketed his phone.

It didn't take long for them to come to a point where students could be seen here and there, and Nick was silently thankful that this was the case. While he usually liked being alone, the idea that there were others in large groups was comforting.

It's a lot better than getting jumped in a hall alone. he told himself, pausing with his group as they made their way through.

Waiting for a few herds to pass by as a hall monitor ushered them, they came to another section of the school that Nick hadn't explored. Its much wider and vastly taller atrium was decorated a bit too lavish for what he was used to. Red carpeting, hanging pictures, hardwood floors, wall mounted lights, chandeliers, ceiling mounted speakers, and a few mammals greeting them that looked overly dressed, were just part of what he assumed was the cafeteria.

It smelled of fresh bread and varying aromas that made Nick's mouth water. He was cheering in the back of his mind that he brought a few dollars with him, though he was still trying to budget the $200 that he had to his name. Without a source of income or his mother there, it'd be difficult to live there in case emergencies occurred.

As they approached, a tan-furred hare stood at a podium just ahead. Finely dressed and twirling a pen in his paw, he wore a rather bored look on his face until he saw them. He waved. "Hey, Jude and company! 'Bout time you all got here."

"Hey Allen." they all called back, some annoyed like Shorin, others cheerful like Judy. Nick chose to go with a grin.

When the hare saw the fox, he paused for a moment; piercing lime green eyes stared at him dead center before stepping from behind the desk. "So you're the new guy, huh? Nick Wilde, right?" his tone was chipper, slightly accented and astute.

Adjusting his tie and winking at Judy, he waved to his left, causing a few of the mammals that surrounded the podium to stand at attention in a line. With the varying species of predator and prey there, several of them began waving down either hallway.

Two of them, however, nearly identical rabbits whose only distinguishing mark was the sole patch of dark brown fur adorning either eye, stared at one another, grumbling words that Nick couldn't hear.

The hare shook his head and waved for them to be silent. "Yall are late, so no veranda, balcony, or buffet spots left. Sharla and Dawn did get yall your usual spot, though."

Judy nodded. She would have been more worried about their seating, but somehow Sharla always managed to get the table for them when they decided to eat at the silo. But for now, she was content as she caught on to what was happening.

Allen casually strolled to them and offered his paw out to Nick. "Your first time in our humble eatery, right?"

The fox's eyes darted around, all mammals stared at him; some bearing grins that he couldn't quite figure out. "I uh-" he stammered, losing his 'cool Nick' visage in an instant while attempting to clear his throat.

His paw was suddenly seized and he was met with the furious shakes of the green-eyed hare. "Name's Allen Leveret." greeted the buck, waving at his crew before leading the dumbfounded fox forward.

Nick wasn't averse to the friendly gestures, but being treated like he wasn't invisible was completely new. He cast Judy a surprised, pleading glance before he was shuffled forward towards the wall of mammals. From the simple wave that Judy gave him, he knew that something was up, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

It wasn't until he was separated from her and the sound of hooves and paws signified that he was surrounded by what he assumed was the cafeteria staff that he figured that it was something big. And if he didn't have a clue then, then the oversized chair toted by several mammals his size and a series of taller mammals holding silver platters was a tip-off.

He turned to Allen, but the hare merely cleared his throat. "We got a live one!"

Suddenly the wall shifted, all mammals rounding him as they kept him at the center of attention. Nick started to back away, but the paws of the hare stopped him.

"Ma chérie, Monsieur. It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you today," Allen spoke, stepping away from the fox who was quickly catching on. And though Judy watched, she couldn't - wouldn't really, it was fun for her as well - intervene on his behalf on this one.

Nick panicked, Why does this seem familiar? His eyes darted around for an exit, a mammal to climb over and out of this,. But it dawned on him that it was too late.

"And now, we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair," the hare waved his paws to the few mammals behind him. They complied, each making their way through and pushing the oversized seat in a way that forced Nick to fall back into it.

He gulped, feeling the walls close in around him. He was doomed. Terribly, terribly doomed. He tried to open his mouth to protest as he knew what would be coming next, but the warm smile and glare from one of the other students, a squirrel, told him to zip it. He was a part of this show now.

"As the dining room proudly presents," Taking his stance just before the fox and walking backward down the hall with his arms splayed in dramatic flair, Allen tried his best to suppress his laugh. "Your lunch!"

The second he finished his introduction, Judy sighed and tapped her foot. "Was all this really necessary, Luproc?" she asked, watching the mammals carry Nick off and around the circular hall while she wondered why the wolf had opted to go with the 'full intro' from the drama team.

Luprock shrugged. "Hey, you know we do that for some of the newcomers at times after the fall quarter enrolment," he replied, casually leaning against the podium now attended by a few different mammals in place. "Besides, can you really stop the drama team from having their paws and hooves in nearly everything?"

Judy mulled over this for a minute as she heard the performance around the corner; the red tint of Nick's fur disappearing altogether. While true, it was difficult for anyone to stop the drama team, it was easy to get a hold of them to embarrass your friends or be there for some sentimental moment. And even after she gave the okay for it at the start of her shift, she was unsure that he needed the whole team there for the occasion.

There was a low hum that got the does attention. Shorin, huffing, pointed his hoof towards the hall that they left. "Are you sure that this isn't some ploy to get votes considering who you may be running against in the fall? 'Cause I'm gonna say you're really desperate for votes this time around."

Accused and smiling, the wolf coughed into his paw. "Every mammal counts."

"Yep, desperate." his cousin chuckled.

There was a moment of silence, only the tapping of the kiosk behind the podium could be heard until the telltale voices of the team rounding the silo made their way.

"You think he's okay?" the concerned voice of Delilah resounded, each mammal quizzically looking for the spot of red amid the sea of other mammals. "I mean I know that they're coordinated and all, but they did have that performance with that lion that transferred here and the giraffe accidentally dropped him when he-"

Just as she asked this, the pseudo-tower with the seated fox atop swayed and teetered; the fox yelping in panic with each turn. The chair fell just then, fox careening down the faux tower. He was caught by several others and seated back down, gripping the chair for dear life as a deer now balanced it on his antlers with Allen dangerously dangling from one of them.

The performance saved, Judy sighed in relief before turning her attention to the doubtful sow. "Yeah, Nick's fine. she affirmed, though snuffing out her own worries in the process.

When the performers approached their group - Nick nearly fastened to the chair with his claws dug in so deep - they cheerfully held out the fox on their last verses, paws raised and Allen leading them to the crescendo of their act of silver platters displaying deserts and cans of varying sodas balanced atop their muzzles.

In unison, they sang, "Please be our-"

Abruptly, they all stopped on the same line. Sitting Nick down in front of Judy before halting completely. Throughout the hall, it was completely silent, so much so that you could hear a pen dropping from an otter hurriedly passing by.

And thought that was a welcome distraction, the stares aimed at the wolf among them was nothing short of terrifying. Arms crossed and sneering, the drama team cast their glares solely at Luproc.

"Wait... w-what was that?" the wolf asked, puzzled as to why they stopped before finishing their performance... and why they all looked like they were about ready to carry him off to the woods somewhere.

"That," Allen tapped his foot and hiked a thumb back at his crew. "was a nearly complete performance for an almost fully paid commission of the drama team."

Judy's ears pivoted to the muffled gasp of the sow beside her. Yep, he's in trouble this time.

The buck continued. "We would have given you the full version, but somebody, not gonna name names or point fingers," Pointing his index finger at the wolf, he called him out, "Luprock. But someone didn't pay the full amount requested to help us fund our programs."

Confused, but getting the gist of what this all was, Nick darted his eyes from one mammal to another. Uncomfortable and wanting to weasel his way out beside the weasel on his armrest, he shot down the idea as it'd draw too much attention. Instead, he raised a brow at the hare.

Allen crossed his arms and sneered at the nervously grinning class president. "What? Do you think we do spontaneous, choreographed dances to jaunty tunes in high school without full funding?"

There was a beat of silence from the wolf. He stepped back only to end up bumping into the class vice president. With a twinge of annoyance present on her snout, she jabbed her hoof into his side."You didn't pay them the full amount?"

"I thought I did?" was his meek reply.

"Several of the bills came boardgames..." Allen added, causing the pig's jaw to drop.

While stammering for anything to say as the spotlight shifted from the vulpine to the canid, the snap of a few bills resounded, breaking the awkward situation before things got worse.

"Will this cover it?" asked Shorin, handing over five dollars to the head of the drama department.

He quickly took the money in his paw, counting and ensuring that it wasn't made of boardgame money. Satisfied, he pocketed it and snapped his fingers. "We're back in business."

As if a light switch had been flipped back on, the team hoisted the fox back on the chair and paraded him once more. Taken aback by the abrupt movement, Nick hadn't had the time to set his claws back into the chair; he had to settle with grabbing hold of the armrest.

All in unison, they completed their song, shouting, "GUEST!" with the wave and dazzle of their jazz paws or hooves before moving him a whole five feet past the reception desk.

Quickly setting him down and tilting the chair so that he'd be forced to stand, they took small bows before casually chatting amongst themselves.

"Good work, crew," said Allen, clapping and nodding to bring them to attention. "Also, thank you for the save Regean. Wouldn't want another Lionheart incident." After cringing and waving the cheerful squirrel off, he turned his attention to two horses - a black mare and a white mare - patiently awaiting their instructions. "And for the two best sisters, we have a birthday for that mare you're tutoring, her brother and his girlfriend are waiting. Dismissed."

The rest dissipating, Nick finally eased out of the chair, thankful for any semblance of ground. Though, the shouts of the two bunnies that had taken part in the act overtook the peaceful atmosphere.

"You were off key!"

"Me? You missed a step and made him fall!"

They continued this back and forth until Judy, fed up with the both of them, called them out. "JESSE! JAMES!" she shouted, both bucks halting in an instant when the doe pointed down the hall. Signifying that they should leave, but not wanting to, they both pursed their mouths to protest, "But sis-"

Judy took a step forward "OUT!"

- which was silenced, burned, and fluttered away almost as quickly as the two scrambled to get away.

Grinning to herself, she turned to Nick. His stunned expression meant that the welcome was a success. "Ready for lunch?" she asked, already hopping up to the others walking away.

Snapping back into rational thought, Nick watched the bunny bound backward, bidding him forward. He had been paraded around a hall, tossed around in a chair, nearly fell twice, and almost had his performane cut. His tail swished. "Starving."

When they came to a set of elevators so chrome they could see their own reflections better than a mirror and called it down, Nick's ears flickered as he could hear all but Judy mumble something about a lesson; glancing back at him at intervals as they waited.

Why's everyone acting so weird?

He figured that the weirdest thing to happen (could happen) was the performance he was a part of. From the acrobatics to the use of display models for food, it was an experience for him. But Juniper had mentioned something of a lesson before, so he questioned what it was.

The elevator opened and everyone shuffled in before him, all smiling oddly as Nick did so. He turned to ask them what was going on when the elevator doors snapped shut on his clip-on tie. The fox was pulled forward just before it unclipped and dragged into the abyss, all but Judy laughed behind him.

Between his bellowing howls, Luproc pat the stunned mammal on his back. "And that is why we have clip-on ties that you only wear tucked into your vest. Every new mammal does that."

"This is the tie eating elevator," Shorin continued, ruffling his own clip-on and gesticulating to the opening door. "There's a rumor that there's a bunch of ties, ribbons, strings, and other stuff at the bottom of the elevator shaft. But nobody ever gets a chance to see it."

The tod looked down, now thankful for that policy as they exited.

Judy shook her head and called on her radio. "We've got a code 'T', mid-size mammals elevator at the silo."

There was a pause before a voice answered, much to Nick's dismay. "Did he learn?"

Giving him a once over, Judy nodded. "I think so, June."

Leaving the elevator, they were greeted with a very different sight. The second floor of the school's cafeteria was breathtaking to behold; a large, circular structure as lavish as the floor below. And though they were on the second floor, there were several open areas to see the floor below that were surrounded by guarding latticework with ivy leaves and suspended plants to brighten up the atmosphere. The ambient lighting, glass windowpanes, soft music, and varying tables made the whole place look restaurant-esque while the number of mammals around made it feel like it was a school gathering.

There were vending machines and in-and-out doors to one side of the room that was packed with chatting mammals of varying degree, yet none of them were taller than about Luproc's size. He questioned this until they started moving, allowing him to see the floor below, and he caught glimpses of tigers, bears, elephants, and giraffe's all in the same location.

He quizzically stared. Must be by weight class?

Just as he thought that, his ears pivoted in the direction of a song being sung. The two mares that he saw downstairs had occupied a table and were singing - now with an added two, another mare and a colt - to another seated horse.

Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he looked up to see Luproc pointing at what looked to be a conga line of students outside of one door. "Lines are long. Tell us what you'd like and we'll get it for you, on us. They have just about anything you can imagine. Oh! Except for pizza. Due to... issues, they refuse to attempt that mess again."

The wolf side eyed the cringing doe. She gave him an apologetic wave.

They won't do pizza? Nick mentally aback by that, but glad that he wouldn't be eating the squishy paste he'd call leftovers, he obliged. "Well, I'm more into vegetarian dishes."

"Oh?" He got a few odd looks, but not anything judgemental. "I know they have an amazing portabella parmesan. So I'll get you one of those. And, uh, any requests, for you and Jack, Judy?" Though she hummed in contemplation, Judy shrugged in the end. "Alright, I'll find something. Since it's Tuesday, Rin'll want his usual pile of salmon tacos on the mount," He shot the sheep a playful look of 'try to deny it', but received a 'hallelujah' in return. "Lastly a... let me see, pecan salad with toasted cocoanuts and balsamic vinaigrette?"

Delilah heaved a soft, heartfelt sigh. "Such a gentlemammal. But it's strawberry vinaigrette, and I'm coming with you to split the bill and help carry trays."

Luproc waved his paw in protest. He was about to respond when Delilah grabbed him by his sleeve and cheerfully walked off to the nearby line. Judy shook her head and was about to head to their table when her radio hissed.

She paused to pick it up and was assaulted by the loud, booming voice of her sister, Juniper.


Through the ring of her ears, and quizzical look of the fox, Judy responded. "What's it this time? Wolter escape?"

She hoped not, she really, really hoped that sheep didn't try that again. But in a second, there was another chime of the box.

"He knew better," Through the sounds of clicking and roaring, the bunny's voice warned. "Mark stole something and Phill helped him with-"

"I'll give you something to cry about, thief! Get back here!"

Judy jumped when she heard that. She gripped the radio, already turning to the elevators just as a terrified screech rang through along with the sickening scrape of metal. "What happened?"

There was a deep, screaming roar. "Someone help! get this crazy pig off me!"

"Jack 'n Drake followed 'em into the boy's locker room. Get here, quick!"

Cringing from the news she heard, but happy to respond, she ran off. "I'll be right back! Save me my spot!" She called back to Nick, opting to take the stairs.

Awkwardly standing still as the bunny disappeared, Nick was left in a bit of a bind. He turned to the sheep, who, with a fake sigh and roll of his eyes, 'reluctantly' trotted on.

"Alright, since Judy's off and my cousin's trying not to ask out the vice president, or tipping off mammals with bills from our last game of 'Life'. I'll show you the others in our happy, odd little group."

He lead Nick to a small round table near one of the large windows; a decadent floral bouquet adorned its hardwood surface. The only occupants were two mammals he recognized: the black and white ewes his homeroom. They were in a shallow conversation, one talking a bit while the other read a comic.

Shorin greeted them with a wave. "Dawn, Sharla, we have a new guest with us."

They perked up, both ewes dropping their aimless tasks.

Dawn spoke first. "Oh, where is-" Upon seeing Nick, she stopped, her ears folding down and her wide green eyes shrinking; Sharla followed suit.

Taking notice of their habit, Shorin sighed. He wasn't going to fail at this. "Nick, I'd like for you to meet Sharla the black wooled ewe, and her cousin Dawn, the white wooled one."

Nick waved but stayed put. From their stares and attempted nonchalant whisper, he saw where this was going, and sure enough, Dawn got up.

She fixed her bow, never taking her eyes off of the predator. "Actually... I uh... have some homework I needed to finish at... the library? Yeah! I'll... yeah..." Grabbing her bag and clutching her cousin's hoof, the two charged towards the exit without question or hesitation, picking up the pace as they got farther away. By the time they had reached the elevator and mashed the call button to no avail - all while staring at Nick as they huddled against the wall - they abandoned this in favor for the stairs; both sheep disappearing beyond the stairwell in an instant.

The ram moved to take a seat at the table, waving for his new friend to join him. "Don't worry about those two." he assured. "They're just not used to you just yet. They'll see that you're one of us in no time."

Not letting anyone see that it got to him, he went to take a seat next to the ram, but a raised hoof stopped him. Shorin pointed four chairs down. "Just to let you know, Judy sits right there, usually. She likes to look out the window and keep an eye out for us common folk."

Eyes lighting up, Nick sauntered over to the chair and sat down. It was far more comfortable than he imagined for a school, and the constant aroma of flowers mixed with the scent of spices was soothing. Not only that, but he had a group - actual mammals, friends - to sit with.

Baffled by this turn of events, Nick swiveled the chair and looked out the window. The vibrant greenery of a forest line greeted his equally green eyes. Staring at the tranquility of nature and being lost in thought, he was surprisingly at peace.

Stuck in his stupor, he didn't see the figure rounding the table behind him. Instantly, his eyes were covered by soft, ticklish paws and his tail brushed against another mammal's fur. Startled, his ears stood on end.

"Guess whooooo~" a voice singsonged, one he recognized.

Nick grinned, but the casual, "Oh not you again..." from Rin told another story.

"If I had to guess," the fox began, swishing his tail and tapping his paw pads against the table. "It'd be a bunny girl,"

"Mhm." the bunny cooed.

"She's about," Risking his assumptions and not unfamiliar with the bunny's ears, Nick reached up, patting the rabbits head. Hearing her giggle, he went on, "Yay high. Really friendly-"

-Has this incredible smile, beautiful eyes... a nickname-

"-And I'd have to say that the bunny culprit would be Carrots," he chuckled, resting his paw on hers before she took them off his eyes. He started to turn around. "Am I riiii-oh?"

He was right about a lot of things. There was a bunny doe behind him with a voice he recognized - yay high, as well - but it wasn't his bunny. No, not even close.

The doe's fur was off-white in colour, a stark contrast to Judy's even grey fur and milky white. She was slightly taller, maybe an inch or two, if he had to guess. And most certainly, her eyes were almost the pigment of green as his.

Stunned and flustered that he had mistaken this bunny for his own, he nervously coughed. "Hi?"

The bunny took a step to his side, sitting in Judy's seat while humming to herself. "Carrots, huh? I like that. You can call me 'Carrots' anytime you like."

He was beside himself with that response. He couldn't call every rabbit 'Carrots', just the one: Judy Hopps.

Attempting to correct her, she spoke first. "So, you're Nicholas Wilde, right?"


He was silenced again by the bunny taking his paw into hers, shaking it with a saccharine smile. "Jasmine. Jasmine Turner Hopps."

Nodding and plastering on a grin at the appearance of the intrusive bunny, Nick played along. "Uh... nice to meet you?"

Greeting over, the bunny refused to let go of his paw, opting to hold onto it as the fox attempted - and failed, miserably, several times - to pull away. Annoyed, he tried again until the figure of another bunny showed up behind her.

He was about to breathe a breath of relief, but it died in his lungs when this bunny was a light tan colour instead of Judy's grey. A doe as well, she sat right next to Jasmine, leaning over with her chin in her paw.

A huff resounded, not from the fox, but from the sheep idly tapping on his cellphone.

The second doe spoke, "Heya Nicky," Nick cringed. Only his mother and Skye and her family ever called him 'Nicky'. Not only that, but her tone was as sickeningly sweet as Jasmine's.

She reached over and offered a shake as well, leaving the poor fox leaning to the left as he tried to grip the table with his free paw.

"Jada. Jada Trinket Hopps." she greeted, already letting Nick know that either Judy had quite a few siblings, or that Hopps was a common name."But you can call me 'Jade'."

He nodded, looking away for an escape route, now tugging and struggling for the freedom of his paw. Nick only felt them let up after a moment when a 'finally' from the sheep heralded another.

"Jada? Jasmine? What are you two doing here?"

The fox peered up, rubbing his shoulder and forgetting the other two rabbits entirely. There, just beyond their table stood Judy, next to a bunny buck with nearly the same fur pattern and hall monitor uniform as she did. The two approached; her bounding around him and the other locking his cold, amber eyes before sitting a seat away from Jada.

"Eating." the two does replied.

Judy, however, was having none of this. She took her seat next to Nick and questioned them further. "I mean here at our table? You two never sit with us."

Jada scoffed. "I don't see your names on it."

Knowing her sisters, there would be no true end of this, for a while at least. She wondered what they were up to, going in a list from most likely to least. However, when she felt the brush of fur against her side and glanced down to see that it was a tail attached to a whole fox that she sat next to, Judy narrowed her results; Jack sitting next to the two with begrudging expression helped her assume one conclusion.

"What's your game this time?" she pressed, hoping that this wasn't another case of a mammal attempting to shoo the new kid away.

Jada and Jasmine often tried to rope in the new kids or mammals in higher grades, only to shove them off after making themselves more popular in the process. She coldn't tell which was worse, but they were good at what they did; poor Blake was an example of their ways.

Then there was Dawn's absence which was a bit odd considering the shy sheep, but it was Sharla's struck her more so. The black sheep was keen about sitting at the same place during lunch, it was one of the few places that she could get away with gaming on campus.

Jack, on the other paw, had always sat beside her to eat, no matter the circumstance. Birthdays, holidays, lunches at school or off campus, he was never not beside her. But now, here he was, on the opposite side of the table and Jasmine, of all mammals, sat beside Nick. And this was the bunny that adamantly refused to sit at their table because they weren't 'cool enough' in her opinion.

With the tilt of her head and droopy ears to make her seem innocent, Jasmine answered, "Is it so hard to believe that we just wanted to spend time with our little sister?"

Eye twitching, Judy eased herself back into her chair, hoping not to have a conniption. Not when you always have an ulterior motive.

She wasn't in the mood to deal with them after having an already tough time keeping the peace in the hallway. And, speaking of keeping peace, there was one bunny that she hadn't yet introduced him to: the one scowling. May as well, she said to herself, taking a deep breath.

"I see you've met my sisters," She shot them a look that neither took seriously before reaching her paw to the still silent buck. "Nick, this is Jack. Jack, Nick."

Barley acquainted - and being two, currently occupied seats away - Nick gave Jack a curt wave. The buck only stared at him for a moment before seemingly ignoring him altogether.

Must be her brother? Nick surmised, hopeful.

Surrounded by bunnies on all sides should have made Nick uncomfortable - especially with the three to his left either casting him wary looks or... whatever Jasmine was doing, she was too close - but he felt relaxed with the atmosphere and having Judy right there with him.

Moments after, the aroma of fresh food made it their way. Nick looked beyond the table to see the wolf and pig teetering their way, lunch trays precariously balanced on their heads while his arms were occupied.

"Sorry about the wait, Lu and I got caught up in conversation with the staff again." Swinton apologized, setting the trays down and looking around for the two absent sheep, but finding two other mammals there instead. "Oh... I didn't know you were sitting with us."

The duo went around quickly, doling out the various orders. A small mountain of tacos for Shorin, Nick's portabella dish, and a carrot soufflé for Jack and Judy, and the leftover salad for Jasmine and Jada.

No sooner than the plate was set before him, Nick dug right in. Forgetting all his woes of prior bullying and his lost lunch, he savoured the dish. Tender portabella, creamy tomato sauce, and cheesy pasta were all his tastebuds told him to think of. It was almost as good as what he had packed which he thought belonged in a five-star restaurant to begin with.

After about the third bite, a fit of giggling broke his concentration. With a mouth full of mushroom, Nick glanced over to Judy. Her paws covered her muzzle as she pointed to his. "You've got a little-"

Tracing her direction, he saw spaghetti strings hanging over his nose. To his slight embarrassment and immediate humor, he slurped the offending pasta down, trying not to laugh himself and choke on it.

Seeing her smile afterward, he realized how lucky he was. Now with friends - at least her - even far away from home, he felt like he was fitting in. Not only that, but the bullies got caught and punished before they could go any further. All they managed to do was crack his phone and almost damage her-

"Oh! That's right." Nick sputtered, reaching over and down into his bag. He rummaged through the contents until he found what he was looking for. "Forgot to give you this back."

Producing the pen he had accidentally borrowed, Nick scratched the nape of his neck worriedly.

Though he saw neither the narrowed eyes of Jack nor Judy's tail swish in excitement, when she took it back and thanked him, Nick was relieved that he wasn't called a shifty fox for once.

And Judy was happy as well. She was able to use this as a way to get Jack to see that Nick wasn't a bad guy, he was quite the opposite. Although, some mammals certainly wouldn't see it that way. If another Woolter and Jesse like experience came about, then who would he get to help him in a pinch?

A piece of soufflé still in her fork, she made a hasty, resolute decision on how to help.

"Hey, Nick. Can I see your phone for a sec?"

Tilting his head in curiosity, he reached into his bag and grabbed it. Judy quickly plucked it out of his paws, tapping through the menu as avidly as he himself usually did. Though, more focused, she chuckled and pulled out her own phone. Between the two, she typed, getting Nick to glance over, bewildered as to what she was up to. Giving her quick confiscation a nod, she handed him the device.

"Uh, Carrots, what's this?" In taking the phone back, he tried to figure out what she had done; the only menu open was his contact list.

He looked from his phone to his beaming friend several times before it clicked. He couldn't stop smiling.

He couldn't stop smiling! Admiring the simple line of numbers steaking across the slightly cracked surface of his phone's screen, Nick was absolutely elated.

Now seated on the passenger side of the squad car on the way back home, Nick reflected back on how great everything was turning out.

For one, lunch was somehow better than it was the day before. It wasn't just from the food as he judged it almost as good as the leftovers he'd been having - but it wasn't bad as it was mostly student-run. It was the new friends, new atmosphere, and new experiences that he had that made it so great.

The view was perfect, the mammals at his table were interesting... well, most were; Dawn and Sharla had left, Jada was at odds with Judy, Jasmine was... not Judy, and Jack seemed to glare at him every chance he got.

Not to mention the fact that he witnessed a sheep - a sheep of all mammals - eating a plate of fish tacos. That, plus the class president and vice president were on/off flirting.

He had to laugh, What could make this day any better? OH! That's right! Looking back down and nearly spazzing, Nick had to will himself still as he felt like he could run in circles, yipping madly. He never realized how fast his tail was swishing across the seat.

There was a deep, heartfelt chuckle beside him. "I heard you had a busy day."

Taking his eyes off of his phone, Nick turned to the wolf behind the wheel. Eliot was as cheerful as ever.

"Yeah," he replied, wistfully. "Rough start, but it was okay.

There was a pause, an uncomfortable silence before the wolf continued. "Was it those two troublemakers again?"

Nick was surprised that he knew of them, but it seemed appropriate. Maybe they've been arrested before?

Shaking the thought, Nick looked down. "No, it's just," He couldn't find the words, so he went with the highlight of his day. "Well, Judy gave me her phone number at lunch - for emergencies and such. And she-"

He was silenced by an ear piercing gasp and swerve of the vehicle. The astonished look that the wolf gave him made him relive memories of yesterday. The broken door - that he surprisingly fixed that morning - the fast driving, the howling. Nick shrunk in his chair; Eliot couldn't stop staring.

Nick pushed himself further to the door, feeling the vehicle drift on the dirt road.

"THAT'S GREAT!" Howled the wolf, pulling out his phone, forgetting the road entirely. In seconds, he was muzzletiming. "PUMPKIN!"

With one paw on the wheel and the image of the thylacine appearing, he began conversing with her.

"Hi honey," said the mammal on the phone. She blinked a few times before her cheerful expression turned to horror. "Wait... A-are you driving?!"

"Of course! And I've got great news!" Eliot answered, leaning over to Nick, drifting into the oncoming lane. "He has her phone number-"

Nick didn't know what to do as Chloe sighed. He was caught between the wolf, the door... and the oncoming semi!

He leaned forward, grasping for the wheel. "LOOK OUT!"


There was a sequence of loud, excitable knocks on the door of the Hopps' burrow, and Bonnie was dreading answering it.

She sighed knowingly. There was only one mammal alive that would continue knocking in this manner, and he was the very reason of why they had to get a reinforced door. Not that he was any danger, but with him knocking so excitedly against the others, their choice to go with something stronger was an absolute must as he broke the last two.

Straightening out her dress and passing by a few members of her family that were heading in from a long day in the field, Bonnie braced herself for the oncoming barrage of news in the bundle of joy known as their deputy. She could usually gauge what he had to say depending on how frequently he knocked.


She shook her head. Yeah... it's important.

Paw on the door, she took a deep breath and slowly pulled it open. The beaming wolf had barely registered her as he swept his tail across the porch.

"Deputy Eliot, how can I-ACH!" Bonnie was immediately scooped up in a wolf-sized hug, as welcoming as it was almost bone-crushing.

"This is the greatest day ever!" he cheered, not letting go of the struggling rabbit as he paraded around on the verge of howling. "It's happening! It's finally happening!"

"W-what i-is?" she gasped.

Though the doe was caught off-guard, it wasn't anything she wasn't used to. And oftentimes, larger mammals underestimated the strength of a small bunny who grew up on a farm. In a second or two, she managed to pry herself away from Eliot's grip. When she did and hopped to the ground, the sight of his vehicle with a newly adorned mailbox stuck in the hood made her jaw drop.

Eliot was undeterred. "I think your Judy's found that certain someone."

"Oh?" She gasped, surprised beyond reason. They had given Jack their okay just yesterday, she hadn't imagined him pursuing Judy that quickly, he just didn't seem like the kind of buck to take their hints so readily. This is great!

As giddy as ever, the question still lingered in her mind. "Wait, why are you here this evening?"

Freezing and turning back to his mess of a squad car, Eliot nervously scratched behind his ears. "I kind of hit Nick's mailbox on the way back. And I was wondering if I could get any help in getting it out before the sheriff sees it in the morning."

Bonnie figured it was something like that. It wasn't the first time. "I'll get Stu."

Giving him the okay and hearing his plethora of thanks, Bonnie welcomed him in for a bit. She guided him to the main atrium where several of her kits were relaxing for the afternoon. Two of which - per Eliot's glee and Bonnie's sheer joy were sitting next to each other - she'd be talking to very soon about their relationship.

And though Jasmine and a few others from their so aptly named 'J-neration' were there, the elder doe honed in on a bit of their conversation.

"All of this after he stole your pen?" Jack chided, gesticulating his frustration.

Yet, Judy waved him off. "I let him borrow the pen, Jack."

"He called you Carrots, Judy."

"Jack, I called myself 'Officer Carrots' years ago in those letters, remember?"

"Can you believe this? He called me Carrots." Jasmine cooed, relaxing back into the seat, phone in her paws and chatting with Jada.

"Jas, he wasn't talking to you." the eldest quipped.

"Well, Nick should have. I mean did you see the way he stared at me?"

"You all are talking about Nick?!"

The voice of the excitable deputy caught them off-guard, the two Junior Deputy's standing in salute while the others gave him curt waves and hello's.

Judy was the first to respond. "Yes, sir. We were."

Jack flinched. "I was trying to inform Judy that he's not-"

A light jab to his side caught more than a few looks. Most of which was Bonnie trying not to squeal in excitement. She just boxed him! That's already a great sign!

Planning ahead, Bonnie offered, "Nick seems to be growing on you all quickly. I think if you all like him around that much, then you should invite him over for dinner someday." Not just Judy's eyes went wide at that, but nearly all that were seated; Eliot more so. "Besides, your day to sit with us is coming up in a few weeks. It'd be nice to see a new face around here."

The room grew silent. Eliot stood still with his jaw hanging open, Jack was stunned, Juniper shrugged, Jada blinked, and Jasmine had gears turning as she stared at Judy.

The silence was broken by the beep of Judy's phone which she quickly answered upon seeing the caller-ID.

"I gotta take this," she whispered, bounding away to the main entrance to hopefully be out of the prying ears of any bunny.

The moment she was out the door, she smiled, answering the frantic voice of the mammal on the other end.

"Hey Nick-"

The thing about dreaming is that you can see the future: stunning, stellar, sudden. It makes for a wild time when you try to remember it.